My Cruiser friend, Beth, ran in the Paris Marathon on April 7.  I told her that I would love to publish her race review on my blog, if she would write it up and send me photos to go along with it.  Here is the review, written by Beth and her husband Tom…

Finally!  After weeks of planning, training, and much anticipation, our flight took off from Dulles and headed toward Paris.  I’d already gotten exposure to the best of French hyper-bureaucracy, the cumbersome registration process—complete with a full physical required for entry.  What an ordeal!  Still, my husband Tom and I were on our way to the “Ville de Lumiere” and the 37th Marathon de Paris—and I couldn’t have been happier.

We arrived with little or no sleep at Charles de Gaulle airport early on Friday, 5 April.  After retrieving our luggage, we made our way to the RER B express train into the city center, where my husband Tom had rented a small studio on Quai St. Michel in the heart of the Latin Quarter.  Memories of our early encounter with surly Parisian commuters quickly faded once we made it to our rented studio apartment on the third floor overlooking Isle de la Cite and Notre Dame Cathedral.  “What a nice view!” Tom exclaimed, as I secretly worried about how to get up and down all those stairs following the race.


View from our room

To resist the overpowering desire to take a nap and to beat the crowds, on Friday afternoon, we took Metro to Port de Versailles to the Parc des Expositions—one of the largest exposition centers I’ve ever seen–to pick up my race packet and drop off my medical documentation.  Despite my worst fears, the expo was actually very well organized.  There were multiple shopping opportunities (critical), massage stations, wine tasting booths and numerous exhibits advertising marathons from Alsace to Bordeaux.  40 minutes and 100 or so expended Euros later, we were on our way back for a nice pris fix meal on Rue Descartes.


Paris Marathon Expo

We then spent a leisurely Saturday strolling through the nearby neighborhoods—reserving the serious tourism (Musee Rodin, Pere Lachaise Cemetary and lengthy walks to the foyers my husband lived in some #$% years ago during his junior year abroad at the Sorbonne) for after the race.

Sunday morning, it was up early in time to hop the Metro and arrive at lEtoille and the race start near l’Arc de Trimphe.  It was there that I witnessed two things I hadn’t seen since arriving:  The sun rising under the first clear sky since our arrival and men peeing openly in public.   It was a crisp 32 degrees (0 degrees Celsius) as Paris, like Washington DC, was experiencing a late spring.


Before the marathon

As for the peeing, this was accomplished before the race at least, in any one of a number of so-called Tois Tois and pee stations arrayed near the start.  Something about a man looking at you while he’s peeing that seemed, well… so much uninvited intimacy.  This, it turns out, would be only the beginning of the flow of fluids, debris and detritus that would soon litter all of Paris—at least in the vicinity of the race route.


Open-air toiletes

At exactly 0830 hrs, the race began and all the elite runners commenced their assault down the Champs Elysees.  It took another 45 minutes for me and the remaining of the 40,000 runners to ultimately cross the start line, but, I didn’t mind this because the first real sunlight anyone had seen in days was beginning to warm the air and dry the pavers from the overnight rain.  Running into the sunrise as we transitioned onto Rue de Rivoli past the American Embassy on the Place de la Concorde is a memory I will not soon forget.  It was shortly after this that I encountered Tom yelling “Allez, Allez Elizabeth!” in his best effort to blend in with the thousands of locals yelling the same thing to their racers throughout the course.  I gave him my headband/earwarmers, but kept my gloves through the whole race, carrying them until the end, when, somehow, I managed to lose one.


Running along the Seine

The course was arguably the most beautiful route of any marathon I’ve ever run.  It stretched across the entirety of Paris, from the Bois de Bologne to the Bois de Vincennes, with much of the route along the Seine, where passing tourists on tour boats waved and Parisians lining the route offered their support.  In between les Bois, we ran past the Obelisk, Louvre, the Bastille, Musee D’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower.  The beauty of the city stood up to the absolute best efforts of the mostly European and mostly male runners to defile the streets of Paris with Vittel bottles, Gu packets, oranges, banana peels and worst of all, countless and incessant snot purges, or “snurges” as we’ve come to call them in our household.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know we runners are a disgusting lot.  I’ve been known to have an urge to snurge from time to time, but, when running in crowded Marathons like in New York, I’ve learned to scale back and even abstain.  Not so with the majority of snurgers with whom I had the pleasure of running.  The snurge per kilometer ratio must have been the highest of any race I’ve ever run.  The worst part of it is the snurges, like many sneezes, come in pairs.  You know the cadence:  “Hggtschh, Hggtschh”, with the alternating French “Pied de Nez” (thumb on nose with four fingers extended.  Thus the dilemma:  To look at the beautiful sights, to look down to avoid the cobblestones, pesky gaps between the pavers, or right/left to avoid the snurge threat, flying water bottles, hockers, clams, pieces of fruit, etc.  Even the spectators weren’t safe!


Check back in tomorrow for the end of Beth’s Paris Marathon recap, and to see her post-race dessert that’s bigger than she is!

  • Questions:
  • Have you ever run in a race in another country?
  • What’s the prettiest city race course that you’ve run on?
  • What do you think about those open pee stations?