There are certainly easier ways to tour around Paris than running 26 miles (or in the local currency, 42 kilometres). Nonetheless, runners from around the world will see the sights (or wheeze past them obliviously) on 15 April in the 36th Paris Marathon.
Provided I make it to the start (and the finish too) it’ll be my third time doing it and my fifth marathon in total.
As you can imagine, it’s a very picturesque marathon in parts. The race starts on the Champs-Élysées, down to Place de la Concorde and then along the side of the Tuileries and Louvre. That first mile is mostly on cobblestones – boo hiss! – but at least it’s downhill – yay!
Straight out to Bastille (3 miles), the route then does a ten-mile loop through the parklands and forest of the Bois de Vincennes. After the return passage through Bastille, we head down to the river and follow the Seine for four miles. At 17 miles this stretch dips into the tunnel where Princess Diana had her fatal car crash in 1997 – you can still see some macabre marks along one wall and imagine how they got there.
Then at 19 miles, if you’ve even noticed the Eiffel Tower on the opposite bank, you turn away from the river, into the only serious climb of the course, and head for the final miles through the Bois de Boulogne. The finish is on the amusingly-named Avenue Foch (which for French people rhymes with ‘posh’ rather than ‘puck’, sadly), across the Arc de Triomphe from the start on the Champs-Élysées. Should any of my compatriots have a particularly unfortunate day or require post-race diplomatic protection, the Irish Embassy is right outside the finish zone, on the corner of Avenue Foch and Rue Rude. (You couldn’t make it up.)
Although not as record-friendly as the Berlin race, the Paris Marathon has a decent course best – 2:05:47 by Vincent Kiproto of Kenya in 2009. The best women’s performance is 2:22:04 by Atsede Bayisa of Ethiopia in 2010, running a personal best in the second of her two consecutive Paris wins.
A notable past winner of the Paris Marathon is Domingos Castro of Portugal. First home in 1995, the victory was probably scant consolation for his most famous moment, when he was spectacularly pipped for a medal in the 1988 Olympic 5000 metres final.
Apart from me, a whopping 39,999 other people will be doing the Paris Marathon this year. If you’re not already one of them, too late – the 40,000 limit was already reached in September, mere days after online entry was launched. Oh well. If you want to plan ahead for next year, you can find out more about the Paris Marathon at www.parismarathon.com.