We started in front of the Chateau de Vincennes (note this is not my picture, it is from www.myparisnet.com) :
I haven’t been to this part of Paris before and had no idea it existed. There is also a very large park across from it, the Parc Floral. I think I will go back some weekend to see the Chateau and the Parc.
As I mentioned before the runners were separated into color-coded groups depending on the finish goal time we signed up for. Fasted runners went first, slowest last. Each group (except the elites, the 60-90 minute finishers) was in its own fenced area and they had people checking your bib to make sure you didn’t go into a different group than you signed up for.
I liked that they did that (except for having to wait 55 minutes for my group to start). When I ran the Detroit Turkey Trot in 2011 there were 20-30 thousand people as well, and they had pace groups you signed up for. But the pace groups were just spots along the start where you were supposed to line up and there was no control over it so people who signed up for the slowest group wound up at the front. The whole start was a real mess with faster runners tripping over and stuck behind walkers.
There was a DJ playing music before the race and while we were waiting, to get everyone pumped up. They even had the runners doing warm up callisthenics and dance moves.
Each group got to go from its fenced area up to the start line and then we waited for the official green light & whistle to start. They had each group wait for everyone from the previous group to get however far ahead before starting. It makes sense – keeps the start clear and provides the water/food stations with a little respite instead of a constant stream of people.
Having fresh fruit along the course was new for me. I think I like it, although it is messy. I guess it would be difficult to get enough bananas & oranges peeled for 30,000 people, but the clean-up efforts must have been huge. I believe the fruit is also the reason I didn’t have calf cramps afterwards, which I expected since I was probably dehydrated. I had nothing to drink all morning before the start of the race (no toilettes along the course and I didn’t want to tempt fate) and only 6 oz during the race itself. Based on prior experience of running with that little water consumption I was expecting killer calf cramps but they didn’t happen.
The course took us past the Hippodrome de Paris-Vincennes and past some small statue / monument of an angel I think. I’m not sure what it was for but probably had some historical or official significance because there were the tricolour flag signs I’ve seen on French government type buildings. We ran through city streets and passed a large window display of a store that apparently only sells umbrellas. They were very nice umbrellas but I wonder how a store can stay in business with just one product like that?
More running, going past the train station Gare de Lyon and up to the Bastille monument. The actual prison is long gone but the site is marked with a statue / monument. We ran along the Seine for a ways, up to the Hotel de Ville and the Ile St-Louis, an island in the river. Then we turned to head back along the Rue de Rivoli and passed the Bastille again.
Along the route at a number of places were bands, mostly drum lines but some marching bands and little 3 person rock groups.
Every 5k there was timekeeping where we had to run across the mat to record our times, to discourage cheating. And there were video cameras at the stations. I though it worked like the pictures, where you choose which one you want and have to pay for each one but apparently the purchase fee is for access to all the videos so I have a whole bunch of videos of me at each one. I thought the videos are great to have, I’ve run in several races where I did not make it into a single picture at all and so have no visual record of them.
Towards the end of the course we passed this “mountain” :
I have no idea what this is, or even if it is real. From one side I could have sworn it was man-made but from the other it looked more real. I didn’t see a sign identifying it, but the whole huge area was behind construction fences so I’m thinking it is man-made. Maybe a rock-climbing…rock…is being built.
After the race they were handing out bottles of PowerAde so I took one for my daughter. They had tables with more fruit although the bananas and raisins were long gone and only oranges were left. They also had a hot drinks station where you could get tea or vegetable broth, which was not something I’ve seen before. It was salty but after a HM it was needed to replace everything sweated out.
I was happy to have my Shot Bloks with me to use during the race. I can’t find them here in France and I don’t really like the gels I have been able to find. A co-worker from the US came here in January and brought me several packages of them. I can also get them on Amazon from the UK but they, of course, cost more than if I could just go to the store to buy them.
Overall I think the race itself was very good. It was well organized, well staffed, and there was still food & drink, staff & people cheering at the end for the last finishers. I’ve heard stories about how some races run out of everything so that the last people across the finish line have no food, no drink, no finisher medal and in some cases everyone was gone and the race was already starting to close down and pack up!
A difference from races in the US is that in order to participate here you are required to have a medical certificate signed by your doctor stating you are able to race. You can make copies of the certificate to use for many races; it is good for one year. But no certificate means no race, they won’t give you your race packet. I’m not sure if this is absolutely required but I think you also have to join the FFA (Federation Francaise d’Athletisme) athletic association for the races; I keep getting asked for my number. It’s only a few euros a year so it’s not cost prohibitive to join. I guess it is similar to when my daughter had to join a triathlon association in order to enter her race in 2011 – no membership meant no race sign-up.
The full marathon is in less than 1 month now and should be just as good. For the full we start along the Champs Elysees. Regardless of how I run or finish it will still be an experience!