Active Travel



Paris Marathon Race Day Tips

Apr 6, 2017 | Active Travel, Marathon Majors, Race-cations, Running | 6 comments

Marathon season is here! With Manchester marathon last weekend, Paris and Brighton marathons this weekend, then Boston and London the following weekends. Nerves are racking up, the tapering is happening and final prep is being made. 

I thought I would share my own advice for the Paris marathon after running it in 2014. It was one of my most frustrating marathons (I finished in 4.00.37) but also most fun as I ran almost all of it with a friend, you can read my race recap here. I’ve also asked friends, readers and fellow runners for their Paris marathon advice… I hope you find it useful if you’re running this weekend, know someone else running it or are thinking of taking on the French 26.2 in the future.

Paris Marathon Race Day Tips
  • Go to the loo at your hotel, or in a cafe, or at the bag drop by the Arc de Triomphe, do NOT wait until you get into your corral. There aren’t enough in each corral and you might end up missing your wave.
  • Don’t forget to appreciate the view and take a photo of the Eiffel Tower as you run past – it’s around mile 18, just as you’re getting to work but it’s the most iconic image on the course so don’t miss it. (thanks for the tip Jo)

Paris Marathon Race Day Tips

  • Be careful at the aid stations, particularly the ones giving out bananas and oranges, they are crowded and chaotic – now is not the time to recreate that comedy sketch on the banana peel…
  • Talking of aid stations, there is only water every 5Km which isn’t a lot if it’s hot – make sure to drink at every water station if it’s warm or consider running with your hydration pack if that’s what you’ve practiced with. It is often very sunny and quite hot, so don’t forget the sunnies and suncream. (great advice from Kirsty)

Paris Marathon Race Day Tips

  • There’s some eye candy in the form of fireman cheering on the course near the start (which I somehow missed) but Renee suggested to look out for them for an early pick-me-up.
  • Be prepared for the course to be very crowded early on, there are between 40-50,000 runners and the overzealous crowds don’t have barriers, meaning they often merge onto the roads, narrowing the course. Don’t stress and use up too much energy weaving, it all spreads out around the 10K mark.

Paris Marathon Race Day Tips

  • If you’re not in an early wave, or not going for a particular time, then consider getting there after the race has actually started to avoid excess time on your feet and the aforementioned early crowding on the course.
  • Mentally prepare for the dark tunnels and spectator free park near the end – this is the perfect time to pop your music in and get down to business! (thanks for the reminder of these Georgia)
  • There’s a long walk after the finishing line to meet your friends and family, and often International phones won’t work. Arrange to link up with your spectators in a cafe on the Champs Elysee or back at your hotel to avoid stress – but don’t forget to take a photo with your medal and the Arc de Triomphe. (Tips from Robyn)

Paris Marathon Race Day Tips

From a running fiend that’s completed the course 5 plus times, thanks Kerry:

On the Paris marathon expo– The Paris expo is not the best  – although depends how many of these things you’ve been to I guess. But it’s not that huge. You can get round it in about 30 mins and not miss anything fun. There always seem to be stands from fun sounding marathons elsewhere in Europe though so make sure you go and collect some flyers for future inspiration. 

On the loos at the start– There are not a whole lot in the race village beforehand (although there are SOME). They try to get everyone in there early doors so they always make sure there are enough- there are quite a few right at the end of the Champs Elysees by the Arch de Triomphe. 

I asked if I was going to break my ankle on the cobblestones/at the aid stations– No but please slow down a lot through the fuel stations. You should do this anyway. Best way to stay out of trouble is to run thorugh the middle of the station, then veer in right at the end to pick up water or whatever it is you want. Then keep to the side and walk and sip for a few seconds before rejoining. The french, germans ands italians are not known for their manners during a race and they can sometimes barge past in tight spaces. But you’ll be fine.

Should I run with a pacer?- Mmmm, normally a good idea but I’D do your own thing this time. The pacers for Paris are variable depending on who you get and they can speed up and slow down instead of keeping to a steady pace. Don’t want to ruin your game plan. Not a patch on the RW London Marathon pacing team! (ADDED FROM CHARLIE – I SAW THE 4 HR PACER STEPPING OFF COURSE TO HAVE A WEE – NOT VERY RELIABLE!) 

Any other useful information you can share? Check before you travel out there what the situation is with egerny drinks being given out. One of the big downsides about Paris in recent years is that gatorade have sponsored it and they for some reason have only give n out their product (half a small cup) at the 30km mark. Just water everywhere else. Those not in the know, turn up expecting tonnes of energy drinks and then crash and burn cos there is none. Check and if this is still the case make plans to carry your own.

Don’t take anything off the crowd. While this is fine at Great North Run and other races here, sometimes at french races they stitch younup. I took a cup fo red drink at paris one year cos they were shouting it was energy drink and it was red wine. The year after I ate cheese after being told it was fudge. Now I love cheese and wine but not when I’m knackered and expect it to be something else! 

Paris Marathon Race Day Tips

From a marathon running super-mum, and my original marathon inspiration, Kate:
I loved Paris—it was my second and my favorite and my best time.  Great course for sightseeing, great spectators, well organized. There were thirty-five or forty thousand of us in the Champs Elysées by 8:45 am, and the start down that broad avenue in the gold morning light was phenomenal: I could see half the horde swarming down the hill in front of me and hear the other half pressing from behind.  We could easily have taken the Bastille all over again.  Almost every inch of the course is absolutely beautiful (sorry London!), although there were some hilarious planning oversights, like a grand total of 6 loos at the start and every 5 kilometres they gave out orange quarters and bananas—from which the fruit was quickly gutted and then the rinds and skins flung on the move across the Eau 2 drenched cobblestones!  There were pratfalls and collisions all over the place and more “Pardons” than are begged from a priest in a life time.It seemed incredible the road was not littered with bodies!  
After the Rue de Rivoli and the Faubourg St. Antoine, the first big loop from the Bastille is out to Château de Vincennes, set in the prettiest park, which I didn’t even know existed, and from where you can see out over the whole of Paris.  And then back to the Bastille and all the way along the Right Bank toward the Eiffel Tower.  There is so much history and architecture on offer that runners were invited to download a guided tour onto their MP3s and sightsee while they competed!  I stayed with the blood, sweat and tears option and I wondered what was on those MP3s during the Hades episode around mile 16 when we charged down into a dark, airless, and seemingly endless tunnel beside the Seine; I was not the only one who nearly lost the will to live.  And I was privately convinced that the elite athletes had been allowed to run the whole race above ground—and were probably by now dining with the gods.  But when the light finally glimmered at the proverbial end, I could see the Trocadero where my husband and son were anxiously scanning the flow of people and trying very loyally to cheer.  More lethal bumper cars as I crossed to greet them, then on to the Bois de Boulogne, around Roland Garros stadium and the race track at Longchamps, and the cruel final four miles when I discovered that the most tired part of my body was my neck (who knew I should have focused more training there?).  But I managed to hold my head up, and maybe it was pride, because so many of the chicly dressed but by now very sweaty Parisian men were reduced to strolling along the center of the course, a few arm in arm no less, and made no effort whatsoever to get out of anyone’s way (would that have suggested that walking was somehow second best to running?).  We finished in Avenue Foch with the Arc de Triomphe beckoning just in front.”
Her advice is “In the big traffic circles where they hand out water and possibly orange quarters, it gets really slippery, and they are paved with little stones and mounded towards the center.  Be really careful when you come to those—of course, they may have changed the water locations.
It’s hard to find any toilets at the start.  I swear I squatted in the Champs Elysee.   Then it turned out that EVERYONE peed in the bushes in the first big park you come to, a long loop out of Paris at the opposite end from the Bois de Boulogne.

And from a friend who ran Paris last year in 3.12, and is pumping for a sub 3.10 in London in a few weeks time- go Ben! 
Get to the start early, people get into the start corrals very early, however it’s not that strict about which area you’re in. I climbed a fence to get into the right start zone. 
Break it down in to four parts; the first 8 miles, the park, the next 8 or so miles along the Seine, and the final park which spits you out with only 2km to go. It’s slightly uphill towards the end, not massive, but it’s there. 
Don’t go on a sightseeing walking tour the day before, save your legs/feet. Additionally, eat a breakfast you know before the race, a pastry is probably not a good idea. I brought porridge to eat in my hotel room beforehand. 
It’s almost impossible to find a pub close to the finish to enjoy a celebratory drink… 

Thank you so much to everyone who emailed to share their invaluable advice. If you’ve run Paris, or have any other tips to add, please do so. Ashley has made an awesome pinterest board with Paris Marathon race recaps here. I’ve also linked to a couple of my favourite recaps below;
Paris Marathon Race Day Tips


  1. Renée

    still my favourite marathon <3 regretting not going this year but my body needs a break from too much running the last few years.

    Oh and yes good idea to get to the start early! my husband was waiting on someone (and he was in an early corral) and they never found each other (other person did not have his phone with him) – Ron had to jump the fence and started his marathon off with a nice little gash in his leg… (still got his 3:10 PR though, luckily).

  2. Nicole

    I love this. As someone who is v ankle sprain prone, the cobble stones would totally slow me down!!

  3. organicsandra

    I would love to do this one someday. I lived in Paris in college for 6 months and adore it. It would be great to see the whole city running! Love all the tips!

  4. Lana Tena

    Thanks for the information! I am running Paris this sunday =)

  5. katieferg89

    Yeah my main comment would be that the fairly spectator-free Bois de Boulougne is NOT what you want at mile 22, but it’s nice to pop out into the crowds again! Oh, and the tunnels were yuk. Ha and I definitely remember the firemen as well, glad it wasn’t just me!!!

    When I did it back in 2012 they let the left hand side corral out, then the right hand, then moved onto the next – I thought this definitely helped to ease the congestion rather than letting everyone just go out all at once.Oh I do remember lots of people weeing IN the corrals though so just watch out when you’re waiting.

    But all in all, you get to see A LOT of Paris, and it’s a heaving, buzzy atmosphere – I’d go back!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *