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Paris in the Springtime –  Paris Marathon – 05 April 2009

The Champs-Elysees under blue sky, the Arc de Triomphe behind and the Colonne de Juillet in the Place de Bastille ahead. There can’t be many better marathon starts than this. Richard (Atkins) and Nigel (Rogerson, Lytchett), my long run training partners, both seemed relaxed and eager. I wasn’t surprised as the start down the vast avenue that the Champs-Elysees is, is invitingly downhill all the way down to the Place de La Concorde. I had overcome the disappointment of picking up an injury two weeks earlier but it hadn’t healed and I was apprehensive about even completing. I probably shouldn’t have started but now I just wanted to get going and hopefully the injury would hold up.

After the Place de La Concorde the run takes a mad turn, a bit like the Parisien traffic did on the same corner the day before, and on to the Rue de Rivoli and past the beautiful Musee du Louvre.  The run had flattened out now and the cobbles of the Champs-Elysees replaced by normal tarmac. The first drinks station at 5k was noted by the presence of nuts, oranges, bananas in addition to water but don’t expect any isotonic drinks as in London - Powerade only appears 5k from the end.  The right leg was giving some jip now and occasional stops and stretches were in order. Up until the half way mark the run goes out into the large Bois de Vincennes before looping back onto the northern edge of the Seine. The crowds are smaller than London and certainly quieter - many runners around me were trying to encourage support. Even the bands seem muted compared to the cacophony of London.

The run along the Seine, shimmering under the morning sun, takes in all the sights: Notre-Dame, Musee d’Orsay, and of course the Eiffel tower. By now I could barely run so the last 10k was a mixture of walk and slow jog - with a mass of runners passing from behind - but there was enough scenery to keep the spirits up. So in to the Bois de Boulogne and the final few kilometres, two stands advertising for the Beaujolais Nouveau marathon and a bit later on the Medoc Marathon were both giving out samples of wine to the runners although around me few took up the offer. The end was a welcome site.  Although this was my fifth marathon it was certainly the most difficult. The time of 3hrs 44mins was irrelevant, I was just relieved to have met the challenge and collected the medal. 

Brilliant runs from Nigel and Anthony (both well under 3 hours) and from Richard (sub-3hrs 15mins).

After the finish, organisation is not up to London’s efficiency – with large jams of tired runners and spectators, and queues to get down in to the Metro (not free travel/open barriers as in London). But once out there are plenty of opportunities for a well earned drink.

So the positives? 

Great Spring classic with superb scenery

Fast course-definite PB potential

Perfect weather

And the negatives?

Too tempting to sight-see the day before – and tire yourself.

Efficiency of drinks stations and the end not up to London.

Katie and Tom Hopkinson shouting for Wimborne

Neil Hopkinson



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