Thursday, April 7, 2011

Running Races in Paris France

Are you a runner, and do you want to participate in a race during your stay in Paris? The city has a large number of running races to offer.

Most will even get you a medal and a t-shirt. And what better souvenir for a runner?

There are races year-round, of all distances; here is a selection of the most popular ones, in decreasing order of distance.

Paris Marathon 

One of the world's largest marathon (with 37,000 runners), it is also one of the most scenic! The race starts at the top of the Champs-Elysees, follows the Seine river all the way across the city into Bois de Vincennes, then returns on the riverside road before entering Bois de Boulogne and returning to the Arc de Triomphe. You run past all the major monuments and through many different neighborhoods, each with their own character. This is not an easy course though: there are small sections on cobblestones, some streets are fairly narrow (which can result in collisions with other runners), and it is far from flat. It would not be the best race if it's your first time tacking the famous 26.2 miles... But the course is so beautiful that it is well worth participating once. Be sure to register early, because the race is usually sold out in November. This is also a great race to spectate, so be sure to check it out if you're in Paris at that time of the year, even if you're not a runner! The most impressive place is at the Obelisk on Place de la Concorde, to watch the start. The huge crowd of runners filling the Champs-Elysées is very impressive. Don't hesitate to cheer them on, they need every encouragement they can get!

More information at

Paris Half Marathon

If you're not quite ready for a full marathon, you may want to consider Paris's second-largest race, the Paris half-marathon, in which 25,000 runners participate yearly. The course is not as scenic: it starts in the Bois de Vincennes, loops around the city hall and ends back at Chateau de Vincennes. It is a fairly fast course, and definitely a fun race. Don't expect huge crowds of cheering spectators though: unfortunately, Parisians aren't very impressed with this kind of race.

More information at

Boulogne Half Marathon

If you prefer to train for a half-marathon in the summer rather than the winter, this race is an excellent one. The course is right outside of Paris in the city of Boulogne-Billancourt (accessible by metro) and runs along the river Seine. It is impeccably organized, and a very fast and flat course, which attracts a panel of world-class runners every year. It may not be very scenic, but a great race if you're looking for a personal record on this distance. Note that at 15€ registration, it is also a lot more affordable than the Paris half-marathon (which runs at twice that).

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20 km de Paris

A little less than a half marathon (20 km is about 12.1 miles), this is an outstandingly organized race that starts and finishes at the Eiffel Tower, and loops around Bois de Boulogne. There is a large number of participants (about 21,000), which gives it a fun atmosphere. Weather is generally still fairly mild in October, so this may be a warm race!

More information at


A Parisian classic between the Eiffel Tower and the Versailles Palace (16 km, about 10 miles). This race will take you along the Seine and into the Meudon Forest before going up the large avenue in front of the  Chateau... but what makes it famous is the long uphill stretch after about 4 miles, on the Côte des Gardes, a name that sends a chill down Parisian runners' backs. Of course this is nothing compared to the hills you may know if you live in Seattle or San Francisco, but in our standards it is steep and long (about 2 miles). As you climb you will see more and more people slowing down, walking, stopping to catch their breath... A big deal is made out of this race every year, with newspapers giving advice on how to manage the climb or how to prepare yourself mentally for what they seem to consider an absolute widowmaker. Don't let that intimidate you, with proper training it is easy to run the entire hill and pass hundreds of competitors!

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La Parisienne

Another Parisian favorite, is race is reserved for the ladies! It is a fun and exciting sight to see thousands of men line up the sidewalks of this 6-km (4 miles) race around the Eiffel Tower to encourage their wife, girlfriend, mother or daughter. Children display signs reading "Go Mummy!" while dads get humbled as their wife runs cheerfully by... This race is quite short, but it is to encourage as many runners as possible to participate (last year about 13,000 women registered), because the proceeds go to the fight against breast cancer. So if you're in Paris mid-september and have a pair of sneakers with you, make sure you run this fun race for a good cause.

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Corrida de Noël 

This is really a series of 7 races the same day, ranging from a children's 1-mile race to an international 10-km (6 miles) and culminating in a 6-km (4 miles) costume race! A Santa outfit is provided with the registration, but many runners choose to make their own costume. Some are Christmas related (including a 10-ft tall Christmas tree, complete with lights, or a team of reindeer pulling Santa in a sled) but some are more generic: previous years have included the A-Team (complete with van!) and the Ghostbusters, with ghosts. The best part about this race is the look on the many children who come to spectate: thousands of Santas are running in the street, they can't believe their eyes! Many runners bring candy to give away to kids, adding to their excitement. For a full review, don't miss "Santa in Running Shoes". And if you choose to participate, look for the Gadabout team, we are there every year!

More information at

You can find the full calendar of races in and around Paris at:

(just enter "Ile de France" in the "Geographie" drop-down list).

If you are going to participate in any race in Paris, one very important fact to know is that the organizers will require a medical certificate stating that you can run the distance of the race. Have your doctor examine you before you go and issue you a note stating that. You will not be able to pick up your bib if you don't provide it, so don't overlook it!

WHAT ELSE TO DO: If you're going to be in Paris while you're training for another race or if you've brought your running shoes and you just want to go for a few leisurely runs, be sure to check the scheduled runs on the Paris Runners Meetup group at

**Photo Credit: Flickr CC - Some rights reserved by Marc Caraveo

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