I have attended the Parish Half-Marathon in March 2016 and I consider it one of the most prestigious running events that I’ve been part of, so far. I’ve finished the race in a rather mediocre 1h 40’, but from my point of view, the most important thing was taking part in this wonderful event and I will be sharing all the details about the race below:
But first, the city
Paris doesn’t need any introduction and definitely not from me. I’ve only stayed in Paris for a total of four days, during the period in which the Paris Half-Marathon took place (its official name is Fitbit Semi de Paris or Le semi-marathon international de Paris).
However, in the days before the race and a bit after, I had the chance to wonder around the streets and visit the most popular landmarks (the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, the Arc de Triomph, Notre Dame, walk on the banks of river Seine, etc.). And it was splendid. Plus the energy that this city transmits is incredible and contagious.
Like I do in any new city, in my first day there I went for a short run in order to get my muscles moving a bit and to get to know the city, or at least parts of it. I had to be careful so that I wouldn’t tire myself too much with the running and the visiting and make sure that I will be in top shape on race day.
But I won’t go in too much detail regarding the city. It is all so known to everyone and it is better if you go there and discover it on your own. I will just point out two more important aspects:
- The people there were great. They engaged in conversation and they were really nice to me, which might be against the popular opinion, that the French or the Parisians are a bit…arrogant. I did however spoke only in French while I was there, so this might have counted a lot in their eyes.
- The security. France was and still is in a declared state of emergency. This means that you see police and army patrols on the streets and when you try to enter a museum for example, you get a full security check, like you would in an airport. This made me feel both safe & unsafe in some way.
Now let’s get to the race, because that’s why I’m here for.
The races in Paris will always be a big attraction for runners all across the globe. And even though not so many records are set there, compared to Berlin or Boston for example, there are still plenty elite runners taking part each year, ready to push through that 1 hour mark.
Picking up the race kit:
Everything was set up perfectly for this race, so good actually that you might say the Germans actually took care of organizing it 🙂
The racing kit had to be picked up from „Chateau de Vincennes”, a castle on the east-side of Paris, close to the Vincennes forest and to the Paris Zoo. That would also be the start & finish point of the race.
The venue was amazing, an enormous tent, very well split up in such a way that even though more than 40,000 people had to pass by and pick up their racing kits, you didn’t have to wait more than five minutes anywhere you went.
A very nice thing about the race in Paris is that it is mandatory to bring a medical certificate that will attest that you are in a good medical condition and that you will be able to run in that race. This forces you to take a medical test with at most three months before the race. I believe this should be a mandatory requirement for all races of this kind, but unfortunately, I’ve been in so many races where they don’t ask for it, or ask you to sign in at your own risk, which might put your life in danger.
Another very nice feature of the sign-up tent was a huge wall which had the names of all the participants. The challenge proposed by the organizers was to go through over 40K names and find yours, and then of course take a selfie and hashtag it with Semi de Paris.
Paris-Est a vos pieds
The race took place in the eastern side of Paris (hence the motto Paris-Est a vos pieds) and started from the Castle of Vincennes, then continued onwards to the Place de la Nation, Place de la Bastille, the Sebastopol Boulevard, then back on the banks of Seine, passing by Notre-Dame, and then at the end a very nice stretch of 6 kilometers through the forest. The map of the race can be found below (click on it to get to the race’s website).
As I said before, the race was very well organized. It had aid points and hydration points once every 5 kilometers, it had pacers for every type of runners, from pros to beginners, and the overall atmosphere was jolly. Apart from the multitude of spectators, there were also marching bands at every kilometer mark, and they played some really fun and rhythmical music which was definitely setting you up in the mood for running and it felt like they were spreading out energy towards the runners.
The course is mostly flat, with a small exception after the 14th kilometer, where you have to go up for about one kilometer, which you kind of feel in your legs, especially if you’re not used to hill running.
Another important thing to remember is that the race takes place at the beginning of March, which even though might sound like Spring, it isn’t really. The temperature when the race started was of around -1 or 0 degrees Celsius, with the wind blowing quite hard, especially on the riverside.
Other remarks + budget & ratings
An important remark would be that this event was highly broadcasted and very well presented by mass media, so much so that even the great Haile Gebrselassie was there. Actually he was the one that shot the gun which started this race.
Another important thing to take notice of, is that there weren’t any toilets along the course of the race. You can only find them at the Start/Finish points. When the organizers were asked what the people should do if they have to go during the race, they replied quite sarcastically, „You will just have to run faster towards the finish line”. But despite this, I saw plenty of people (only guys I must admit) that used the river Seine as their toilet or they used the bush or trees on the side of the road for their needs. Which I think is only normal…I mean, if you have to go, you have to go. But this would be a minus for the organizers.
Regarding the budget, I would classify this race as one of the expensive ones. Firstly because you have to pay between 50 to 60 Euros, depending on how early or late you sign up. Secondly, because Paris is very expensive as a city, and even though you might find cheap flights to get there, you will still need to spend quite a lot on food and accommodation. I would personally recommend using Airbnb for accommodation, which is cheaper than going to a hotel.
On the plus side, Paris has amazing transportation, and rather cheap. I personally prefer using the Metro whenever I have the chance to, because I find it the most intuitive and easy-to-use means of transportation, especially when you’re in a new city. This is if I’m not running of course.
Race popularity: ★★★★☆
Overall rating: ★★★★☆