The 40th edition of the Paris Marathon was probably the biggest to date with 54,000 runners from 149 countries. A quarter of the participants were female runners which made this race a male-dominated competition. Heat was a big deciding factor for runners hoping to PR. Unlike last year’s mild temperature, it was hot this year!
The adventure began with first class seats on the two-hour intercity train from the French town of Maubeuge to Paris Gare du Nord on Saturday, April 2, 2016. Maubeuge is only a few minutes from our house over the French-Belgian border. From Gare du Nord, it was 30 minutes to the marathon expo on the metro. The ticket office was closed so we lined up to purchase metro tickets at the ticket booth. A guy came up to us and offered to help us. He wanted to charge us 35€ for a 7,80€ for two round trip tickets! Be very, very careful with people offering to assist you because their goal is really to scam people, even seasoned travelers like us.
Paris is such a beautiful, international, and cosmopolitan city but heed the advice for safe traveling. Just like other cities that are huge tourist draws, Paris also teems with scammers, scalpers, and con artists everywhere. The trains let off a massive wall of people every single time, so be careful of pickpockets at train stations as well.
Anyway, we took the metro purple line 4 in the direction of Marie de Montrouge and got off (16 minutes, 14 stops) at Gare Montparnasse-Bienvenue to transfer to the metro green line 12 in the direction of Mairie d’Issy. We got off (7 minutes, 6 stops) at Porte de Versailles and crossed the street to the Parc des Expositions.
This race requires a valid medical certificate dated within the last year. After submitting my medical certificate, I claimed my bib envelope and went to another station to pick up my loot bag.
My 80€ registration fee included the runner’s bib, green ASICS backpack, a sachet of Tiger Balm, a small pack of pistachios, a snack pack of candies, a blister packet, and a whistle. They were also giving away Haribo gummies at one of the expo booths. I received my finisher’s shirt and the medal after I crossed the finish line.
I knew race day was going to be warmer so we stopped at one of the expo booths and bought a couple of Buff UV headwear and a white summer runner’s cap.
From Porte de Versailles, we took the green metro line 12 again, this time in the direction of Aubervilliers/Front Populaire and got off (17 minutes, 13 stops) at Concorde. The yellow metro line 1 to La Défense/Grand Arche made 6 stops in 8 minutes before we reached our destination, the Porte Maillot metro station.
Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile is a four-star hotel right in the heart of Paris. We have stayed in better rooms for less money but our club room had the view of the iconic Eiffel Tower which was simply breathtaking. Our room on the 31st floor also included access to the Club Lounge a floor below, buffet breakfast and Wi-Fi. The cocktail hour included finger foods, unlimited wines and Louis Roederer Brut Premier champagne.
We arranged for a 2:00 PM late checkout the next day. Richard took several photos of the views from our hotel room at different times of the day.
The alarm went off at 8:00 AM on Sunday, April 3rd and breakfast was at the club lounge. We were out the door by 9:30 AM. The hotel’s strategic location meant we only have to walk a few minutes to the start and finish lines.
Richard has a keen interest in sports cars. This car displayed in a dealership along the road intrigued him:
The elite runners started running at 8:45 AM while my corral was scheduled for 10:15 AM. It was actually 10:30 AM when I crossed the starting line and started running. Yup, it was warm right at the start but I was all covered up. I wore an Under Armour long-sleeved shirt so my arms won’t burn.
This was a loop race and the course was not flat. Both kilometer and mile markers were placed prominently on the sides of the road.
There are so many things to like about this race. The whole of Paris seemed to have turned out to cheer us on. It felt like one giant street party! The bands and groups providing the entertainment were varied, vividly colorful, and just exuberant! The fire department was stationed at many locations to hose us down and keep us cool. The food and drinks at the aid stations were plentiful. I remember getting isotonic drinks at one station in the later part of the race but there were plenty of Vittel water, bananas, oranges, sugar cubes, and raisins. They were also giving out gels at a couple of the stations.
I melted along the route but finished the race. The ambulances were ubiquitous. Avenue Foch was closed off and used as the finishing chute and it was a long walk dodging finishers who were walking slowly, limping, or just sprawled on the road to rest and recover. I met Richard at the Arc de Triomphe with our overnight luggage and began our mad dash to make our 5:19 PM train back to Maubeuge.
The train ride itself did not take long but searching for the correct platform, the queuing, and the waiting between transfers ate up precious time. We went to the Charles de Gaulle Etoile station and took the RER A train in the direction of Marne-la-Vallée and got off (6 minutes, 2 stops) at Châtelet Les Halles. We boarded the RER B train in the directioin of Aéroport Charles de Gaulle and after one stop, we were back at Gare du Nord.
Gare du Nord is huge and there are few train personnel to help and point people in the right direction. We were not about to ask just anybody for assistance knowing scammers were ubiquitous as well. We finally found platform 15 and got on our train with two minutes to spare. It was time to relax and clean up from the race.