One of the five biggest marathons in the world with New York, London, Berlin and Chicago
With 40,000 participants, Paris's annual marathon is one of the five biggest marathons in the world and is on equal standing with New York, London, Berlin and Chicago.
For participants, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity allows them to take in the sights of Paris while completing one of the top 26-mile courses in the world. Starting at the Champs-Elysées, diverting through the Place de la Concorde and finishing at Foch Avenue. The course is dotted with a wealth of things to do for the average runner and spectator, with Paris hosting a running expo a few days before the big event.
Held annually on a Sunday in April, it's best to get planning early to make the most out of the occasion.
In 1896 a large crowd gathered to watch 191 runners participate in the first ever Paris Marathon. A distance of 40km was covered over a course that is slightly different from its modern day cousin, but invariably set the standard for the famous race we know today. The first race encouraged competitor spirit by awarding all those who finished in less than 4 hours a commemorative medal.
Over a hundred years later and the race remains almost the same. The distance has been altered to match that of the London Marathon (42km) and the course has changed somewhat from its origins. Instead of running from Paris to Conflains-Sainte-Honorine via Versaillies, runners now get to take in the scenery from the Champs-Elysees to Foch Avenue.
Runners in this marathon have noted how beautiful the surroundings are. Starting out at the Arc de Triomphe, runners get the honour of running en masse down the broad Champs Elysées, a rare opportunity as it is usually packed with traffic. The route continues on from here and passes through two Parisian woods as it follows the banks of the river Seine.
Once you're past the Champs Elysées, the first landmark you're going to encounter is the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most famous monuments in France which sits on the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle. This is the crutch of the Axe Historique (Historic axis), a sequence of monuments and thoroughfares that extend from the centre of Paris towards the west.
Further along the route and you will come across the Place de la Concorde. This major public square is the largest within Paris and hosts a famous equestrian statue of King Louis XV, made of a combination of lime and blue stone and leading on towards the beautiful fortress Bastille.
The course loops back on itself and soon you'll be running right next to some internationally renowned buildings. Of note are the Tour Eiffel and the Cathedral Notre-Dame. Both magnificent in their own right, but combined with the thrill of cheering crowds they become spectacular markers on your marathon and let you know that you'll soon be finished.
The finish line is situated at Porte Dauphine. Thanks to the race organisers you'll also be able to enjoy a glass of wine to celebrate.
Facilities and Tickets
If you're interested in completing in this epic race then signing up is easy. It can be done online or by downloading an entry form and posting it to the correct address. It's good to note that the marathon itself is open to all athletes of any nationality born before 1991 and that a medical note is required before you can compete.
Once you've received your race number you can sort out your travel arrangements with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.
On the race day itself you'll find that there are refreshments provided as you run. Raisins, oranges, water and energy drinks are all provided at intervals of the race. First aid help is also available if requested. The aforementioned running expo is a great place to pick up tips and equipment and meet fellow runners before the big day. Make sure you have a rough estimate of your race timings as you'll be divided into time groups at the beginning of the race. Get there early if you're expecting to finish within 4 hours so you can join the leading group.
This forever growing event is one that will be marked in thousands of people's calendars and should be in yours too. Even if you're not competing, experiencing the marathon buzz within the centre of Paris is something that occurs rarely and is a unique spectacle to witness.
How to get there
Paris is around 3 hours drive from Eurotunnel Le Shuttle's Calais terminal.