The Paris Marathon can lay claim to being the oldest marathon in the world, with the race first being run in 1896! A huge crowd turned out to watch this extraordinary event, cheering the 191 participants as they ran 40 km – chosen because it was the distance separating Marathon from Athens – from Paris to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine via Versailles. All runners who finished the race in less than 4 hours were awarded a medal.
The current version of the Paris Marathon dates from 1976, and is one of the most popular events on the racing calendar. It is held each spring, in April, with a field limited to 37,000 runners. Like all races held in France, the Paris Marathon requires you to obtain a doctor's note stating that you are physically fit to run a marathon!
Another unique feature of the race is the fare offered at the aid stations that line the course – being French, you don't just get sports drinks and orange slices but will also find yourself being offered wine, beer, cider and even oysters!
The course is spectacular, taking in many of the great sights of the city. It begins on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, runs downhill to circle the Place de la Concorde, then heads onto the Rue de Rivoli.
From there the route passes the Louvre, goes round the Place de la Bastille, then down the Boulevard Soult to the Bois de Vincennes. From there it loops around the Bois de Vincennes before returning to the heart of Paris. The Rue de Charenton is the halfway point of the race, and from there the route follows the Seine, past Île de la Cité and under the Pont Neuf.
As you pass the Eiffel Tower you will find a large drinks station and foot massage at Trocadéro, before continuing along the Seine, past Bois de Boulogne, to finish on the Avenue Foch.
Paris in springtime is always a temptation, but being able to combine it with one of the world's great marathons adds something special, especially with the opportunity of oysters and a foot massage along the route!
While there is also an elite field in this race, it doesn't tend to have the top names and fast times typically associated with races like London or Berlin, but if you are looking for a mass participation race in a delightful city this is a great choice of race.
The current course records are both recent, with Vincent Kipruto of Kenya setting the men's record of 2:05:47 in 2009, while in 2010 Ethiopia's Atsede Baysa set a new women's course record of 2:22:04 in winning the women's race.