After all these years, I decided to take a look at the Paris Marathon this morning. Running around is not an activity that really fascinates me, but these events are so popular that they should not be ignored. The Paris Marathon this year had more than 50,000 runners registered. It was starting at 8:45 this morning, with the "handisport" participants leaving about 20 minutes earlier.
The moment I took the metro around 7:30 a.m. it was clear that the day was a bit out of the ordinary.
I just wanted to see the beginning since I do not enjoy watching people suffer, so I thought that somewhere along the Louvre would be good, only about 2km from the starting line.
It's always wonderful to see major streets like rue de Rivoli closed to traffic.
There are informational signs posted along the way because some of the participants will not see any more of Paris than just these streets.
I was amused by the zoo advertisement at Place du Palais Royal.
I was less amused by these boxes once I realised that people were sleeping in them.
I decided to move along to the far end of the Louvre.
Bicycles were still temporarily tolerated although motor traffic had been eliminated.
The camera zoom can make you believe that La Défense has invaded the centre of the city.
Before long, the handisport athletes came along.
After the wheely guys, the sightless runners appeared.
Do you get the people doing it in comedy costumes of various sorts (and it's all for charidee, of course)? The London Marathon passes right by where I live (on the 18th mile, so a lot of people are looking rather the worse for wear by the time they get to us), and part of the fun of watching it (apart from being able to nip back indoors for whatever else one wants to do, and then back again to see what's happening in the race) is the variety of things people wear. Every year one of the wildlife charities has at least a couple of people in the most ungainly rhino outfits, one year there was a team of people tied together to make a "train", sundry advertising stunts (Marmite jars and beer bottles), cartoon characters, men in drag, ladies in tutus, more deely-boppers than you can count, and so on. I have done a couple of blog entries with photos, but maybe this year I should do a companion thread to this one!
There are a few costumes, but they are very rare compared to a lot of other cities.
I saw that registration is now open for next year's marathon. The first 5000 pay "only" 75€ to participate and then the fees rise gradually to a top fee of 109€ after 37,000. There were many complaints about the fees in Paris, but I don't know what other cities charge.
Friday's Le Monde said 50,000 people, but this morning's free paper in the Metro said 40,000, of whom 16,000 were foreigners.
Our apartment window is at Kilometre 6, so other than the first guys, there were already some walking (not many) and others definitely not looking fresh -- to the extent that my first thought was "this one will never finish". I watched nearly all of them -- only a few in disguise (not among the serious runners) and some groups of runners with a handicapped person in a kind of wagon that they took turns to pull.
Paris race prices are not very high, compared to prices in the States or Canada. In Canada, even ordinary 10K races cost over $50 to register for. It's several hundred $ for NYC.
And you only see "older" runners because marathon are not a young person's sport. Forbiddent to under 16 in fact -- that repetitive hitting the ground is bad for young muscles, tendons, etc. It requires a lot of endurance.
After the last of the race had gone by, I went to the store and behind the cleaning truck that was picking up the plastic water bottles, there was an overweight couple dressed as runners, with number bibs, walking holding hands. I guess they wanted to tell their friends that had done the Paris marathon.
I was also struck by the number of runners with smartphones with apps, earphones, etc. And a big American guy with a t-shirt with "Bonjour, y'all" written on the back.
Actually, in 2013 the exact number of inscriptions allowed was 50,000. This year it was reduced to something like 42,700. I don't know why -- and it is the same for next year. There is a lottery for registration because there are many more requests than available numbers. I assume that a lot of people run part of the course unofficially without ever registering.
The nationality statistics for 2013 were, after the French of course, UK, USA, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Israel and Brazil. There were runners from 138 countries, representing 30% of the total participants. Finally: 79% men, 21% women.
These races are a lot of fun to watch. I always marvel at what the human body is capable of when I see the runners go by, especially the ones with disabilities.
Did you notice if security was especially high this year? It was airtight at NY's marathon last November, which contributed to me not even wanting to go. I'm glad the city took measures to ensure everyone's safety, but having to go through airport-like security to enter Central Park takes a lot of the fun out of it.
I saw very little security where I was standing, but that just means that the real security was in plainclothes. The few people in police uniforms were just to redirect traffic or make spectators move back when a big group of runners was coming through.
I used to be really tuned into plainclothes security officers because one of my colleagues' husband was a police bodyguard for important personalities visiting France (he went skiing with Princess Diana, for example), then he became President Mitterrand's bodyguard, and since that period he has been one of the top security officers for various government ministers over the years. After several years with the minister of Defense, he is now with the minister of Agriculture, who isn't really at risk for much, so it is a cool job. Anyway, what I was going to say is that you can spot the security people in a crowd two main ways -- obviously they are mostly looking everywhere at the crowd and never at the 'event' or the 'personality' that people have gathered to see, and also even on the hottest days, they ALWAYS wear some kind of jacket due to their shoulder holsters.
Anyway, what I was going to say is that you can spot the security people in a crowd two main ways -- obviously they are mostly looking everywhere at the crowd and never at the 'event' or the 'personality' that people have gathered to see, and also even on the hottest days, they ALWAYS wear some kind of jacket due to their shoulder holsters.
You'd be be good at spotting a terrorist, too, as that is also their M.O.
I knew the marathon was today, but I had no intention of seeing it. I was riding a bike down the Canal Saint Martin to see if it would be filled by tomorrow when it is supposed to reopen, and it looked exactly the same as yesterday. Then I headed over to Place de la République to see if the "occupiers" were still there. There has been a small but determined group coming there for the last three nights to make a variety of political demands. The police clear them out every morning at 6 a.m. There were maybe about 15 people there planning an overthrow of the government and perhaps the world, but there did not appear to be any immediate danger. I continued down Boulevard Beaumarchais, sort of planning to continue on the Bercy to either 1) see a movie or 2) wander through the park. But as I approached Bastille, there was a police barricade: the marathon. So I figured that I would hang around for a little while. I got rid of the bike and found a vantage point.
Bastille was to be visited twice by the runners -- once at Km. 5 and then a second time at something like Km. 12 as they returned from the Bois de Vincennes. At Km. 5, it was a refreshment point.
Vittel and the French banana producers of Martinique and Guadeloupe were among the sponsors.
There were bins for throwing rubbish while running.
The first participants were about to arrive, having descended the Champs Elysées, rue de Rivoli and rue Saint Antoine.
And here they are in their wheelchairs.
Just like the other time, the wheelchairs were followed by the blind runners and their companions.
It didn't take long for the magnificent young men in their wheely machines to arrive.
The Kenyans were no longer in a tight group.
In the centre of this photo, Korir took second place at the finish line.
I decided that it might be interesting to see some of the marathon from above -- on the Promenade Plantée. In the photo top centre, I turned back to look at the 'other direction' still heading for the Bois.
To be perfectly honest, I almost didn't look at the latest addition to this thread, thinking it couldn't possibly interest me. To the contrary, the pictures are really exhilarating! What a great job of capturing movement and also individual expressions.
I'm glad to see that Parisians have finally learned how to encourage the marathon runners. A friend of mine who started by doing the New York marathon said the crowds there were great, all along the entire route, with music and encouragement. That was 16 years ago. A few years later she did Paris and said it was not fun since there were only crowds at the beginning and the finish, the rest was silence and no encouraging calls.
Today she actually ran the Connemara marathon in Ireland. I saw the total runners for the full marathon was about 3,000 and it's basically a road race -- quite different from Paris.