The World's Top 10 Marathons

8. Paris Marathon

Posted: 8 July 2000

8. Paris Marathon

Paris has never struggled to attract visitors in the springtime. It’s just that in the past, not many of them came to run the city’s marathon. With a reputation for organisational incompetence and indifferent support, the Paris Marathon has traditionally failed to catch the imagination of the running public. Things have definitely changed. The organisation has improved noticeably and it has the budget to draw a decent elite field – runners now flock to the race in their thousands. Support is still limited, but Paris now has a race worthy of its standing as one of the world’s great cities.

The course: Most European marathons promise a sightseeing tour on foot and then route you through large stretches of industrial wasteland. Paris delivers, squeezing just about everything the city has to offer into this 42km loop of the city. It’s not a fast course but there’s plenty to see.
Highs: Paris in the spring.
Lows: The apathy of Parisians towards their marathon. (And the fact that you require a doctor’s certificate saying that you are fit to run.)
Watch out for: Downhill start over worn cobblestones.
Contact: Marathon International de Paris, A.S.O. Athlétisme - 2 rue Rouget de Lisle TSA 61100 92137 Issy-les-Moulineaux Cedex; e-mail
UK contact: Sports Tours; 0161 7038161
Size: 20,000+
Month: April

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Paris Marathon

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I've got nothing (yet) to compare it to as this was my first but I think your review is a bit harsh.

There were vast numbers of spectators all along the route and it was organised very well - only complaint is that it was congested at the end
Posted: 12/04/2006 at 11:29

"vast numbers"

Not if you ran the same paris marathon as I did Graeme!

Try London as a comparison... seriously!!

Posted: 12/04/2006 at 13:23

Agree with Hendo 100%.

The Expo wasn't badly organised but teh start was chaos and the entire route was heavily congested ruining any hopes for a quick time. Support was very patchy - no-one for miles at a time and even those that were there were pretty quiet, no-one handing out sweeties or anything. And teh finish wasn't fantastic either - I have heard of a few people who didn't get medals because they ran out! Drink stations were also pretty chaotic, way too short and I saw several people tumble on orange & banana peel on slick cobbles.

On the positives, good stands, lots of music, the firemen cheerleaders were funny and it was a nice route. Glad I did it but wouldn't do it again personally.
Posted: 12/04/2006 at 13:28

OK - its my one and only so far.

I like the sound of London - tried but didn't get in.

I did think the Expo was a bit of a joke
Posted: 12/04/2006 at 13:41

Hi Graeme if you haven't seen it there's a major thread over on 'Events'.

Loads of fun for all the family (well maybe not your kids).

I have run both and just did Paris this weekend, it was better supported than I thought but still a fraction of the London crowds.

Posted: 12/04/2006 at 13:48

err - hello <<waves>> I was there supporting my head off as could not run it due to injury.

Surely you heard us just before the 30k mark, directly after the underpass?

We were there with the cornish flag, yelling and jumping around as much as we possibly could.

I ran it last year and yes ok never done London. But I thought it was a beautiful marathon, with plenty of support and lots of music too.

So graeme I'm with you. Paris is a fantastic marathon. And once I get over my injury and can train again I plan on returning to do it again.
Posted: 12/04/2006 at 13:49

Hi Scooby Snax

I did see the Cornish flag ! ! !

I have relatives down there (St Agnes and Perranporth) and it took me a bit by surprise to see the Black and White flag (does it have a name)

Well done

One thing that was obvious was that the Brit voices were more vocal than French ones in the crowd

Another thing that was odd was that I was patted on the back and encouraged on twice by other runners and they were both Brits. I was not wearing anything to show I was British so my conclusion is we are just more sociable runners (and spectators)
Posted: 12/04/2006 at 14:02

Scooby - agree that patches of support were fantastic and really helped you along. Truth is though that London is like that all the way round! Still a brilliant marathon though, just shows how incredible London is as an experience.

Posted: 12/04/2006 at 14:03

By the way Graeme - well done on your first marathon! I patted a few brits on the back as I went past, but only knew they were brits by their t-shirts (charity runners etc)!

Posted: 12/04/2006 at 14:08

Hi Graeme - the Black and White flag of Kernow is popularly known as St Piran's Flag, though the patron saint of Cornwall is actually St Michael (and not a lot of people know that!)
Posted: 12/04/2006 at 15:09

Paris is a beautiful marathon. I ran it in 2005. Was able to set off at my intended pace from the start and was not held up once. Yes, the cobbles were slippery, particularly at the first "ravitaillement" (water/food station)at Bastille.

The crowd was sparse in the Bois de vincennes but apart from that I was happy with it. Although, that too was my 1st marathon and I understand FLM is something special for crowd support.

My only concern is...was the number of runners much bigger this year, hence being held up???

I had no complaints in 2005. I'd do it again given the chance.


Scoobs - Sorry you had to drop out. Bet you still had a lot of fun supporting though?
Posted: 12/04/2006 at 17:25

What I particularly liked about Paris is that it wasn't a charity event.

The only people I saw in fancy dress were representing British charities.

I don't have a problem with fundraising, having done it myself twice at Great North Run, but sometimes I feel in this country running is only deemed to be acceptable if you are doing it for a charity.

Controversial I know!!!!!

I await the flak.

Posted: 12/04/2006 at 17:30

Mr Bump - I know what you mean - it must be a bit off putting lining up at the start next to someone dressed as a hippo when you are geeing up for a crack at a PB!

One of teh Paris thread regulars came in under 3:30 and complained about congestion, I came in at 4:00 and literally couldn't run for more than 6 - 700m without being held up this time (according to the official placing in the splits I passed 7000 people between 10K and teh finish). Maybe we both just started too far back in teh pens or in the wrong pens altogether but I know for a fact I would have been signifigantly quicker if I had been able to run forward rather than sideways.
Posted: 12/04/2006 at 19:20

No offence to the many wonderful "hippos" who grace this forum by the way!!!
Posted: 12/04/2006 at 19:21

Anyone running FLM will find Paris very different in comparison. For instance you would never have to weave through pedestrians crossing the road in London. There is a lot more room in London. However FLM has very boring parts eg Docklands where scenery is poor and support sparse. What a shambles at the end at Paris and for them to run out of medals is inexcusable. I'd do it again but won't on the basis that there are more marathons than time so on to a different city next year.
Posted: 12/04/2006 at 20:42

Back to the original article in RW, I think with the formation of the 'World Marathon Majors' into a super league, it would be reasonable to have Paris in the second tier so they would be worthy of a top 10 place. It's not London or New York but it has a lot to offer and it's one I really wanted to do - and am really glad I have done.

I'm not convinced by the 5 'majors' who seem to be more of a self-appointed cartel than anything democratically elected (eg by runners themselves heaven forbid). Having NY, Chicago and Boston in there makes it very US-centric and Boston is not easy to get into unless you are a racing whippet.

There are many fantastic European marathons, like Paris with history and grandeur about them which the US cities can only envy - plenty to keep me busy and much going for them beyond crowd support alone.

If you plan to run a dozen or so marathons in your life this one would have to be one of them!
Posted: 13/04/2006 at 08:43

I thought paris was on the whole very good, just a bit different to London that's all. It was a typically French affair, said with a Gallic shrug mes amis.

The course was very good. Didn't enjoy the jostling along Rue De Rivoli and the narrow bit when you move onto the road by the river slowed me up. I hope they move the bananas and oranges further away from the water station next year. A great experience.

I don't think we should get too hung up on London. It really is something special, but running another marathon in the UK or elsewhere can be just as rewarding in it's own way, just don't expect silky smooth organisation.


Posted: 13/04/2006 at 10:40

I did Paris last year and enjoyed it. I didnt think there was that much support but maybe thats because I was at the back! I really enjoyed the first half of the route but the end was a bit boring. The refreshment stations werent that great (one had run out of water) and the organisation at the start was bad.

My ex has done both and she said London was better. London looks like it has alot more support.
Posted: 13/04/2006 at 11:39

Have to say that my experience of Paris was excellent...started near the front of the blue pen (sub 3.30) and didn't really have too many problems with congestion (within reason)...found the crowds to be very supportive and friendly and the couurse to be very flat...I would certainly do it again...also, great to meet up with the runners world mob before and after race...

Posted: 13/04/2006 at 13:12

I agree with most of what has been said. Last Sunday in Paris was my 6th different marathon, and although pre-race info was poor, on the day the organisation was brilliant, especially the aid stations. The course was crowded, yes, but I ran my best time for two years, and would recommend this marathon to anyone.
Kinda hope they get the Olympics sometime soon as well...
Posted: 13/04/2006 at 21:04

I've done both, and I find it hard to believe anyone running down the Champs Elysees or the banks of the Seine wished they were in Rotherhithe or the Isle of Dogs instead.

I think reactions to the Paris marathon are a bit like people's reactions to package holidays. Some get bafflingly obsessed about where they sit on the Ryanair flight, moan about the view, and write stroppy letters to get £50 back afterwards. Others enjoy themselves.

The medals for both races say it all for me. The Paris ones may run out sometimes, but at least they're nice enough to actually be worth having.

Posted: 14/04/2006 at 11:52

This was my first marathon in 14 years. I used to run marathons regularly. I thought the spectators were great, with shouts of "courage, allez, allez" to keep you going and the water tables well stocked.
My only gripe was the disorganisation at the finish. As i finished in 4:05, I as lucky enough to scramble to get a medal. As for all those that did not due to them running out, I suggest that those that took more than one medal, should consider what their actions have done to others.
Posted: 18/04/2006 at 12:53

I was at the Paris Marathon, as a ' Benevole'and had a fabulous time. Well done everyone who completed it....I got a 'close up' view of the effort it takes.I shouted my head off in the Bois, for everyone, and confess to looking , unsuccessfully, for a saltire...I came home inspired to have a go at taking part.*Err..We'll see how that goes...
Posted: 19/04/2006 at 08:49

I should have worn a saltire then...
Posted: 19/04/2006 at 11:24

There was a Saltire - a big one in the spectators - my memory is a bit vague as I had other things to concentrate on by then (i.e exhaustion) but I think along the Seine near one of the underpasses
Posted: 19/04/2006 at 14:22

I ran Paris in 2005, and have to say I thought it was fantastic.
OK, the Crowds are not anything like they are at London, but then the course is more scenic, and there is a lot less congestion despite both races having the same number of runners.
The start and finish is also close together, right in the centre of Paris.
I would choose London over Paris everytime, but if you do not get into London, Paris is a wonderful alternative.
Posted: 29/04/2006 at 21:54

I have entered this for 2007.Can anyone recommend a good travel/accommodation package?
Posted: 16/10/2006 at 22:11

Rob - we're running a coach from kent/Sussex. Includes two nights in the Holiday Inn in the city plus a couple of meals thrown in as well.

If you're interested, drop me an e-mail on
Posted: 07/11/2006 at 16:34

I've just missed on getting a place in the normal entry for this one. Is there another way of getting a place?
Posted: 14/11/2006 at 19:42

doing paris next month. Any tips? If I'm up for a 3.45 pb should I go in the 3.30 pen? and is it true drink stations are evry 5 miles?
Posted: 15/03/2007 at 22:35

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