April 18, 2012

Paris Marathon

The path has to be one of the most beautiful traveler journeys in Paris. From the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs Elysées, through the Marais to the Place de la Bastille, on to the Bois de Vincennes (full of tulips and flowering fruit trees), back west along the Seine and finally through the forested Bois de Boulogne. And no cars! The only problem is that you're traveling with 40,000 other people. And, oh yes, you're running 26.2 miles. It's the Paris Marathon.

The marathon takes place the second full weekend in April and attracts runners from all over the world. It's now one of the "big six"—Paris, London, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, and New York. A far cry from the first Paris marathon in 1896 with 191 participants, each year it attracts more and more people from the international running community (nearly 40% are from outside of France).

People line the streets and bridges to shout allez or wave flags as the runners bounce by. Some runners are in costume, some in bright colored wigs, some very serious, some limping but determined to keep going, and many just enjoying the idea that they can go the distance. There are bands along the route and energy outposts (water, raisins, oranges, bananas, sugar) every 5 km to keep up the spirits and health of the runners. Rumor has it, there's even wine and cheese at the 35 km mark.

This year's men's winner, Kenyan Stanley Biwott ran in just over two hours. The women's winner was Ethiopian Tirfi Beyene in 2 hours, 21 minutes. More than 30,000 finish the race and most vow to return to do even better next year.

Save the date—April 14, 2013. And start training!

Photos and post by Meredith Mullins