Paris + Running = Bliss
By Theadora Brack
Jet setting to Paris? Cuckoo for running? Well then, why not just go with the flow, pack the shoes, and compete in one of the city’s grande classiques?
Here’s the squeal: Racing in France is thrilling. The excitement is palpable, even before the gun sounds. Every race is different and half the fun is getting into the groove of the course du jour. Plus, I can’t think of a finer way to hobnob with Paris’s past and present, than by charging cheek by jowl with the compression-clad, while dashing past the bright sights of the city. Gushing all Proustian: It does the trick every time.
As Papa Hem once preached: “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus, you remember them as they actually are.”
That goes double for traveling by foot. In fact, I am training for a few upcoming races. So tighten your laces. Here are a few of my favorite races in France. Bygone it, Atalanta—Ready! Set! Bolt!
1. La Parisienne (18th edition)
Meet the course that intensified my budding obsession with racing in Paris. All dolled-up in a sea of pink, the start of this all-female race is a wild fracas of 35,000 goddesses, panthers, and gazelles stampeding through the narrow rues surrounding la Tour Eiffel. Go solo or race as an ensemble for fun. Wearing gold lamé, my équipe, Les Furies du Monde, once snagged the costume award, presented by the Mairie de Paris.
Date: September 14, 2014
Distance: 6.7 km
Starts: In front of the Trocadéro and finishes at the École Militaire
Booty: Roses, medals (1.6 oz.), and fitted-racing shirts
Terrain: Gentle hills
Sights: La Tour Eiffel, the “Princess Di tunnel” at Pont de l’Alma, and Champ de Mars
Post-race: Get your Zen on at the nearby Guimet Musée National des Arts Asiatiques.
2. Paris – Versailles: La Grande Classique (37th edition)
After the Paris market women hotfooted it on over to Versailles to raise hell with the royals, the French Revolution really got cooking. It took them beaucoup hours to make the jaunt, but it shouldn’t take you so long—not with cushy asphalt, newfangled shoes, and dashing pompiers on your side, inspiring you with words of cheer. Take heed: Halfway there, you’ll meet with a mile-long hill with a hefty incline. But what goes up must come down, so prepare for a fast descent as the great palace comes into view at long last!
Date: September 28, 2014
Distance: 16 km
Starts: At la Tour Eiffel and ends Versailles
Bling: Medals (2.1 oz.) worthy of an aristocrat
Terrain: Think Supreme(s). As in, ’ain’t no mountain high enough!’
Tip: The pompiers usually run at the back of the pack
Post-race: Go for Baroque; cool off afterwards at the palace fountain shows to the sounds of Lully!
3. 20 Kilomètres de Paris (36th edition)
Attention to detail is this race organization’s forte. Though 30,000 runners may be chomping at the bit on the Pont d’Iéna, it’s not an issue since the race start is staggered, easing up on the stampede mentality. Line-up is first-come, first-served. A confession: I weep every time the Armée de l’Air fighter jets buzz the crowd, trailing tri-colored smoke in their pre-race fly-by salute. It’s stirring!
Date: October 12, 2014
Distance: 20 km
Starts and finishes: At la Tour Eiffel
Awards: Striking medals (2.2 oz.), shirts, and souvenir chips with the race logo
Terrain: At times bumpy (cobblestones) and woodsy (Bois de Boulogne)
Perks: Every 5 km you’ll find nuts, figs, sugar cubes, dark chocolate and live music
Post-race: Swing by the Musée du quai Branly!
4. La Corrida de Noël d’Issy-Les-Moulineaux (38th edition)
Imagine running, not with the bulls, but with thousands of Santa Clauses! This could very well be your worst nightmare or a dream come true, but I wouldn’t miss it.
It’s a frenetic case of “Christmas Meets Mardi Gras”—so come in costume. The ride out to Issy, via metro or bus, will give you a chance to scope out your fellow competitors and touch up your pointy elf ears!
Date: December 14, 2014
Distance: 10 km
Starts and Finishes: Palais des Sports Robert Charpentier, in Issy-les-Moulineaux
Gifts: Shirts, medals (1.5 oz.), and mulled wine
Sights: Look for elves, angels, ornaments, Elvis’s, and at least one running Christmas tree, complete with tinsel garlands and presents
Post-race: Stay for the cool-down disco session. Yule love it.
5. La Marathon de La Rochelle (24th edition)
I always place a premium on race location, perks, and atmosphere, and this race has got all three in spades, to boot. Sugar cubes, dark chocolate, and some bubbly Coco-Cola Light reign here along the historic waterfront route. Yes, I was in heaven! Blaring its own signature recipe for a rousing epic weepie race start, I have never failed to cry. In the moments leading up to the start signal, the air fills with Wagner’s thrilling Ride of the Valkyries. O pleasant rapture seen!
Date: November 30, 2014
Distance: 42.1 km
Starts and Finishes: In the historic port
Gifts: Jackets, long-stemmed roses, a box of fresh oysters, and medals (4 oz.)
Terrain: Historic and flat
Sights: La Rochelle’s “Vieux Port” and handsome towers
Post-race: Enjoy a beer, along with your box of oysters at one of the waterside restaurants. Bon Appétit!
In the words of William Blake: “Bring me my Arrows of desire: Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my Chariot of fire!”
Important Tip: Before your trip, be sure to get a signed note from your doctor. A handwritten sentence on your doc’s letterhead, stating that there are “no contraindications for [your name] participating in running competitions” will do. This is one rule that can’t be bent. No medical certificate means: no race bib.
And thank you, Roger Manley, for sharing your gorgeous photographs! You captured some supreme catnip-worthy moments!
Great post! Especially the flying Peres Noel….
How much fun would it be to run with the Santas! I was in Paris last year when they were doing Santa Con but that event all the Santas were on bikes.
OH. La Corrida de Noël d’Issy-Les-Moulineaux is always great fun! After the race, each and every runner receives piping hot cup of mulled cider. The perfect post-race touch. I think it’s my favorite race. The positive energy is contagious. Feeling groovy, indeed. Even the “elite” athletes. Smiles abound! Not a scowl in the crowd. And sometimes, sometimes, not a cloud in the sky. Enjoy the weekend! ~Theadora
Santacon Paris? Groovy! Great timing. Did you take photographs? If so, do share. And YES. It’s always great fun to fly with the Santas. Styling Tip: Wear blue! ~Theadora
Love sister Mandy’s pic!
Mandy? Is she your other sister? WENDY!
Ha! Thanks for the giggle. YES. I have two sisters: Wen AND Mandy! ~T.
I also like the shot! We took it early one morning, during a training run. Created by the multi-talented Jean-Alfred Villain-Marais (actor, director, and sculptor!), the Passe-Muraille is located at Place Marcel Aymé in Montmartre. It’s a salute to writer Marcel Aymé. One of his characters had the ability to walk through walls. I highly recommend Monsieur Aymé’s “The Man Who Walked Through Walls” (Pushkin Collection). No spoilers here! ~ T. (Enjoy the weekend!)
Seems like fun, especially when you’re running as a mouse.
I agree! They’re quite dapper, eh?! ~ Theadora (During the La Rochelle Marathon, I ran with two pink cows, one devil, and a clown!)
Not your usual fare, Theadora, but as much fun as always. Those last three sound the most fun, but as a sprinter, I’d have to be a watcher (and eater and drinker.) Ah, well, an audience is important, too.
Oh, silly is my fare, always! It’s also fun to watch the races. I think Roger Manley captured some wonderful moments at the La Corrida de Noël d’Issy-Les-Moulineaux. I added one of his shots of the crowd at the Eiffel Tower, taken at the La Parisienne race. Walkers also participate at the races. It’s a great way to get to know a city or a country. I’d like to run in Le Marathon du Médoc. Wine and cheese for all runners, I do believe! Also, the races in France are super affordable. It’s another win-grin. Enjoy the weekend, Janet! ~ T.
Gotta love Versailles and La Patrouille – bonne chance!
YES. YES. YES. Each race has its own signature vibe and spectacles. The starts always so moving! I never, ever fail to weep a bit.
(The prizes are also pretty great, Kim! I’ve received long-stemmed roses, compact mirrors, and beauty products!)
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Great post… I’m on the run 😉
Have a great weekend Theadora!
HA! MERCI. 😉 Keep running and photo snapping! As you know, I dig your work. ~T. (Enjoy the weekend!)
Ah! Voir Paris et courir! 🙂
OUI. OUI. OUI. Bring on the cobblestones and the hills! And views are always magnificent! 🙂 ~T.
I had no idea Paris did so much running! What fun! Most of the runs in my area are usually for some charity but no one dresses up. But one would expect style in Paris. I have only done one 5K run but I do still run in my neighborhood about four times a week…well, it is more of a slow jog these days at my age! Excellent post! Good luck on your new glamorous and fun run!
YES. Running is quite popular in Paris. One of my favorite reads is the Jogging International magazine! During the evenings and the weekends, the parks are full of runners and walkers, too. Jardin du Luxembourg and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont are popular stomping grounds. Say, where was your 5K? So you run four times a week? That’s great! Do you think you’ll give racing another whirl?~ T. (And thanks for your kind words!)
“Monsieur Tin Man, we’ll NEVER find T. We don’t even know what marathons we should be watching? She has been humming a great deal of Wager, but you know how much she loves roses and oysters.” The wearer of the very high heeled ruby slippers kicked one off and slipped into a running shoe. “Not my size. These look like T’s.”
“Exactly! said The Tin Man. “I don’t need the flying monkeys. I have so very cleverly inserted a computer chip in one of her shoes. We’ll know where she is ALL the time. We just have to show up at the finish line and it will be the best surprise ever. T thinks we’re not interested in watching her run. Let’s see now – September 14th and the finish line is Ecole Militaire. T. loves sea food – shall we make reservations at Le Suffren? It’s getting a little chilly for our champagne picnic basket suppers.”
Oh, thank goodness you figured this out, Virginia……running in Paris and I was off to the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen! My, never would I have thought that one would run about for the sake of running………..SHOPPING……..that is where one runs to! Yes, I have her tracked and you are so clever in your planning! Reservations at Le Suffren would be perfect! Oh, and Virginia, save that slipper, you know Theadora will want to get out of those running shoes the moment she gets here. Thank goodness you are so focused, Virginia! Who knows where I might have run off too! Kisses and Hugs to you both!
One marathon down four more to go Tinny. Theadora is going to keep us on our toes right up to Christmas. Perhaps the ruby slippers need to be replaced with more practical footwear Where do you buy Adidas in Paris?
More giggles! The sporting goods shops in Paris are much fun. Of course, the gear is fitted and stylish. My favorite location has a view of L’église de la Madeleine. What a view! Flowers and shoes can be scored in one fell swoop. Thanks for the pep talk, Virginia!! ~T. (And speaking of flea markets, I just spotted your fabulous door tribute. Have you found the perfect knob or knocker yet?)
Somewhere out there is an elegant door knocker just right for our refurbished front door. With the painting of the door the house is officially completed. Perhaps Door will get a Christmas present. I have told it to be patient. V.
HA! Thanks for the Big Giggle, Monsieur Tin Man! Confession: Running helps me stay in tiptop shape for shopping at the fleas. It’s true. I will treat you both to a picnic lunch by the river. The weather has been truly lovely. Perfect temperatures for running and/or shopping sprees! Big Hugs, T. (Or, first one to Le Suffren treats!)
I’m late! I’m late! I know! Good. Golly. I’ve been out training and looking for a brand-spanking-new pair of running shoes in ruby red, of course. Perhaps I’ll have to purchase paint or sequins. I’ll be looking for you at the finish line. There, I will file a report from the field. And bubbly? Oh, the bubbly will be on me. It’s still warm enough for a picnic basket supper or two or three. Summertime weather has been holding court here recently, Virginia and Monsieur Tin Man. Love is still in the air! ~ T.
A basket of bubbly! One bottle will never be enough for Monsieur Tinny. Reservations cancelled Let the races begin.
My dad and sister-in-law ran the Paris Marathon about 10 years ago- that would be amazing! If I ran I would do that one… but ‘La Parisienne’ is more my style. Thanks for the low down on running in Paris.
Oh, La Parisienne is much FUN. The positive energy is infectious. I always feel exhausted but re-charged after one of the Paris races. So did your dad and sister-in-law enjoy the Paris Marathon? That’s another great race route! I should really make a list of the Paris spring races. Enjoy the week! ~Theadora
They both loved the Paris Marathon. My sister-in-law does marathons all over the place, but I believe that was the only one my dad (now age 74, probably 67 or so at that time) participated in a marathon out of the country. If I can get in better shape I will definitely reward myself with another trip to Paris and participate in ‘La Parisienne’.
What a fun and inspiring post. I love the 1964 French athletes ensembles! If you get a chance here’s the latest on my grandfather. 🙂
Thanks, Julia! I’ll checkout the link. I’ve really been enjoying following your project!v Shoes shine! 🙂
I agree! I also love the swanky Olympic Village ensembles. I’m digging the shiny raincoat with the upturned collar and hat. Back in the day, Monsieur Esterel’s designs were super mod. He also created Brigitte Bardot’s pink gingham wedding dress.
Enjoy the week!
Love your writing Theadora!! I’m not a runner (leave that to my husband!), but I totally agree the best way to see most places is on foot! Are you training for a race right now? Good luck!!
Ah, thanks, Rhonda! It was a fun post to create. And I agree. On-foot is a great way to see all old cities, cobblestone by cobblestone or brick by brick. And YES. I’m training. I’ll file a report after the race! I appreciate the words of encouragement. Do have any training snack recipes?! ~Theadora
Well, I admire you for taking that on! So hope it all goes great…
Wonderful! How the French love to run, especially when suitably attired….something by Chanel perhaps, or Dior? Of course this doesn’t work for the Santa special…am I alone in thinking that a jingling of Santas is rather spooky?
Funny, Mary! There are some fabulous sporting goods shops, sprinkled about the city. And YES. The garb is stylish yet very affordable. I think you’d enjoy the Santa race! It’s quite a site. A festive photo-op. And the mulled wine is divine! Perfect combo, in my book. Enjoy the week! ~T. (And by the way, Chanel DID create some fabulous, fabulous sportswear for a ballet. No spoilers, here. Stay tuned!)
yesss, babe! 🙂 I lived in Paris for 8 years, so j’approuve et je signe: Mélanie 🙂
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have a super week and bisous… ❤
Merci, Mélanie! Your enthusiasm always, always makes my day. And makes me smile! 🙂 ~T.
Fantastic, T! What a great way to treat a city – as a racetrack! I absolutely love the almost impossibly glamourous second shot. Nice to see Wendy too (although Sister Wendy is a celebrity nun in this country – famous for her art criticism).
Thanks, Richard! I also dig the ensembles by Jacques Esterel. He was a character! He also created the village garb for the 1968 Olympics. I’m in the process of tracking down a photograph or two. I also love the one of Sister Wendy! She looks so focused, eh? She’s also training for a race. Sister rivalry! Enjoy the week, ~T.
Awesome post! Very informative and so inviting 🙂 i learned so much! Merci beaucoup 🙂
What fun! I was speaking to a friend yesterday who was planning a trip around Bristol using chocolate shops as the points. So many ways to view a city on foot – one just needs a little imagination.
well! Quelle surprise! In addition to all your other talents — you run!
I wish you wings to your heels —
(ailes pour tes talons?????)
It shouldn’t take a quarter-year hiatus for me to sing your praises, T. I’d forgotten how spunky-yet-cliche-avoiding your style is, how I always want to hop a flight whenever I read your stuff. I was in Spain all this summer and suddenly running was so in style…albeit most appeared to be running in street clothes.
As silly as that sounds, it can’t compare to the corrida d’noel. I was about to demand a photo but, scrolling down, what do I find? Yep. My personal favorite was your vintage pic of the Parisian runners who, based on the style of their bags, I took to be flight attendants. Thank god for captions!
Very interesting. What about the race up the Eiffel Tower?
As long as I can have my cafe rest later, it’s OK. 🙂
I plan to visit Eiffel’s private FABulous flat this month, so stay tuned! Along the way, we’ll indulge in plenty of coffee!