Paris Tip: Off to the races!

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Line-up at La Parisienne race; photos by Millard Hunt
Line-up at La Parisienne race; photos by Millard Hunt

I love a good Parisian race. And I can’t think of a better way to get to know the terrain and flavor of Paris than by rubbing elbows with the Lycra-clad locals while whizzing past city sights.

So start lacing up Cheapos. Among the city’s runners, you’ll feel like a fiery insider while gaining a sense of participation in a real aspect of French life (and maybe even bring home a medal to prove it!).

Here are four of my favorite Paris races to get you on your mark, set, and ready to go!

1. La Parisienne

La Parisienne racers make their way through town.

La Parisienne racers make their way through town.

Sister! Hold on to those compression short-shorts because the start of this all-female race is a crazy mêlée of 15,000 gazelles vying for a spot out in front while charging through the narrow streets surrounding la Tour Eiffel. Go solo or race as an ensemble for fun. Wearing gold lamé, my équipe, Les Furies du Monde, recently snagged the costume award, presented by the Mairie de Paris.

Date: September 13, 2009
Distance: 6.5 km
Starts: In front of the Trocadéro
Finishes: In front of the École Militaire
Booty: Roses, medals (1.6 oz.), and black fitted-racing shirts
Terrain: Gentle hills (See map)
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 Guimet Musée National des Arts Asiatiques.

2. Paris – Versailles: La Grande Classique

The French Revolution really got going when the Paris market women marched off to Versailles to raise hell with the royals. It took them over six hours to get there, but it shouldn’t take you so long—not with shoe innovations and fit pompiers (firemen) on your side, encouraging you with words of charm. Take heed, though. 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!

Date: September 27, 2009
Distance: 16 km
Starts: At la Tour Eiffel
Finishes: At the Sun King’s palace (Versailles)
Bling: Medals (2.1 oz.) worthy of an aristocrat
Terrain: Think Supreme(s). As in,’ ain’t no mountain high enough!’  (See map)
Tip: The pompiers usually run at the back of the pack
Post-race: Go Baroque; cool off at the palace fountain shows to the sounds of Lully and Handel.

The line-up at the 20 Kilometres

The line-up at the 20 Kilometres

3. 20 Kilomètres de Paris

Attention to detail is this race organization’s forte. Though 20,000 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.

Date: October 11, 2009
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). See map.
Perks: Every 5 km you’ll find nuts, figs, sugar cubes, dark chocolate and live music
Post-race: Swing by the Tarzan exposition at the Musée du quai Branly.


La Corrida racers, aka Santas

4. La Corrida de Noël d’Issy-Les-Moulineaux

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 13, 2009
Distance: 10 km
Starts and Finishes: Palais des Sports Robert Charpentier, in Issy-les-Moulineaux
Gifts: Shirts, medals (1.5 oz.), and mulled wine
Terrain: Lively (See map.)
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!

If you want to run en masse

Before your trip, be sure to get a note from your doctor. A handwritten sentence on letterhead, saying there are “no contraindications for [your name] participating in running competitions” will do. This rule can’t be bent. No medical certificate means no dossard (that fun little bib with a racer’s number on it). Deadlines are approaching so first pre-register on-line, and then see your doctor.

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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One thought on “Paris Tip: Off to the races!”

  1. Thank you! This is a great blog, Theodora. You even included race links. Sugar cubes and a doctor’s note….really?? Question – Will I have to hide my ipod or can I sign up knowing I will be able to freely enjoy my prince and pumpkins?


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