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APRIL IN PARIS

Journalist Marnus Hattingh ran the Schneider Electric Marathon de Paris in April on a shoestring budget, and had a blast in the City of Lights. He found a race that lived up to the hype – despite the freezing spring start.



"Jean-Pierre! Allez! Allez! Allez!” “Schnell, Heinz, schnell!”, “Loop hom, Boeta!”


What? Five minutes down the Champs Élysées and there’s already more Afrikaans in Paris than baguettes at the water table. I’m hobbling over the cobblestones with the iconic Arc

de Triomphe behind me when I dodge the first casualty of a foot placed skew. Some tall Dutch guy, flat on his face, only 500m into the race. Yup, probably more used to slick cycling lanes than French roads meant for Citroën 2CVs.


It’s springtime in Europe and I’d brought my summer running kit along. Short pants, low-cut socks, and airy, technical vest. It was zero degrees when I left the hotel at 6am, “but warming up to a nice 7°C around lunch time” the girl at the front desk beamed enthusiastically. Of course she was happy. All her rooms were fully booked. The Danish running club (red T-shirts, name on the back) woke at 5am and left in what could only be a longboat from their ancestors by the sound of their huffing and puffing downstairs.



I decided on the Paris Marathon for a couple of reasons. It’s flat. Vrystaat flat. Competition is so intense in Europe between the big-city marathons to produce record-breaking times by

flying Kenyans, that the routes get flatter and quicker. It suited me. But “the Paris” (get up with the lingo, OK?) is also held in April. Which means it’s excellent for us Saffas training in

summer before the winter rains kick in. And then there’s the small bit of Paris being quite nice to look at. The organisers realise this as well. The route takes you past all the interesting sights like the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Élysées, the Bastille. It’s all there. Plus you end up with a long stretch along the banks of the River Seine, with the Eiffel Tower shot left . Oui, it’s a no brainer.


My preparation went fairly well. Ah, those idyllic Cape summer runs. When the southeaster doesn’t blow you off the cliff path, the summer heat scorches you by 9am. But, you’re training for “the Paris”, mos. And motivation can get you almost there.



My travel bookings also went smoothly. I prefer to do everything myself, which means a bit more stress and a lot more research. But in the end you get a much more connected feeling with the whole experience, I believe, than when simply paying an agent a fee to organise

everything and the red beret.


One thing to remember, though, when deciding on this self-guided route, is to start early.

Paris is popular, and on race weekend some 40,000 runners descend on the city’s 20 arrondissements.

I had my flight and hotel booked by October, when prices were still manageable and flight choices plentiful. Here’s a fun fact for the next braai: it’s cheaper to fly via Paris to Amsterdam, and then take the bullet train back to Paris, than to simply fly to

Paris and get off there. I shaved a third off the travel ticket by doing this, and still enjoyed a great three-hour train ride at 300 km/h, checking up on work emails and building gees with my first baguette.


With my race entry I also opted for a 3-day city travel card. It gives you access to all the metros, trams and busses in the city – you simply tap it at the station entry point. You can also buy a 10-coupon travel card for ¯16 at any station. Try and find a hotel that’s close

to public transport, as these European cities can be big and daunting to crisscross on foot. You’re here to run a marathon on race day, not the day prior looking for a souvenir.


Full article in the Summer edition of RUN Magazine available from local stockists or you can download the digimag here



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