A brief history of the Paris Marathon

05 Apr 2008 15:14
Jean-Loup Fenaux

Tomorrow Paris will host it’s annual marathon. It will be the 32nd to be be run in the French Capital. But did you know that in fact the first marathon to be run in Paris was run in 1896. It was on July 19th, just a few month after the first Olympic marathon that was run in Athens during the first modern Olympiad.

Tour Eiffel

Photo by courtesy of Gadl

It was the first marathon to be run in France. 191 runners gathered at the Porte Maillot and started running toward Conflant St-Honorine. At that time, the route was 40 km long (the acknowledged distance between Marathon and the city of Athens). Len Hurst, a British runner crossed the finishing line on the bridge of Conflant after 2 hours and 31 minutes.

The modern Paris Marathon dates from 1976. The same year the movie Marathon man was released. It was won by Jean-Pierre Eudier in 2:20:57. Only a 11 minute gain in 80 years !

Since then, the course has changed many times. Since 2005, the marathon is run on the right banks. The start is on the Champs Elysées. The courses heads East to the Bois de Vincennes, circles in its woods and heads back West on the banks of the Seine. It passes Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and enters the Bois de Boulogne for a few kilometers to finish on avenue Foch.

If you love Paris, it is the race to run. If you don’t know Paris yet, it is certainly one of the best way to discover it. A once in a year opportunity to embrace a traffic free city.

Good luck to the 35 000 runners who will participate tomorrow.