Paris half-marathon 2023

Last weekend, on March 5th, I ran the half marathon in Paris. Harmonie Mutuelle Semi was the best organized half marathon of the ones that I participated in. With over 45000 finishers, this was also the biggest running event I had ever attended.

Here are some highlights of this event for people interested in participating in the following editions. The 45k runners are leaving in groups based on the target time to finish. You know when to go at the start line. Around 200 people start every minute, then the next group follows. The time is measured from the moment you cross the start line. The route is not through the center of Paris; therefore, only a few people will try to cross the street in front of you. You can have a personalized T-shirt with your name on it. This was helpful as many people on the road encouraged the runners by their names when reading them on the T-shirt. There are lots of entertaining points during the course. Over the last kilometer, thousands of people strongly encouraged the runners, which was quite spectacular. You get an SMS with your official time once you cross the finish time. The organizers take pictures of the runners during the race, which you can pay for and download later.

I don’t know the general statistics of half marathons, but 37% of Paris participants were women, which looks great.

Suppose you want to run in France or Italy half marathons (or marathons) distance in official events. In that case, you need to obtain a certificate from sports or general medicine that you are healthy to run for such an event. A runner should get the certificate less than one year before the event. The doctor who gave me the certificate told me they conducted a study in Italy and observed that people who participated in long-distance running without proper training had a higher incidence of a heart attack after the race. Second, there were no isotonic beverages, only water or fruits at refreshments points at km 6, 12, and 17. It was the first time during a half marathon that I saw no isotonic drinks provided to runners. Isotonic drinks are absorbed faster and help you keep hydrated without decreasing performance.

The Harmonie Mutulle Semi de Paris was sold out six weeks before the race day. Keep that in mind if you want to register for next year. If they kept the registration open, there were probably 50k runners at the start.

Enthusiasm in the first part of the race

It was a cold morning in Paris last Sunday, about 5 degrees Celsius, but it was ok for a run. Runners were admitted at the start based on their Bib numbers. Trainers on platforms above the crowd were helping the participants to warm up before going into the race.

Usually, I have no aim for a particular time, but this time I made an exception. I wanted to finish in less than 1:53 to apply for the 1:49-1:53 group at the Gothenburg half marathon in May. In Malaga, I finished at 1:53:10, so I needed a better time.

I planned to take two gels and drink isotonic at the refreshments places. I took one gel after 9 km but chose not to drink water (because there was no isotonic available). In my case, drinking water slows me down until the liquid is absorbed. Because of the lack of beverages, I chose not to take the second gel.

I went a little faster than planned for the first part of the race, and things were ok until the 18th km with an average time of 5’15” per km. For the next 2 km, I struggled at a 5’48” pace. Then something happened when it seemed that I would not achieve my goal. On the last kilometer, the thousands of people strongly encouraging us created an extraordinary atmosphere for runners. That helped me regain my strength and finish with a 5’10” on that km for an official time of 1:52:40, thus achieving my goal at the last moment. I was placed 20k from 45.3k finishers.

Closer to the finish

Although it was a race with a happy ending, I’ve learned from my mistake. Next time I will drink water if isotonic is unavailable and take the second gel.

My friend Bobo had a great race finishing in 1:52:02, a fantastic time given that he was not at his full potential and was still recovering after some health issues the month before.

With Bobo before the race

The last achievement was that I passed the 9200 km run threshold in this race, and I hope to pass the 10k km later this year.

As usual, many thanks to my coach Stefan Oprina who continued to train me remotely all this time!

The Paris Half Marathon starts on the small island on the Seine river, continues on the Seine shores, and then goes around Bois de Vincennes to return on the other side of the Seine and finish on Place de la Bastille. This route reminded me of a song of Barbara: “Bien sûr nous, nous avons la Seine, Et puis notre bois de Vincennes…”. “Göttingen” is a famous song that started the rebuilding of French and Germans friendship after World War II. War is still going on, and we should hope for better times.

Barbara – Göttingen