A BRIGHT, SUNNY, SUNDAY morning saw 41,342 runners representing 90 countries set off along the 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 kilometres) of yesterday’s 39th edition of the Paris Marathon.
Starting from the Champs-Elysées the course snaked through the city to the Bois de Vincennes in the east and then back through the city to the Bois de Boulogne in the west before finishing in the Avenue Foch close to the Arch de Triomphe. The course is mostly flat and so the finish times for the elite athletes are usually medium to fast.
The sounds of the Paris Marathon each year make a valuable addition to my Paris Soundscapes Archive and so at 8.15 yesterday morning I took up position a little beyond the Mile 1 post in rue de Rivoli ready to record all the 41,342 runners passing by me.
The start of the Paris Marathon is a complex affair. The runners take up position in the Champs Elysées in groups based upon their expected finish times.
At the front are the Handisport athletes led by the Handisport fauteuil, the wheelchair competitors followed by the Handisport debout, the Handisport runners. The Handisport competitors start some 10 minutes ahead of the elite runners who lead the main field.
The elite runners are followed by the préférentials, the best of the rest. After that, the runners depart in seven waves based upon their expected finish time.
Sounds of the Paris Marathon 2015:
Having left the Champs Elysées and crossed the Place de la Concorde, the wheelchair competitors entered rue de Rivoli where they and their distinctive sounds passed me in a flash. Next came the Handisport runners including the blind runners tethered to their guides.
The sound of the French Television helicopter overhead and the arrival of TV cameramen precariously balanced on motorcycles, a flurry of official vehicles and a truck full of press photographers heralded the arrival of the elite runners.
And behind them came the best of the rest.
And then it was the turn of the rest of the leading wave. Still only one mile into the race they were still reasonably well bunched up as they passed me.
It took around twenty minutes for this first wave of runners to pass and then, after a short pause, the second wave came into view and so it continued until all seven waves had passed and then this man appeared, the very last runner in the race, complete with his own police escort.
It took about two hours for everyone to pass, which meant that more or less as the last man was passing me the Kenyan, Mark Korir, was crossing the finish line in the Avenue Foch in a winning time of 2 hours 5 minutes and 49 seconds.
The leading woman was the Ethiopian, Mesert Mengistu, who finished in a time of 2 hours 23 minutes and 24 seconds.
Of the 41,342 runners who started the Paris Marathon on Sunday, 40,172 of them completed the course with the last runner crossing the finish line in a time of 7 hours 55 minutes and 56 seconds.
Even though my sound piece above only contains the sounds of the Handisport competitors, the elite athletes and the first wave of runners, I recorded the sounds of every runner that passed me in rue de Rivoli, all 41,342 of them.
For me, capturing the Paris Marathon in sound is fascinating because behind every footstep and every gasp for air lies not only a personal challenge to complete the course but also many untold stories and I find that intriguing.
Here are some useless facts you might like to know about the Paris Marathon.
There are 10 refreshment stands (one every 5 km) along the route and between them they hand out around 23 tons of bananas, 15 tons of oranges, 2 tons of dried fruit and nuts, 7 tons of apples, 412,500 sugar cubes, 35,600 litres of sports drinks and 436,500 bottles of Vittel water. And, there are also 45 defibrillators available around the course!
Here are some more sights of yesterday’s Paris Marathon.
The clean-up trucks follow the race washing and sweeping the streets
THE THIRTY-EIGHTH PARIS MARATHON took place yesterday. More than forty thousand runners from over one hundred countries competed over the 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 kilometres) course from the Champs-Elysées to the Avenue Foch via the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne.
In 2012, I watched the race and recorded sounds close to the finish in the Avenue Foch so this year I thought I would find a vantage point somewhere near the start.
I wanted to capture the sounds of all the runners passing by so at just before eight o’clock on Sunday morning I established my pitch and set up my microphones in the rue de Rivoli just beyond the one-mile point.
When I arrived, the rue de Rivoli seemed a little eerie. It was the only time since I’ve lived in Paris that I’ve seen this most elegant of streets completely deserted – save for the police trucks hastily towing away the last remaining parked cars which I’m sure completely ruined several people’s day!
The Paris Marathon starts in the Champs Elysées and the first to start were the wheelchair athletes. At a little after 8.30 and accompanied by a convoy of police and official cars they passed by me.
Following the wheelchairs came the handisports athletes including several blind runners each tethered to a guide.
Paris Marathon 2014 – Wheelchair and Handisports Athletes:
The sound of these athletes passing was soon subsumed by the sound of the French television helicopter slithering sideways overhead with its powerful cameras trained on the elite athletes who were about to enter the rue de Rivoli.
At the head of the elite group was a tightly packed bunch of world-class marathon athletes setting what was to prove to be a blistering pace.
And quite close behind came another elite group including two of the fastest women in the race.
And next came the best of the rest.
Paris Marathon 2014:
After the elite group and the best of the rest, a mass of runners converged in the rue de Rivoli each with their own personal challenge ahead of them. Wave after wave of them passed me right down to the very last man.
The last runner to enter the rue de Rivoli
I stayed in my place on rue de Rivoli and recorded the sounds until every one of the competitors in this year’s Paris Marathon had passed by me. It took a little under two hours for them all to pass.
I didn’t think about it at the time but I now know that about ten minutes after the last runner entered the rue de Rivoli with about 26 miles of running still ahead of him, the winner was crossing the finishing line in the Avenue Foch.
And the winner was Kenenisa Bekele from Ethiopia.
Image via ethiopiaforums.com
Bekele, the three-time Olympic champion on the track and 5,000m and 10,000m record holder, crossed the finish line in 2 hours, 5 minutes, 3 seconds – breaking the previous course record set by Kenya’s Stanley Biwott in 2012.
In the women’s race, the pre-race favourite, Flomena Cheyech of Kenya finished in a new personal best time of 2 hours, 22 minutes, 41 seconds.
The double Paralympic silver medallist, Marcel Hug, won the wheelchair race.
The first six men and women finishers were:
1. Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) 2:05:03
2. Limenih Getachew (ETH) 2:06:49
3. Luca Kanda (KEN) 2:08:01
4. Robert Kwambai (KEN) 2:08:48
5. Jackson Limo (KEN) 2:09:05
6. Gideon Kipketer (KEN) 2:10:35
1. Flomena Cheyech (KEN) 2:22:44
2. Yebrqual Melese (ETH) 2:26:21
3. Zemzem Ahmed (ETH) 2:29:35
4. Faith Chemaoi (KEN) 2:31:59
5. Gebisse Godana Derbi (ETH) 2:36:27
6. Martha Komu (FRA) 2:36:33
All the sounds I recorded in the rue de Rivoli have been consigned to my Paris Soundscapes Archive as a permanent record of yesterday’s event.
Incidentally, why is it that some women runners who see a man wearing headphones standing behind a microphone on the edge of the road give a wave and a friendly smile whereas some men insist on leaning over and shouting into the microphone? Maybe it’s a question of testosterone overload!
In all, 39,115 athletes completed the 2014 Paris Marathon. Here are more images of some of them as they began their marathon run around Paris.
THE THIRTY-SIXTH PARIS MARATHON took place earlier today. More than forty thousand runners from over one hundred countries competed over the 26 miles and 385 yards (42.195 kilometres) course from the Champs-Elysées to avenue Foch via the Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne.
The Paris Marathon is one of the five biggest marathons in the world (along with New-York, London, Berlin and Chicago), not only in terms of the size of the field but also by the performances achieved.
I went along to watch the finish in the Avenue Foch. I emerged from Porte Dauphine Metro station just in time to see the Kenyan runner, Stanley Biwott, surge past to win the men’s race in a record time of 2hrs 05 min 12 sec beating the previous record by thirty-six seconds.
Biwott attacked at the 30km mark and came home more than a minute ahead of Ethiopian duo Raji Assefa and Sisay Jisa.
In the women’s race Tirfi Beyene came first in a new record time of 2hrs 21min 39sec.
Although I saw but couldn’t photograph Beyene on the home stretch, I did capture Turkey’s Sultan Haydar who finished second in 2hr 25:09.
The Paris Marathon is a serious and gruelling athletics event, but for the crowd it is also a festive occasion with an atmosphere to match.
This was the first time that I’ve seen the Paris Marathon, or any marathon for that matter, and I was very impressed by the performance of the ‘elite’ women runners. No doubt we shall be seeing them and their male colleagues in the London Olympic Marathon later this year.
Away from the finish line into the Bois de Boulogne I found some more ‘atmosphere’ that was certainly encouraging both the runners and the crowd.
Adding more atmosphere:
Whether an ‘elite’ runner or an enthusiastic amateur, I’m sure that any sort of encouragement is more than welcome as the 42 kilometre mark comes into view!