In common with many other big races, the first point of call for anyone taking on the marathon challenge in Paris is the expo, known as the Salon du Running. This is where you have your medical certificate checked and collect your race pack (as well as any extras like Breakfast Run entries, sightseeing tickets or pasta party access). As with other years, we headed there straight from the airport as we’ve found this makes the rest of the weekend much easier. We had a late check in at our hotel and the expo was open until 9pm, so this made sense.
The Salon du Running is held at the Parc des Expositions at Porte de Versailles on the south side of Paris, and getting there from Charles de Gaulle airport in the north is pretty straightforward. We always get the RER into the centre of Paris then change to the metro, but this year we were given the tip that we could get the RER as far as Cité-Universitaire then get a tram right to Porte de Versailles from there. That meant only one change and in a small station which made it even easier. It was really nice to go on the tram and see a bit of Paris above ground in the early evening after spending most of the day confined to transport.
On arrival at the Parc des Expositions it was clear that security had been further tightened up from last year. Visitors were separated into runners collecting their bibs (or dossards in French) and those just visiting to see the exhibitors. At this point there was a bag check before we were allowed anywhere near the exhibition hall.
Once inside, the first thing to do is take your medical certificate and ID to be checked. All runners are sent a notification document (convocation) in advance to print out and bring, and this is stamped when your medical certificate is accepted. You then take this document to the right desk to collect your race pack (race number, bag tag and safety pins). This section of the expo alone is pretty big and there’s still so much more to do!
Number in hand, we usually head for the display with the medal and finishers’ T-shirt so we can see what we will be earning that weekend.
We then move on to collect our runner’s bag which this year was another foldable rucksack (in a different colour and this time featuring side pockets for a drinks bottle) containing a leaflet and sample of tiger balm. I’m sure there were a couple of other items last year!
This time we then collected our T-shirts and flags for the Breakfast Run, confirmed the new start point for the event and had a look at the map to get an idea of where we would be running.
And then, some fun. There are always tons of photo opportunities such as the Tag Heuer clock counting down to the start, the wall with the names of all the registered runners (it’s tricky to find yours, but perseverance does it!) and some other backdrops.
We then passed through a mock-up of an aid station (they were using this to educate runners about the recycling opportunities at the aid stations I think) to head into the main part of the expo, starting with the gift shop!
I always like to buy myself a souvenir so bought a plum-coloured tech T-shirt with the date of the race and course map on it and a zip up hoody with the race details on the back.
From there, we wandered through the various exhibits until we found what we were most interested in: the pasta party! We hadn’t purchased tickets for this in advance as we wanted to wait and see what was on offer, but we had enjoyed the deal on offer last time and there was something similar again. For 12 Euros (I think!) we could get a pasta dish, drink (including a beer) and dessert. I decided on pasta bolognese, beer and a nutella crepe, although I did have to have a bit of an argument (in French!) to get the beer as the barman kept insisting it wasn’t in the deal. Eventually he got someone else over who told him it was. A bit embarrassing all round, but I really wanted that beer and wasn’t going to give up!
While we were eating there was a yoga class taking place nearby which I enjoyed watching a bit of, then we meandered our way to the exit via one last photo op with Asics. They had a backdrop set up and you could get both a printout of the photo and have it emailed to you, which was cool. Their setup also let you add filters but I preferred the original version.
After that, we were done. It would be really easy to spend hours among the stands at the expo, especially when it’s busy, so going on Friday evening was definitely best as it freed up Saturday for the Breakfast Run and some pre-race relaxation rather than the stress of being on our feet for ages to pick up our race packs. We were able to get to our hotel in good time to unpack and get organised before getting a good sleep. And look what we could see from the end of the road:
Always a beautiful sight!
Keep an eye out for Pt2 – The Breakfast Run