Semi de Paris race review

It’s been a while since I’ve done a race. In the two years of the pandemic, I only ran one actual race. But I have Boston coming up and in the last few years I’ve been using heart medication, but I have also switched medication a couple of times. However, these affect my running, and every time I switch it’s always a bit of a guess how it will affect my running his time around. Boston will be my third marathon on heart medication, but also the third one on different heart medications. Chicago I did on medication A, London I did on medication B and Boston will be with B & C together. 

So, I wanted to do a test run to see how that would feel. I looked at several half marathons, but most got postponed or cancelled as the weeks went by. CPC in the Hague got postponed, Bath in the UK got postponed, the half in Malta got cancelled and the one in Cambridge was already completely booked by that time. That didn’t leave many options, so in the end, I decided to go to Paris. I’ve already done the full marathon in Paris in 2018. The route of the half is pretty similar but in the opposite direction. Plus, Paris has two parkruns, so that would allow me to do one of them on the Saturday before the race.

I took the train to Paris on Friday and on Saturday morning I went to Montsouris parkrun in the south of Paris. It’s a small parkrun and due to work going on in the park they had to use an alternative route. Normally the route is 3 laps around the perimeter of the park, but now it was one lap around the lake followed by 4 laps up the hill. That was a bit of a challenge for someone who is used to a flat country. But I did enjoy the parkrun and the volunteers were great. 

Montsouris parkrun

After parkrun I went to pick up my bib at the Grande Halle de la Villette. They had asked for people to plan their trip to pick up their bibs and hoping that people would spread out, rather than all come at the same time. But when I got there around 2 pm, there was a huge line outside the hall the get in. I guess they misjudged how much time it would take for 40.000 runners to pick up their bibs and t-shirts and the hall was also not as big as the one they use for the full marathon. Beforehand they also said to bring your ID, your medical certificate (if you hadn’t uploaded that online beforehand) and your vaccination passport, but no one checked in order to get everyone through as quickly as possible. They only checked your registration.

Grand Halle de la Villette

I noticed that they had three different colors for the shirts and it just seemed to depend on which box they had open when you came to pick it up. There is also no date on the medal or the shirt, I guess they were still partially using the ones from previous years and didn’t want to risk it again to put a year on the stuff for the race then to get cancelled. 

Semi de Paris shirt

On the morning of the race I almost forgot to bring my Shokz headphones, but luckily remembered them before I had actually left the hotel. It was pretty easy to get to the start although I had to cross the course to get to the bag drop. Even though there were 40.000 runners, they were spread out over several hours. The elite started at 8 am, but the last wave, my wave, started around 10:30 am. Bag drop was also pretty straightforward with clear signs. Start and Finish were on the Place de la Bastille. It was only a little confusing as to where we had to enter to get into the starting pens, but in the end it all got sorted. 

It was a bit weird to be in a starting pen with thousands of runners again, but it was also great to see. The course was a couple kilometers along the Seine and towards Boise de Vincennes, followed by about 10 km through Bois de Vincennes and about another 6 back to Place de la Bastille. 

With the current meds I seem to have two types of running days: either I feel like I can’t breathe or it’s going pretty okay and then there are those runs that are a combination of those two. About the first 5 kilometers of the race, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and those kilometers always feel very long. But while running through the Bois de Vincennes that slowly changed into an “it’s going pretty okay” kind of run. The weather was a bit cold, but sunny so almost perfect running weather. Lots of runners, but not a lot of spectators along the course, it was actually pretty quiet. 

I had a bottle of Tailwind with me and there were 3 aid stations along the course. Before each aid station, there would be a sign announcing the aid station and an arrow, which I assumed was to warn you about which side the aid stations was going to be on (because for some reason it hasn’t occurred to the organization yet to just put them on both sides if your event is this large. During the Paris marathon the aid stations were also just on one side) however the aid stations always turned out to be on the other side than that the arrow was pointing. The aid stations had bottles of water, gingerbread, and fruit and the last aid station also had some sort of sports drink, but it was really disgusting for some reason. 

The last few kilometers are really through the city center, you can see the Notre Dame. And you finish at the Place de la Bastille again and there was some crowd support there, which was nice. I finished in 02:47:30, which is actually my second fastest half time, so not bad, but not sure it will be enough for Boston. But the Semi de Paris race is definitely a nice race through Paris and overall pretty well organised.

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