Top French Marathons & Running Events

For an original way to experience France’s charming villages, historic monuments, legendary vineyards and breathtaking scenery, sign up for one of the country’s many annual running events. Whether you prefer to break your record at the world-class Paris Marathon or join in the merry atmosphere of the wine country runs, there’s something for everyone’s taste. 

Paris Marathon  Considered one of the top five international running events, the Marathon de Paris brings together 40,000 runners, almost 40 percent of them from outside France (more than 1,500 U.S. runners participated in 2012). The route begins on the Champs-Elysées, passes the city’s iconic monuments along the banks of the Seine and traverses the Boulogne and Vincennes forests. Registration opens September 15, with fees from €65 (for the first 10,000 runners) to €95. April 7, 2013.

D-Day Landings Marathon The Marathon de la Liberté follows a route along Normandy’s famous D-Day beaches, including Juno and Sword, ending at the Caen Memorial. Alternative routes include the Pegasus Half-Marathon, a 10k and a 5k. Open to 3,000 runners; June 2013. 

Mont Blanc Marathon For the ultimate challenge combining high elevation and a positive vertical gain of 2,511 meters, the Marathon de Mont Blanc isn’t for the faint of heart. The weekend also includes 23k and 10k races, and a vertiginous 2k “Vertical” run from Chamonix village to the mountaintop, with an average grade of 50 percent. Open to 2,000 runners; June 2013. 

Médoc Marathon With 8,000 runners dressed in humorous costumes and several “wine stops” along the route, this convivial race through the Bordeaux countryside has become known as the “Longest Marathon in the World.” The 9k Sunday Walk, open to runners and fans alike, takes place the following day with a leisurely hike punctuated by Haut-Médoc wine tastings and a festive lunch in the village of Macau. Registration for 2013 opens in March. Sept. 7, 2013.

French Riviera Marathon Officially known as the Marathon des Alpes-Maritimes, this relatively new race welcomes 11,000 international runners. The seaside route starts on Nice’s legendary Promenade des Anglais, passes through Cap d’Antibes and finishes on the palm-tree-lined avenue of La Croisette in Cannes. Register early for lower fees. November 2013.

Beaujolais Nouveau Marathon Celebrate the arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau in style with a costumed run through the villages and castles of this storied wine region. Choose from one of three routes: the marathon, the half-marathon or the 12k. Registration is available for up to 8,000 runners, with a post-run wine tour of the vineyards on Sunday. November 2013.

NOTE: I originally researched this info for a short article published in France Magazine's Fall 2012 issue (MAKING A RUN FOR IT, p 15).