I ran my first French race less than two weeks after moving to Paris. I didn’t speak a word of French, and I didn’t know any fellow runners, but I knew that participating in a local race would help me feel at home in this new city. Since then, I’ve run over a dozen races all over Paris, and in that time, I’ve learned a thing or two about the registration process. Like most things in France, they do things a bit differently here so, to make things easier for you, here are some basics you should know.
First up, some translations.
Inscription = Registration: Most registrations can be done online through the race’s website. Thankfully, the days of mailing in paper forms and keeping your fingers crossed that your registration doesn’t get lost in the mail are long over.
Tarif = Entry Fee: For distances 10K and under, most French races will cost you less than 20 Euros, and that usually includes a finisher’s medal and a participant t-shirt.
Retrait des Dossards = Bib pick up: Some races offer bib pick up on the day of the race, but others require you to pick up your bib and registration package prior to the event date. Be sure to double-check the dates, times, and location for bib pick up, because no bib means no race.
Ravitaillement = Refreshments: For shorter distances, this will usually just entail drinks and snacks at the finish line; but most races will have at least one water station along the course.
Parcours = Race Route: I prefer to know exactly where I’m going before I run a race, so I will usually study the course map before I head out to the event. These can often be found online on the race website.
Horaire de Depart = Race Start Time: This is very important. Some race events include multiple distances, all with different start times, so be sure you know when your race will start, and give yourself plenty of time to get there before the starting gun goes off.
Récompenses = Rewards for Finishing: If you’re just running to have fun, then this may not be as important to you, but if you want a shiny new finisher’s medal at the end of your race, then pay attention to the information under this heading. What you’re looking for is “Médaille à tous les arrivants”, meaning all finishers will receive a medal for their accomplishment. Most races also give you a t-shirt for participating; but oftentimes, when it comes to racing, it’s all about the bling.
There’s one more thing you should know, and it’s a very important one. Under French law, anyone wishing to participate in a running event must either be a licensed athlete, or provide a signed medical certificate declaring that you are fit to participate in the event. This document doesn’t have to be signed by a French doctor. In fact, I used a medical certificate signed by my family doctor in Canada for the first year I was in Paris, and never had any problems with it.
This certificate needs to contain the phrase “non contre-indication à la pratique de la course à pied en competition”, your date of birth, and be dated and signed no more than a year from the date of your race by your doctor. I can’t emphasize this enough – this medical certificate is very important, and you will not be able to compete in your race without it. Some events allow you to upload a copy directly onto your online registration; if not, be sure to bring a copy with you when you pick up your bib.
So, have you chosen a race to try this coming year? If so, fantastic! If it’s one of the races I listed last month, even better because I’ll see you there. Until then, keep running and I’ll see you at the finish line!