On April 2, Clémence will be on the starting line, some 42 kilometers from the finish line of the Paris Marathon. A long distance for ordinary mortals. However, this 30-year-old from Ille-et-Vilaine will be far from alone. The confirmed jogger will be surrounded by 45,000 other athletes, amateurs or professionals, who have come to take part in the same event. Nathan, who is about to run his very first marathon, will also be there.
The two amateurs approach the deadline differently. Clémence is delighted at the idea of “taking part in a sporting high mass again”, when Nathan is worried about the group effect. “Several of my acquaintances like to run with others, but not me. I’m a little apprehensive because with all these people around, it’s a game-changer, he admits. Little by little, I will forget all these people around me, I will concentrate on my watch, my headphones and above all my body. »
Driven by a mad desire for a challenge
What impressions did they come for? “It’s hard to describe… When I run, I’m not aware of the pleasure it gives. Everything comes after. Telling myself that I managed to cover 20 or 25 kilometers gives me great satisfaction,” explains Nathan. “When I run, I have a feeling of freedom, I’m in my bubble, it’s my moment to me”, abounds Clémence.
“Through the portraits that we made of different runners, many told us that they had taken up running to lose weight or get back in shape,” explains Aurélie Bresson, founder of the magazine Les Sportives. I heard a lot of talk like “I’m coming back from an illness or I wanted to go out and be in my bubble”. “Words in which Clémence is totally in line. Coming out of a burnout, this senior executive wanted to challenge herself. Jogging was his refuge.
“Running is a sport that I hated, I did not understand its interest, explains Nathan for his part. Then, one fine day, I decided to get started and as I often do things intensely, I set myself a goal: in a year, I’ll do the marathon! To this end, the 30-something started with two or three sessions of 5 kilometers per week, “pulling his tongue out”, then very quickly he began to learn about food, to document the different running techniques. “I set myself the goal of running a half marathon each time. »
An increasingly feminine sport
While participation in major legendary races such as the marathon is attracting more and more people, it remains the prerogative of men: only 27% of participants in the 2019 edition were women, the year when they were most numerous. However, “there has been a rise for three decades. More and more women are walking the streets and putting on sneakers, ”points out Aurélie Bresson. “In the 1980s, a handful of them took part in races around the world, but now women are more and more eager to participate. »
Since then, many legendary races such as La Parisienne or the Paris Marathon have understood the growth potential represented by the female public. For the founder of the magazine Les Sportives, a third of women who practice running “have been doing it for less than five years”. In competitions that go beyond the marathon, such as trails and ultra-trails, the participation rate of women rarely exceeds 10% according to a study in its publication, but the figures are increasing. However, some barriers remain. “Runners still fear for their safety when training alone. It’s a real subject, explains Aurélie Bresson. The fact, too, that we ask ourselves the question “can a woman run a marathon?”, even today, shows that prejudices persist. »
Judith Jeptum holds the women’s record for the Paris Marathon. Here when he arrived, in 2022. / FRANCOIS MORI / AP
To those who doubt the accessibility of running for all, Aurélie Bresson refers us to a large-scale study carried out by the CHU of Saint-Étienne and the interuniversity laboratory of motor biology carried out in 2019, during the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. The latter aimed to assess and understand the differences between men and women regarding fatigue. Main lesson? No difference in central fatigue involving the nervous system appeared.
Self-worship and addictive effect
Since the democratization of this sport, and the establishment of circuits adapted to practice the discipline in large cities – like the banks of the Seine in Paris in 2017 – the fashion for running is also spreading on social networks. Everyone goes there with their publication and exposes their records and performances to their entire community. A mode which divides in the camp of the practitioners. “It’s true that, on my side, I post a lot of photos on the networks, admits Clémence, who is about to compete in her second marathon, after that of London in 2022. Well, that may seem corny and a bit m have you seen, but after all, I am proud of my exploits! »
For the latter, exposing herself in this way has more to do with a desire to belong to a community than with a misplaced concern for ego. “I was surprised to see how powerful the community on social networks around running was,” she explains. People like photos, comment, give advice, share their experiences. It happened to me to find people, whom I had only met on the networks, on the starting line of a 10 km. “This cult of sport, I sometimes find it a little disturbing, tempers Nathan on his side. We feel that some do it to get a boost and talk about themselves. »
These amateur athletes also sometimes experience a harmful addiction. “In my family life, the race had taken a disproportionate place, admits Clémence. I would go for a run in the evening, just when my children weren’t sleeping yet and I should have prioritized spending time with them. Injured in the back, Nathan had to stop for a month during his preparation. “I said to myself that it was no longer going to be possible. His physio advised him not to continue. Driven by his goal, Nathan preferred to listen to himself. “Going from everything to nothing seemed inconceivable to me,” he explains, while acknowledging that the addictive effect of running imposes itself very quickly on the minds of runners. “Today, the more I train, the more I see that my goal is within my reach, the more I continue, he explains. Of course there is a dependency effect. We make so many sacrifices that missing a session or, more seriously, a marathon, is too frustrating. So we continue. »
Thousands of spectators expected
Nearly 50,000 runners registered for the Paris Marathon in 2023, which makes it the second in the world in number of members, after that of
New York. 250,000 spectators are expected.
In 2019, 60,000 people registereda memory 27% of marathon runners were women. It was the first marathon to fully offset its carbon footprint.
The record for the men’s event is held by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele. He covered the 42.195 km of the circuit in 2 hours, 5 minutes and 4 seconds, in 2014. Among women, the Kenyan Judith Jeptum completed the course in 2 hours, 19 minutes and 48 seconds, in 2022.
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