Video. Cross country, marathon… the origin of the passion for running for the Parisians

“Rue des Archives” immerses us in the memory of television. On the occasion of “Paris 20 km”, the show goes back to the origins of running in the capital this week.

It was one of the first sports to sanctify running in the capital. In July 1896, the “Marathon Race” saw about 200 runners set off around Paris. In the context of the Olympic Games in Athens, the event stretches over 40 km. The distance of the modern marathon (42.195 km) was not fixed until the Paris Games in 1924.

Before it spread massively to the cities of France in the 1970s, running was above all a matter of professionals. As happened during the various “Tours de Paris” organized around the French capital. Among the big names in French racing were Henri Siret and Henri Saint-Yves. Like another French champion, Raphael Pujazon, this time in track and cross-country, in the first half of the 20th century.

During the 1900 Games, the marathon went completely unnoticed“, because of the Universal Exhibition in the same year, says Luc Vollard, President of the Commission of Documentation and History of the French Athletic Federation. The race today is far from a popular success.

Even when Alain Mimoon was the Olympic champion in 1956… practice was very poor.

“Only five people took part in the 1965 French Marathon Championships.”

Luc Vollard, French Athletics Federation

“Rue des Archives”, October 7, 2022

Video length: 51 seconds

When jogging arrives in France … running is dedicated to the capital with the Paris Marathon created in 1976.

©Ina – FR3, October 21, 1978 & FR3, March 29, 1992

Therefore, it is only through small strides that running wins the hearts of French athletes. The jogging wave came in the 1970s. Sporty fashion and clothing came straight from New Zealand and then America. “Then there was Japan, the land of marathon runners“, explains Luke Vollard. The Olympic champion in the marathon in Berlin in 1936, carried it under the colors of Japan.

In Paris, the dedication comes in 1976, in the first edition of the marathon, the modern version in 1896, in the end 126 participants. Today, tens of thousands of athletes participate in this competition every year.

Apart from the sporting framework, running is also a history of folklore. “True to its traditions, the independent municipality of Montmartre organized the championship of men-sandwiches in a beautiful atmosphere.“, observes a commentator on a report from 1949.”The major difficulties lie in the restrictions that require participants to eat and drink the food provided by the rules.

Video length: 49 seconds

Folklore accompanies the race. Examples with races of postman, sandwich man, or waiter…

©INA – French News, May 13, 1948; French News, September 29, 1949 & FR3, July 6, 1980

When the race was reborn in the 70s, there was this competitive spirit“, explains Luc Vollard. Variants of competitions will be born after that: 5 km, 24 hours, running in the mountains, trail… constant competition.

At all times, it seemed natural that two men would start together from the same point and run towards the same goal to gauge the speed of their legs.“, so notes “Les Jeunes”, the newspaper of the Gymnastics and Sports Federation of France, June 8, 1912.

300,000 members now practice running. Luke Vollard concludes that in 1930 they numbered barely 15,000.

📲 “Rue des Archives”, it’s every Friday at 11:50 a.m., France 3 Paris Ile-de-France. Find full issue #5 dedicated to running in Paris.

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