This week I’ll skip the details on my weekly NY Marathon training to count the story of a much more exciting experience: the Marathon du Médoc.
As soon as I heard the fantastic tales of this “race” a few years ago, I knew I wanted in: the “longest marathon in the world” as it’s advertised, sounded like a crazy experience. The full 42.2km distance, through of some of the most famous vineyards in the world – Bordeaux’s Médoc – in fancy dresses, with a glass of wine in one hand and brie cheese in the other. What’s not to love?
The race takes place on Saturday morning, probably to let enough time to purge the alcohol before going back to normal life on Monday. Well I mean stumbling back at my desk really.
On Friday the bib check-point set the pace: sponsored by Cochonou, a sausage brand, and featuring a bar…
The Longest marathon in the world
Saturday morning, we met up at 9am in Pauillac where the main start area is, and marvelled at serious fancy dress goers. The theme was about party dresses, but anything goes: Tarzans, wedding dresses, animals of all sorts, smurfs, full 3 pieces suit attires, knits armour (!!) morphsuits… Some pretty impressive carts too like these butchers pushing a barbecue grill and a human size wine bottle, and that other group strolling a castle around the castles ….
By 935am we started running under a blow of carnival confetti and trumpets. It looked like a street carnival a lot more than any sort of race – amazing. And at kilometre 2 we were properly welcomed with some croissants, pain chocolat and canellés (some little Bordeaux crown shaped cakes) – mandatory stop!!?
With of course no separated corrals, the start is made of a close-knit pack though, so I didn’t want to stay too long in order to get ahead of the crowd. Which we achieved pretty easily as no one was in thee mood to rush. The first tag scan shows we were in the top 15% and remained there for a while.
Maybe this was actually a mistake?
Because let’s talk about this, it’s the only race where one devises “strategies” to enjoy the race to its fullest, to spend as much time on the part that matters.
By km 4, we stopped for our first glass of wine. And I mean, not any glass of wine: Chateau Lafite Rothschild. It goes surprisingly well for breakfast. I could get into the habit.
The first 10k of the race were really setting the bar high. Chateaux decorated with balloons, fanfare, great biscuits, I even got some chouquettes (I need to put the recipe of those devil little things on this blog one day!).
All refreshment stops are not made equal though. We quickly realised that contrary to what we had read, there are lots and lots of water stops, many more than classic marathons. Each of those water points also offers wine, crisps, oranges, banana, cakes, biscuits, and some of them even have sugar ducked into rum!! (wth!?). At those stops, the quality of the wine was uneven, and served in plastic picnic cups.
As a good French posh runner in a bow tie, I only stopped for proper wine glass stops. from there on. My next one was Chateau Le Boscq around km 11. And what an amazing setting. A dozen marquise tents with food, live music and some serious, serious wines to taste. I regretted not having stopped for longer in those gardens honestly, look at that:
The middle part of the race was a little more industrial and from km 14 to 29 we didn’t stop that much anymore, actually even water points became more scarce. As we passed the half way point a runner next to me left the road, stopped by a granny standing there and supporting with her grand-daughter, kissed her and the cheeks and handed her his smelly t-shirt saying “your turn now! I’ve been looking for you for the 2nd half of the relay, off you go”. I think for a moment that poor gran almost had a heart attack, not sure if it was the kiss by a man wearing an evening dress or the thought of running 21k.
At km 29 we got stopped by heavy rain, luckily we had just arrived the lovely château Lagrange, where a live jazz band, and some …fantastic wines in wine glasses. Happy me. A few cavemen started a rain dance in the park, with swans in the background…
Our plan was to take it easy from km 30 anyway and enjoy the last 10k which boast many beautiful sights and gorgeous food. Namely, oysters, perfectly grilled steak cut in bite size, saucisson sandwiches, cheese and garlic grated bread, and finally ice creams. We had run for 3 hours and had another 3 hours in front of us to enjoy the rest….the problem was that the rain prevented me from walking too much as we were soaked and quickly got cold.
We arrived at the cheese stop, 1k from the end, where we sampled some red, white and rosé Mouton Cadet. Sample sizes became larger and larger as the finish line was drawing closer. Francois, a gentleman that could have been my grand dad, poured me a 2nd glass of rose saying “the end is so close now you could even crawl it”. Alright, easy.
Another volunteered pulled me on the side and asked if he could paint my face with some party make up…at this stage, my face could only benefit from a little cheery colours, so go on!
I walked to the finish line, didn’t want to let go of my ice cream in one hand and glass of rosé in the other that Mr Francois had saved “for the road”.
As finishers we were given a medal obviously, as well as a bottle, and a plastic cup to get some beers and food from the finishers tent. We stayed glued to the deck chairs with a bag of crisps and a cup of beer watching people and listening running tales. Runners coming all the way from Japan, or New Zealand had travelled for the occasion. We heard this year was a record in term of foreigner participation, close to 50% travelling in.
For my part, lessons learned; next time, I’ll make sure my fancy dress can not cause any random chaffing. Sequined shorts were painful, and I’ll skip the details.
Also, as the route of the race gets modified every year, I would adjust the exact “strategy” closer to the date, but my goal will be to complete it in around 6 hours. Essentially the part along the river, from km 14 to Pauillac, it a little more industrial and needs to be properly ran, as well as some parts along the train tracks. But the main stops have to be enjoyed, it’s too beautiful to skip. Drinking wine was actually surprisingly fine, and even feeling good, so long as one drinks enough water in the intervals. My body didn’t agree much with the idea of eating while running though, that was a bit painful by the end. Having said that…it didn’t stop me eating & drinking more for the rest of the day…or even on Sunday…
The Sunday walk
The “recovery walk” was a nice addition to the weekend. It’s open to all, so I beautifully complements it for those who came with non-runners friends and family.
It could also be a good catch up opportunity for those who thought the marathon was on Sunday…and came from London a day too late like those morph-gentlemen:
But mostly it was one more occasion to taste great wines.
and parade Australian kangaroos in vineyards, cause why not?