The Marathon That's A Real Treat
Have you heard about south-west France's tasty marathon?
In a sleepy corner of south-west France near the city of Bordeaux is the town of Pauillac. Each September, Pauillac wakes up and throws one of the best parties in the world, the festivities last for three or four days and the locals really go to town.
There are noisy dinners, the best of the region’s wines are available on tap, everyone gets dressed up, there are bands and music everywhere and huge crowds cheer on the participants with Gallic fervour. Have I forgotten anything? Just one thing. It's hard to believe, but they throw in a marathon too - just for that extra bit of fun!
Even before you get there the Marathon du Medoc is different from other marathons. Ok, you’ll need to do some long runs but in all seriousness, it is advisable that your training for this race includes drinking a bit of wine each day and slowly increasing your dosage.
And you’ll have to give some thought to your costume, or as the French organisers like to say your ‘disguise’. Nobody is remotely interested in who ran the fastest time, the winner is the person voted to have created the best costume and they become a celebrity!
Despite the fun aspects of the race, the ‘Medoc’ is nonetheless a real Marathon, 42.195km measured officially. The organisation is superb and there is plenty of advice and encouragement from the many volunteers as runners wind their way around the charming course with its circuit of over 50 chateaux.
Now we get to heart of the matter - the fun and the conviviality. Firstly, the fun starts well before the start line with the eve of race ‘pasta party’. Usually there’s a shortage of pasta but plenty of local meats and top-notch wines which encourages people to let their hair down, launch into a hearty ballad or two and generally forget that they’re running 26 and a bit miles the next day. The serious upside to this frivolity is that restorative sleep is unlikely to be affected by the pre-race nerves.
On race day itself, tactics are everything. The idea is not to get a PB but rather to schedule your run to make sure that you finish just inside the cut-off 6 hours 30 minutes. Miss the cut and you miss the medal, so make sure you get it right. So what will you be doing for 6 hours plus. Back to the fun …
The big day starts with what is basically a fashion show as entrants check out each other’s costumes and give spectators an opportunity to view the colourful, and often risque, outfits on display. As the music plays - expect reggae, rock, jazz, salsa and classical both at the start and throughout the course - and the excitement mounts, it’s time for the serious business of running. Running that is to the first of the refreshment and food stands.
Now for the real business of the day visiting the Medoc region’s world-famous chateaux and sampling the world’s most respected wines (Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Latour will be on your ‘to do’ list) at 23 drinks stations along the route. This is where the disciplined ‘runners’ who’ve trained properly for this event come into their own. A few early quaffs to maintain a good humour, a couple of small glasses around half-way, and then some thirst quenching work in the later stages.
Don’t worry about going hungry if the tippling builds up an appetite, your needs will be met by 20 odd gourmet food stands - make sure you sample the hams and steaks, the cheeses and fruit, the ice cream and, best of all, the oysters.
If you didn’t get enough wine at the many stops on the course, don’t worry there’s a nice vintage in the very goody bag along with a t-shirt, medal, sports bag, art print and genuine refreshments.
If it sounds like your sort of event then find out more with runABC's travel partner Destination Sport Experiences and make a date with France this autumn.