If you go and read one of those lists of ‘The 10 best marathons in the world’ or ‘Bucket-list marathons you have to run’, the Medoc Marathon will undoubtably be listed. Unlike most of the other races on such lists, this is not because it is a fast or flat marathon, but rather because it features no less than twenty wine stations along the way where participants are encouraged to eat, drink and be merry while they run! There is also oysters, steak, cheese and ice-cream dished out in the last 5km so that you can have a taste of the local cuisine of the area. On top of all the wine, Medoc Marathon ensures that the runners know it’s a fun-run by declaring a theme for each year, this year being ‘Music in 33rpm’ to celebrate the 33rd running of the event.
I flew out to Bordeaux on Friday to take part in this unusual marathon along with my good friends Melanie, Cat and Stella. After much umm-ing and ahh-ing we had chosen a very abstract costume of ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles, meaning we donned scary-looking eagle masks, wore USA wings and then attached ‘Do Not Disturb’ and ‘Vacancy/No-Vacancy’ signs to ourselves. (I didn’t really understand it, either did most of the people we met in the race!)
The marathon has a 6:30 cut-off time, and my biggest concern going into the race was making sure we finished under that time – but as close to it as possible. I’m fairly proud that we made it around in 6:23 but we still were running at a decent pace! According to Strava, our actual moving time was 4:32, meaning spent close to two hours on the drinking (and selfie-taking) alone. Woah! In the later stages of the race, the wine stops get more and more frequent, and at times I felt that they could not have been more than 200m apart. It was a lot of wine and I got quite drunk…
I wasn’t sure how I’d do with all the drinking. I hadn’t been drinking for the previous 7-weeks because of marathon training, and was nervous that I’d need to be carried around most of the course. Interestingly, it seems though that running/sweating whilst you drink slows down the impact of the alcohol, and we also made sure to drink water constantly as we ran to try and counteract the effects. There was plenty of water in amongst the wine stops, along with snacks (oranges, bananas, biscuits) to keep the runners going. The one thing I did miss was an electrolyte or sports drink to replace the salt I was sweating.
That being said though – it got hard to keep running as the race went along. It seemed like our whole group got hit by the alcohol all at once (cue much more giggling and louder chatting), and I know that I definitely did my share of grumbling while forcing myself to run up the few hills drunk. At one point Melanie and I had stopped to fix my costume, and had to sprint to catch up with the rest of the group. I felt like I was dying to keep up with her but a quick look at my watch told me that we were running at 5:00/km – how on earth can I normally hold that pace?!
The Medoc Marathon course is absolutely stunning. It winds runners through vineyards and past chateaus that look like they could have come straight from a fairytale. One even had a swan gently floating along on a lake (that was entirely too much to comprehend). Unfortunately we had some patches of rain which turned the dirt paths to mud (and ruined my pretty new trainers ?) but when the sun came out it was just incredible to see.
Unlike other marathons, the ‘reverse-time’ nature of this marathon (try and stay on the course as long as possible, rather than get to the end as fast as you can) meant that everyone was just enjoying themselves and were happy to chat along the way. We caught up and ran with with a number of friends, as well as making several new ones. It was an incredible atmosphere to be a part of, and I wish that more marathons could find a way to have such a friendly vibe.
My biggest congratulations goes to Cat, who ran her first marathon at Medoc! She ran wonderfully and kept a smile on her face the whole time (no doubt helped by the wine!). I’m sure it will be an experience she won’t ever forget.
Marathon #12 for me has disappeared into a haze of alcohol, but the pictures prove just how much fun we had. It was a totally different experience, and I’m so glad that I ran it together with my friends. ❤️?