What it's like to take part in a marathon where more than 20 'drinks stations' along the route serve classified Bordeaux wines, not to mention the steak, cheese and ice cream.
I have to admit I was incredibly under-prepared and more than a little nervous waking-up on Saturday morning (8th September) for this year’s Médoc Marathon or Marathon des Châteaux du Médoc – the 34th one of its kind.
Having fervently signed-up as soon as the registration opened in March (the 10,000 or so places sell-out very quickly every year) I was feeling very happy with myself.
It had long been a goal of mine to run the race, not just because it would be a good feat completing what is technically the longest marathon in the world at 26.2 miles, but because it combines a few of my favourite things; sports, fun, scenic landscapes, food and of course Bordeaux wine.
But come the big day five months later, standing on the starting line surrounded by lots of fit-looking runners, I was aware I wasn’t exactly in the best shape to take on the challenge.
I hadn’t trained in my compulsory fancy dress race outfit (a Minnie Mouse accessory kit bought off Amazon for £15 to coincide with this year’s ‘Amusement Park’ theme) nor had I ‘worn-in’ my new ON Running trainers against the advice of marathon-running friends of mine.
In fact, the only running training I had done was one 15k run back in June, but I thought it would be fine – it’s the taking part that counts.
And that was absolutely true. The whole day was amazing, such buzz and excitement, beautiful weather, if not a little warm at about 29°C, incredible fancy dress outfits (lots of superheroes, M&Ms, elaborate candy floss creations, hot dogs…) and the whole 42.16km route lined with bands playing music and spectators shouting ‘allez, allez’ and ‘bon courage’.
That and the wine, of which there was a lot. Around 23 stops in total – the first at less than 1km in and all of which myself and my boyfriend (dressed as Mickey Mouse) indulged.
A few of the highlights were: Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2016, Château Beychevelle’s second wine, Amiral de Beychevelle 2006, Château Gruaud-Larose 2016, Château Lagrange 2013, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste 2015 from magnum, an unspecified wine at Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Montrose 2015.
There was also plenty to tuck into along the route from plentiful croissant and fruit platters – I had lots of banana – to biscuits, chocolate, mini canelés (a Bordeaux speciality), nuts, candyfloss, popcorn, freshly-caught oysters, steak, cheese and even ice cream.
Food and wine aside the running was a challenge, the first half went by quickly and relatively easily but some knee troubles around the 22km mark meant the rest had to be walked – which, combined with the obligatory stops, took quite a while.
We didn’t quite finish in the six-hour-30-minute time limit, having been overtaken by the time-keeping cart passing Château Mouton Rothschild’s grand chai, but we did complete it and have a medal and commemorative cup to prove it.
Being able to run through the famed and stunning châteaux of Bordeaux which are quite often out of bounds to the general public as well as seeing the ripe grapes waiting to be picked on the vines was incredible.
Generally being part of such a fun day was an experience I won’t ever forget and, while I’m in no hurry to run again any time soon, it’s definitely something I’d recommend.
Plus, for those who had flown in from around the world there was a whole weekend of events to take part in, from the Mille-Pâtes ‘thousand pasta’ dinner at Château Marquis de Terme on the Friday night to banquets and fireworks at various properties in St-Estèphe on the Saturday and finishing with a leisurely guided walk and gourmet lunch in Margaux on Sunday.
For those that want to know, the goodie bag for runners who finished in the time allocated included a rose, a French baguette and bottle of Château Meyney 2012.
There were also special bottles of ‘Marathon 2018’ Cru Bourgeois wine available to buy from the Maison du Vin in Pauillac.
* Saturday’s total step count: 55,572
* Walking and running distance in total: 29.8 miles