A marathon where you are encouraged to get tipsy, and it’s mandatory fancy dress – is it a dream or a nightmare?
For thousands, it seems, it’s a dream – and one that they get to live out in reality once a year near Bordeaux, France.
Marathon du Medoc, held every year in September, includes more than 20 wine stops along the 42km track plus offers specialities such as oysters, steak, and ice-cream too.
This year I got to head to Paulliac, the small village where the race starts and finishes, to experience Medoc for the first time – From the sidelines, of course! I had the cough very important job cough of being cheerleader to my fiance, Dan, that kept me much too busy to run it myself.
That, and the fact that I’m extremely unfit and the idea of a marathon gives me shivers…
Dan and his best mate Ed have run Medoc four times previously, but unfortunately had to miss 2017’s run as Dan had knee surgery to repair his ACL.
But in 2018, exactly a year on from his surgery, Dan was once again up for the challenge, and so six of us headed to France – three to run, three to cheer from the crowd.
The Medoc celebrations begin before the marathon itself, with a welcome dinner for runners, many stalls set up in the official area, and more along the main strip of Paulliac, which I can safely say we all enjoyed, both the night before the marathon and evening following.
Runners who choose to stay in Paulliac – instead of catching the bus to and from the village whilst staying in Bordeaux – usually have one choice of accommodation only: Camping.
Luckily, we all enjoy pitching a tent, so for us it just added to the fun and adventure! And it was a quick walk back ‘home’ from the wine stalls at the end of the night…
After more wines than I imagine are consumed before any other marathon in the world, we got some sleep at our makeshift campsite, preparing ourselves for the party that marathon day would be.
And so it was.
With costumes adorned and laces tied Dan, Ed and Anthony joined the wave of runners ready at the starting line, where music was pumping and the energy was high.
The amount of effort that had obviously gone into the majority of costumes on the track was applaudable – everywhere I looked there were fabulous “amusement park” (This year’s theme) style outfits.
I even saw a group of runners dressed up as a merry go round, each dressed as a different seats and holding a ribbon attached to a central covered pole. Amazing!
Once the marathon began, us three “cheerleaders”, myself, Oli and Leonie, enjoyed a beer or two before meandering to the halfway viewpoint to try to catch sight of the boys passing by.
Unfortunately, they had underestimated themselves and had already passed by the time we got there, but we enjoyed the chance to watch many other brave (and fabulously dressed) runners pass by, cheering them on as they went.
Determined to not miss our boys for the second time in the day, we stationed ourselves by the finish line, cheering on the (still fabulously dressed, despite having run for hours) scores of athletes as they crossed the end marker.
The flood of emotion by the finish line was so overwhelming: The screaming cheers of family and friends as their loved one made it to the end, the tears of joy of the exhausted runner finally reached their goal – it swept me up completely, and soon it was us screaming in support of our lads as they gleefully trotted home.
While the boys usually complete the marathon in about four and a half hours, with two of the three nursing injuries and having not especially trained for this year’s marathon, the boys rocked up to the finish line at a time of 6 hours 25 minutes, with costumes and smiles still in tact.
Despite their “worst” time yet, they couldn’t be happier about how the race went, they said – they had so much fun, drank a lot of wine, and most importantly, made it to the finish line, so they couldn’t be more pleased with the result.
Now that’s the spirit I like to see!
The plus of having so much wine, food and frivolity involved in a marathon: Everyone seemed in such good spirits following the run – instead of heading to bed tired and sore, as I imagine I would be after completing a marathon, most everyone stays up to continue the celebrations, enjoys the event’s entertainment, and shares a good laugh with newfound friends.
Looking around, I didn’t see anyone looking like they were not having a good time – the whole event just has such a fun and warm vibe surrounding it, which I thought was absolutely fantastic.
In fact, I got so swept up in the energy that by the end of the weekend I was talking about the possibility of taking part – from the track instead of the sidelines – in the future. Gasp!!
That may have just been the wine talking, but sitting here as sober Marnie, I’ll say this: Marathon du Medoc is most certainly the most fun and entertaining marathon I have ever seen, and if there was a marathon I would ever consider running, it would hands down be this one.