On the Run: Médoc Marathon
|September 10, 2012||Filed under Bordeaux, France|
At Kilometer 22, I was following Christ, literally. Earlier I ran next to a few Crusaders, passed a swarm of Ninjas and jostled with toga-clad Greeks. At various wine-tasting stops, I toasted glasses of red Bordeaux with cavemen, centurions and pharaohs.
Welcome to the 2012 Médoc Marathon! Costumes, wine consumption and joie de vivre are de rigueur at this annual running extravaganza in the beautiful wine country north of Bordeaux, France.
Held this year on September 8th, there were over 8,000 participants, 20 wine-tasting sites, 33 bands, and during the last four kilometers, tents of ham, oysters, steak, cheese and ice cream. Yes, I tried them all!
Although there were some serious runners with sub 3-hour finishing times, let’s just say most participants, like me, preferred to linger at the stations de degustation and finish just within the official 6.5-hour time limit in order to receive the finisher’s medal and the goody bag with a bottle of wine.
Departing from the town of Pauillac after being entertained by aerialists suspended above the start line and a two-jet flyover, we headed south to Beychevelle before looping north to Saint-Estephe and then back to Pauillac. Running by over 50 chateaux, the scenery was nothing short of spectacular — vineyards laden with cabernet sauvignon grapes (since harvest has not yet begun this year) and impressive limestone palaces with manicured lawns and gardens.
Highlights for me included the first good wine stop at Chateau Beychevelle (km 9), the lovely Chateau Lagrange (km 14), the grand gardens of Chateau Lafite Rothschild (km 26), the impressive approach and facade of Chateau Cos d’Estournel (km 28), and the overall welcome at Chateau Calon-Segur (km 35) with ham and cheese baguette sandwiches, flowing wine, lively band and shade trees to stand under while gazing at the mansion up the hill. The vineyards all along the way provided plenty of opportunities for “le pipi rustique.”
The weather was unseasonably warm, reaching into the 90’s. Saved only by the periodic shade of plane trees lining the elegant drives to the chateaux and occasional hose sprays from friendly villagers, we baked on the road and dirt trails that meandered through the hectares of vineyards. Some runners stopped at the halfway point but most were cheered on by the spectators with “Allez, allez, allez!”
This year’s costume theme was “History” — explaining the neanderthals, soldiers and princely dress. But there were also plenty of non-historical but pretty hysterical get-ups, like the flock of dancing penguins and the pair of carrots — a couple of lanky guys wearing orange body paint with potted ferns on their heads, at one point taunting two jeunes filles dressed as rabbits.
For my part, feeling political, I donned an Uncle Sam hat and started the race with an Obama 2012 t-shirt. The hat survived the race — surprisingly keeping my head relatively cool — but the sweat-soaked shirt gave way to a running singlet soon after 5K. The folks at one maison blasting Bruce Springsteen appreciated my unabashedly American attire.
Although most runners were French, there was a good smattering of Americans, English, Germans, Italians, Canadians and Japanese. Most of the Americans were my fellow travelers with Marathon Tours, a Boston-based company specializing in running trips. It was overall an international and friendly crowd.
To participate in “Le Marathon Le Plus Long Du Monde” is to experience an ultimate active epicurean adventure. Vive la France!