Saturday 10 September 2022

36th Marathon des Châteaux du Médoc

Here we are, and it's about time, on the starting line of my 7th marathon 🏃‍♀️ 🏃‍♂️ Those last 3 years have been tough: Covid-quarantine, lack of motivation, moving to the house, getting a second star to my dad jersey... Well-deserved break, but it's time to shake those legs before they rust!

Yes I know, I'm wearing a Luigi costume. SO WHAT?! You don't expect me to run the BEST marathon in the world in boring clothes? Wait... Are we talking about THAT marathon? 😲 YES WE ARE!

Good looking dudes at 4:21!

I spent 10 years of my childhood in Bordeaux, South France, and with family still living there, I usually regard this place as Home. Bordeaux for most people, it's the powerful wine, the delicious food, the sun, the salt of the ocean, the wild beauty of South France. But for most runners, it sums up in one event: the Marathon (des châteaux) du Médoc! And I grew up tired of fellow runners asking me if I ran it already? Time has come, put on your shoes, find yourself a cheesy costume and follow me. I'm taking you to the longest marathon of the world! 🍇

Why longest? Well you will quickly get the idea. After two years of postponing the event, the 36th edition of the Marathon du Médoc is finally back. Willing to run my 7th marathon this summer, I spent 2h refreshing the subscription page and I probably was the first one joining! My motivation was contagious. One week later I received an email from my step dad: "I'm in, find us some kick-ass costumes!" 🥳

That's how we end up this morning in Pauillac, 1 hour North of Bordeaux, on the starting line of a route sneaking around world-famous wine castels 🏰 Yeah, that's him in the Mario outfit. With our Italian roots it was an easy choice and we are reuniting the epic duo for this 36th edition 🍝🤌  Each year has a theme and this year it's the Cinema 📽 🎬 Yes, that explains Marilyn holding Captain America's hand while talking to Forrest Gump in front of me! Outfit mandatory, first rule of the marathon 🤠🤡👹👽

The morning is chilly but the sun is rising above the Garonne river 🌤 My mom drove us up there, prouder than ever. I'm a bit disapointed she refused to dress as Princess Peach! Everyone is in an amazing mood, singing, laughing. The show right before the start is grandiose, with music and acrobats. My legs are nervous, they did not cover enough distance during training and they NEED to run! Finally its the Grand Départ. No starting blocs, no waves, no elite... Just 8000 runners dressed up in crazy costumes starting to run, yelling and waving arms like kids 🥳🎉🎊

Let's get back to why the Marathon du Médoc is considered the 'longest' in the world. Let's be clear, as you keep repeating to your work colleagues how long a marathon is, it's an official 42.2 km distance you will have to conqueer. But let's be honest too: we havent dressed in outrageous costumes and come to the Médoc to run even splits, keep an eye on the watch and focus to beat our PR by 1min⌚️ Runners are here to eat, drink and party all along the way. I am actually questionning if some of them have any running experience. It all looks like a giant bachelor party 😜🤠🤹‍♀️🤸‍♀️💃

As we are reaching the first aid station, the real party is starting: breakfast with croissants and wine tasting 🥐🍷To my astonishment, everyone is jumping on the plastic glasses offering the holy nectar. Really? That early in the race? "Sure, answers me a band of Robin Hoods. We trained really hard... Drinking I mean, not so much running!" But Mario and Luigi play the safe card, no magic potion before the finish line🙊

We don't cover more than 2 km before reaching another aid station, and I am starting to understand the concept: where most events offer you 42 km of running with occasional aid stations, the Marathon du Médoc is 42 km of aid stations with ocasional running between them! You barely leave one, you are already looking forward to the next one. No one could blame you, I have never seen aid stations like this. The food is great, tables are covered with cookies, cake, crackers, candies, croissants, cereal bars (my favourite), fruits 🥯🍪🍫🍬🍌 Here and there, people are handing you fries 🍟  pop-corn 🌽 or canelés (French caramel little cakes, speciality of Bordeaux). All served inside the gardens of beautiful wine castels that open their doors and greet you on this very special day 🏰🍇 Music groups are playing everywhere, people are singing and dancing, drinking and laughing with each others 🎸🥁🕺 It's easy to forget that you still have 35 km ahead of you!

And that's probably the little trap of the event: You quickly catch the party bug and forget about the marathon-side. It all feels like new-year's eve or the 14th of July 🎉 (French national day). But once you get a few hours of running from aid station to aid station in your legs, reality hits you: you still have to run 42km if you want that medal! 😖

There is not much to say about the route, it gets quite boring rapidly, especially for a trail runner like me. You run on alphalt roads and dusty narrow trails full of stones all the time, lost in the middle of endless vineyards 🍇 Fortunately, the beautiful castles pop out like mushrooms around us 🍄 (gamers will get the reference) and my plumber bro is motivated for two. We are holding one, one aid station as a time, enjoying the ride and even more the stops. The Marathon du Médoc is all about its runners, and they are on fire! Costumes are amazing, in spite of the heat and distance to cover: Courageous Indiana Jones in leather jacket, Marylins in long dress or TRexs in full costume... Not to mention the "chars", customized rolling floats pushed by a group of crazy runners who I'm sure lost a bet to be doing that for 42km!

The weather has been perfect today, not too hot, not too cold, as we reach the last castle around the 35th km. The sun finally rises above the clouds and strikes us pretty hard 🌞 while we cover the last few kilometers on a long road along the Garonne, leading us back to Pauillac. I feel tired, legs are hurting more than ever and I realise that we are paying the price of all these long stops along the way 😫 The last aid stations are not helping: Entrecote steak 🥩 ice cream 🍦and even oysters 🦪 ! Yuck... Mario and Luigi keep the head straight, fighting for those last hundred meters, cheered up by all the kids calling our names. Remind me to send a thank-you card to Nintendo for renewing the license! 🎮

We cross the finish line hand-in-hand after 5:35 hours on the road, including a good half hour spent in total to the different aid stations. The finish is grandiose, people are cheering us like if we were the first finishers 👏 Kudos to the Super Smash bros, who finished the game one more time, after hearing every 2km that the princess was at another aid station! The amazing volunteers cover us with gifts: a medal🏅, a backpack, a bottle of wine (of course), a plastic cup, and more goodies I cannot count. I am happily surprised that we get so much back from the 100 euros entry fee, not to mention everything you eat and drink on the way!

We enter the finishers tent and once again I am speechless: dozens of tables covered with food, wine, beer, music, people still finding the energy to dance and party 🍺💃Bro and I fill up a plate and go lie down in the grass, enjoying the sun. Short break before we head back home for a well deserved shower and nap. But not before I treat myself with a glass of Médoc 🍷 After all, that's what brought us all here today :)

All in all, I would finish on this thought: The Marathon du Médoc is an amazing event, which deserves to be on any runner's bucket list. The whole concept is truely unique, offering a perfect balance between a sports event and a weekend party with your friends. This is probably the most French thing I've done in my life! I rarely come back to the same starting line but I would love to run that one again and enjoy the party even more. Who knows, maybe you and I will meet there one day, in hilarious costumes, and share a glass of red wine on the longest marathon of the world🍷 

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