17 October 2019

Event review: Marathon du Medoc

March 7, 2013

I’ve never felt the slightest impulse to enter a marathon, despite the fact that I genuinely love to run, will do almost anything for a medal and I don’t get bored easily.  To me, city centre marathons mean oversubscription, transport challenges, the stampede at the drinks station, that ‘interesting’ dual carriageway section, and a day of waiting followed by a tender month of recovery.  Oh, and the final straw – the need to wear a bin bag as outward attire.  I’ll keep my eighty euros, thank you!


In September 2012, my inclinations changed.  The reputation of the Marathon du Medoc precedes itself; it’s a run through vineyards, turreted chateaus and past the degustation tables of some of the finest Bordeaux producers in, erm, Bordeaux.  Bucolic scenery aside, Medoc athletes are fuelled by more wine than water, which sounds like a very fun run indeed.  When I heard that some friends were taking part I jumped on the metaphorical bandwagon with both feet.

I’ll let you in on a secret, from one seasoned (ahem) marathon runner to another.  The shortest route between two points is always a straight line.  Where marathons are concerned, the trick is to not make the course any longer than it needs to be.  How you implement this advice after several glasses of (Lafite Rothschild, anyone?) red wine is completely up to you, but don’t say I ignored the basics.

Spread generously along the 26-mile route, 30-odd wine-producing chateaus invite runners to sample their wares.  Running whilst drinking has as much to do with French eccentricity as it does with hospitality, as there is the added expectation of all runners to dress up.  In recent years, the otherwise peaceful streets of Pauillac have witnessed fluffy animals, gladiators, circus acts, troglodytes and a sweaty, yet still convincing Queen Victoria.  Lie back and think of England indeed.


The race is limited to just 8,500 starters, a number that the organisers say will not rise.  A significant proportion of Medoc athletes come from Japan; somewhat inexplicable given the geographic distance, but it adds an exotic lilt to the fancy dress.  Samurais and geishas were out in force in 2012.  I duly wonder what 2013’s Science Fiction theme will bring.

As the race spirals on, discarded items of fancy dress litter the route – gilded wings, roman centurion helmets, togas and laurel wreaths. – a marathon curated by Baz Lurhman.

Before the Medoc Marathon sounds like a walk in the park, there is a cut-off time for finishers.  This is the only part of the event that becomes serious, as medals (the important part -remember?) are only awarded to those runners finishing inside 6hrs 30.  On paper, this sounds more attainable than it is – the Medoc is not the place to run a P.B.  Expect to be stopping in shady chateau courtyards, cooling off en-masse under hosepipes and expect to want your photo taken with that person whose fancy dress is a lot better than yours could ever be.


Also expect hot temperatures, unrelenting sunshine, the odd gravel driveway, a few hills when you don’t need them and the feeling of pounding your feet all day.  Despite the Medoc’s jovialité, a marathon is always (speaking purely from experience) hard work – you will earn your wine, and then you will earn some more.

By the time you cross the finish line, the town of Pauillac would have already lined up the glasses.  Possibly the best running incentive is the unavoidably large beer tent, visible from the last section of the course.  Finishers are awarded a cup which entitles the bearer to limitless drinks and uncapped respect from all around.  If, like many, you would prefer a shower and a nap by the pool at this point, then be sure to return for the evening’s firework display over the Gironde.


Recovery time was fast – perhaps it’s to do with the red wine, but our legs were comfortably tackling stairs the next day.  You might not be running the shortest route from A to B, but it will be one of the more enjoyable marathons of your running career – again, speaking purely from experience.

Places are first-come-first-served, and they will usually sell out the same day www.marathondumedoc.com. Alternatively complete travel packages are available from www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk

There are a range of accommodation choices in the region, with most runners choosing to stay in Pauillac or the Medoc itself.  Die-hard hedonists camp near and around the Race HQ for maximum atmosphere, but be warned that the noise levels can be raucous at best. The regional tourist office can help with booking hotels and gites.  www.pauillac-Medoc.com

Bordeaux is served by regular flights from the UK; it is approximately a 1hr drive from Pauillac. Depending on where you are staying, it is advisable to book a taxi to the start line on race day.  Allow extra time to complete the journey; your taxi firm and the tourist office should be able to advise.


Rachel Thompson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine


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