September 11th, Marathon du Meduc
This is not your typical race report but feel it must first be known that – I love wine. Now what does this have to do at all with racing, training and this report?
A wonderful client of mine, who prides himself in being my “high maintenance” client called me up a year ago while he was doing a race in Finland and said, “Kimberly, I am sitting here next to a couple of people from France and they say we need to do this wine drinking marathon. If I am ever going to do a marathon, this is the one I want to do.” You’ve got to get us into it. I told him I would do what I can and the rest is history.
Getting into this race is not the easiest; the day of registration there were so many people trying to get in that the website had to be shut down and registration postponed. Getting up at 2:00 a.m. and sitting at the computer waiting for the site to open was what I had to do to get us in and… clearly I was successful.
With this not being the “normal” type of marathon, not only did we do our regular long runs as you would when training, but our mid-distance workouts included some stops at the local wine bar. For not being much of a drinker, this was the part I actually had to condition myself to do. Mid-distance Wine Training Run: 8 miles with 4 stops, splitting a glass of wine, drinking twice as much water before moving to the next stop and our last stop with a full bottle.
Clearly with a marathon that has drinking involved you know the environment is not what you expect like going to New York, London or Paris – but let me tell you, there is nothing to compare. Never I have seen so many grown men cross-dressing, along with the entire village of the Smurfs and everyone at the race was loving every minute of it. I don’t even have words to explain the amount of insane passion these people had (and I say it in the most adoring way…I took part). The French love their wine, costumes and running.
So what I mean by all of this; if you choose to ever go to this race, just know that dressing up in costume is an unofficial requirement, and the people of Meduc take this very seriously. You also should also note that the website clearly states: “No Record Breakers Allowed”.
Words cannot begin to describe the costumes and what crazy ideas people came up with; from running nuns, Borat, Super Heros, Gladiators to Country Pride – this is when a picture is worth 1000 words, so I will let the pictures I took do the job.
59 French Chateau’s – Running through the beautiful countryside would have been enough, but Chateau’s throughout this region opened their doors to 8500 crazed runners to run by and through their vineyards. Literally through their vineyards! You’d run in through their entry driveway, in front of the Chateau’s and then out the back drive through the middle of the vineyards. From there you end up entering through the back door of the next Winery, drink and eat from them, take a few pictures and move on to the next. Town’s gathered together with long picnic tables and drank wine and ate with us as they cheered us on. The support from the locals was something I had never seen before in all the races I have ever done.
As some people say that food and wine is what brings people together, I have always felt that running makes the world a better place. What? Let me explain; if you have never gone and actually watched a marathon, you need to do so. To watch 10000-60000 people all moving together in this chaotic harmonious flow is amazing. But what is even more incredible for me is to watch this many people move toward the same goal with unbiased support toward one another. Where you come from, what your beliefs are and differences between you and the other runners and supporters doesn’t matter during these few hours in time. They will cheer you on, push you to continue your quest and celebrate your success with you. It is an amazing feeling to experience. Yes, I think the world would be a better place if everyone got to share this experience at least once.
To take wine and running and put it together sounds like either pure brilliance or major disaster…It is Brilliance.
The scenery was incredible. The course is definitely for a runner who likes wine, not a wino who wants to try to run. For a mid-western who lives in Chicago the definition of hills is greatly different from a fellow Colorado competitor – hillier than IM Lake Placid, not as hilly as Wildflower. Lots of up, lots of down, false flats…hardly any true flats, but nothing steep – what makes this course tough is the constant changes of terrain. You run on EVERY type of terrain – well paved roads (course of Le Tour), to not-so well paved road, gravel, dirt, fields, stones, cobblestone, and our ever so loved “sand trap” that the only way to describe it is that is sucked. There is also the Stop and Go that gets hard on your legs.
Let’s face it, I didn’t travel all the way across the big pond to run race that is not the easiest to get to. I wanted to taste wine while getting to do what I love most. The Wine – simply said, incredible. The vineyards did not hold back at all – most serving in wine glasses. They gave us delicious wine and surprisingly enough, I found myself smelling, sipping and enjoying the wine just as I do when I am at a normal tasting. If you wanted more, it was there for you. Food spreads to accompany your wine were on route as well. Music anywhere you weren’t running through a vineyard. When most people travel to do wine country they might only catch 4-5 vineyards. And we got to see 59 Chateau’s, had about 15 actual tasting stops, and did it all by foot!
With every new race distance I do I always remind myself there will never be another first and even though this was not my first marathon, I definitely, without a doubt one of the top 3 races I have ever done!
Clearly this is not a race you run for time, but we finished under 5 hours. The first mile took about 15 minutes to complete (roads are not as wide in the small wine village of Pauillac – so funneling 8500 onto the course is not a simple task and takes about 6 miles for you to actually get some road space.
You can’t be shy when it comes to the pissior – there are NO BATHROOMS on the course at all. The good news is that the vine farmers are so kind as to let you use their fields, I will never look at Bordeaux wine the same. So ladies, you just pop a squat and men please remember when aiming, we drink the wine that comes from those grapes.
They claim to be the longest marathon in the world. Now I don’t know if it is from the staggering that people do trying to make their way down the course or that it is actually a long course (we measured out a half mile longer).
The last 2 km is so much fun – as you leave the vineyards and make your way back to the town that sits along the ocean inlet you begin to smell the salty sea air and the only flat land of the race. Every half kilometer lies a meal course – starting with oysters, next stop of jambon, then on to cheese and fruit, more wine, and ice cream!
As you come to the finish line you run down the red carpet to a glorious finish where the spectators are snapping shots of everyone in costumes and as you come across the finish line you receive your metal. But not just a metal, but also a specially boxed bottle of vine, a rose and a backpack (best swag bag ever received…and I’ve gotten a lot). The food tent had fois gras and more vine and beer, chocolate gourmet cookies, little sandwiches – and decorated like we were going to a gourmet food festival. It was unbelievable!
The logistics are a little challenging if you are not used to racing overseas. While the website does give you a good amount of information, what foreigners are not informed of when registering is where their hotel that is automatically booked when signing up for the race. You just choose what STAR hotel you want. We choose a three star and it was a fabulous apartment in the heart of Bordeaux. We choose not to purchase the transfer to the race which ended up being over an hour’s drive from our hotel so we ended up having to rent a car for two days. This ended up being a good thing though so I can’t complain. We got back to the hotel and was on our way to dinner before the transfer buses made it back to the hotels. Also, getting to stay in the heart of the city was amazing and part of what made this trip so amazing.
Another thing you must know about racing in France is that you have to have a physical from your doctor and have them stamp a physical form verifying you are physically able to race. You then have to send this form to France and you are not confirmed to race until they receive this form.
Even with these little details, I can say is that without a doubt it is a checklist race and I would do it every year if I could! It was an unforgettable experience.