A Medoc Marathon – 26 Mile Medoc Wine Tasting – the Marathon du Médoc

Date: January 08, 2011

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Imagine a marathon which is not about the speed at which you run, it’s about fun, food, festivities, friendship and above all Medoc wine. Set this marathon against a beautiful backdrop of more than 50 chateaux and vineyards amongst the fabled villages of the Medoc wine region of France, with Medoc wine tasting at every food and drink station. That’s the Marathon du Medoc. Now maybe this is a New Year’s running project to excite even the most sedentary of pseudo-sportsmen and women?

Medoc Wine, Medoc Folklore

The Marathon du Médoc is steeped in folklore – most of it true. 26 miles of fine wining and dining around south western France? Yes. Fancy dress costumes and dancing girls holding up numbers to count down to the start? Yes. Feed stations around a route that reads more like a wine list than a race course: fabulous Medoc wine – Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Lynch-Bages, Pichon Lonqueville, Beychevelles among others? Yes, yes yes!

However, despite the emphasis on fun, and the gastronomic and viticultural aspects of the race, the ” Médoc ” is nonetheless a real Marathon – 26.2 miles or 42.195 km measured officially. The records for the race, at 2h 19’20” for men and 2 h 38’34” for women, are not to be sniffed at (unlike many of the exquisite Medoc wine vintages these athletes must have abstained from on their way past). Nevertheless, record breaking is low down the list of this marathon’s objectives. It describes itself as the longest, i.e. slowest marathon in the world. The registration form explicitly discourages entries from individuals obsessed with speed records or from anyone “sad, unfriendly or stressed out.” Unlike other marathons, which typically reward the fastest finishers with certificates or trophies, this one presents the winner with their body weight in Medoc wine and gives you a medal if you cross the finish line within six and a half hours.

This year’s fancy dress theme was a beach party, and I spoke to Melanie McCullagh, one of the British contingent lucky enough to get a place in the event, and who in her Hawaiian-themed running regalia was one of the more soberly dressed participants. “I’ve run several marathons before in London and Nottingham which have had good atmospheres, but the marathon du Médoc is a fantastic event! I didn’t sample absolutely all the wines, but the atmosphere was amazing. People had really gone to town on their costumes and the organisers had gone to a huge effort to make it a fun event!”

Any medical risks which derive from the combining of alcohol with exercise appear to be of small concern, least of all to the doctors who founded the marathon. The race which has been held every September since 1985 was dreamt up to celebrate ‘pleasure not pain’, and every year a medical conference is convened in conjunction with the race that focuses on the physiological effects of endurance sport. By way of example, past seminars have included expositions on “Meat and Long Distance Running.”

Meat made a more than minor appearance at the pre race pasta-party the night before the race itself. It is de rigueur for runners to load up on carbohydrates on the eve of a marathon, however, at the start village of Pauillac the event, called “Soirée Mille-Pâtes,” goes beyond the promised pasta. In fact, for a pasta-based event the attitude to carbohydrate is distinctly French – i.e. why waste time on that Italian nonsense when there is a delicious meaty stew and a good slug of red Medoc wine to wash it down instead?

During the race itself protein rather than carbohydrate was again in good evidence but the gastronomic temptations built to a crescendo with the passing miles. Official snacks in the earlier stages included bananas, raisins and oranges, plus little cocktail crackers resembling mini pizzas. Almost the perfect canapé to begin with, starting gently in the knowledge that oysters await at mile 23… Sure enough 22,000 molluscs shucked by a dedicated team of over 40 volunteers were piled high in dozens of tubs, slices of fresh lemon alongside at the ready. Bivalves as sports fuel? Not everyone was convinced, but perhaps a subject worthy of next year’s pre-race medical symposium? Mind you, the volunteers weren’t too shy at testing and tasting their own handiwork – all in the interests of quality control – and washed down with a glass (not a paper cup) of crisp white.

For main course freshly grilled beef at mile 24, followed a mile later by the cheese course for those with the cast iron constitution to take it. And at the finish? A goody bag containing – a bottle of Médoc wine of course!

2009 is the 25th Anniversary of the Marathon and pressure to be allocated one of the 8500 places will be higher than ever so seize the day – this could be your perfect event!

Source: http://hubpages.com/hub/Marathon-du-Medoc

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