1984 was a vintage year for marathon runners; the Medoc Marathon was completed for the very first time. One of the most scenic marathon courses in the world, winding its way in one circuit through the glorious Medoc countryside and passing in excess of 50 different chateaux, this is now one of the world’s great events. Every September, ‘the Medoc’ takes over the Bordeaux area.
For many dedicated marathon runners, the Medoc Marathon now stands alongside cities such as New York and London in terms of popularity – but it couldn’t be more different. For a start, there will only be 8,500 runners completing the race; a number deliberately limited in order to maintain the atmosphere for which the Medoc is famous. This means that approximately half of the people sending in applications to run are successful, with current estimates that about one fifth of them are runners from outside France.
The race attracts an eclectic mixture of runners – from the serious athlete to the committed red wine buff. This is largely because each of the 23 drinks’ stations dotted around the course will have some of the world’s most admired red wines waiting to be tasted. We are, after all, in the land of Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafite Rothschild, to name but two. There are few other marathons that will give you the chance to stop en route for some foie gras or oysters – but the Medoc does. About 90% of the participants will be in fancy dress – and some take a considerable time to complete the gruelling course! The successful finishers always receive a much-admired Goody bag, containing more wine, a medal, tee-shirt, art print and much more.
However, the Medoc Marathon is as loved by spectators as it is by runners. The race headquarters are in the picturesque Gironde town of Pauillac and it is there that, on the Friday before the Saturday marathon, the pre-race Pasta Party takes place. This and other similar happenings in and around Bordeaux ensure that the atmosphere is, to say the least, convivial. Throughout the day, the local chateaux will have hosted wine tasting tours. That vital pre-race preparation – for most runners and spectators – will probably not, on this occasion at least, be similar to the regimes recommended in the Atheltics Weekly.
On the day of the Medoc Marathon itself, as well as the race, which starts at 9.30 am, there will be Basque Strength games, Fancy Dress Parades and, in the evening, a free Ball next to the river and the evening culminates in a noisy, colourful firework display.
On the Sunday, there will be relaxing walks through the vineyards, cycle tours, picnic lunches – and more wine tasting. It is little wonder that the Medoc attracts 100,000 spectators each September to this sublime part of France.
Bourdeaux is one of the country’s most distinguished cities and is a fine example of a city with a vast historical heritage – it is a UNESCO World heritage Site – which also has a vibrant, modern atmosphere.Elegant classical architecture sits comfortably alongside one of Europe’s most modern and energy-efficient tram networks. And the shopping along the Rue Sainte Catherine is sensational, even by sophisticated French standards.
Although it is just over 550 miles from Calais and 360 miles from Paris, the city is very accessible by car and the rail network across France is comprehensive. Bourdeaux Mérignac Airport is just six miles outside the city and has frequent flights to Britain and Paris.
The incredible Medoc Marathon has its own website so if you fancy running a marathon fuelled by 23 glasses of the best Bourdeaux – or just watching other people try – it sounds like a fabulous September weekend.