As if finishing a marathon isn’t enough of a challenge, how about running the longest marathon in the world? The Marathon du Médoc in Pauillac, France is no longer than the standard 26.2 miles, but it offers 20+ wine stops, making it the world’s longest marathon by time. Situated an hour north of Bordeaux in the Haut Médoc region (home of award winning wines), I embarked on my first international marathon.
In September 2013, my husband, Mark, and I took the direct Delta flight from Pittsburgh to Paris with our two children. My running partner, Bernadette, and her husband, Dr. Doug (who graciously covered kid duty while Mark and I ran), joined us on this transatlantic adventure. Not only did we run past 60 chateaux, we did so in full costume with about 8,800 other runners. The theme that year was science fiction, and I was one of the few female Princess Leias. We ran among blue avatars, green aliens, and every sci-fi costume imaginable. Before the marathon started, women in gold pantsuits, suspended by balloons were spinning high above our heads, music was blasting, and people were already drinking—imagine Cirque du Soleil meets Mardi Gras. As we ran through the gorgeous vineyards, we heard multiple languages and took in the amusement of runners imbibing wine and adorable French children cheering along the streets of the quaint towns.
In addition to the wine and water stops, ice cream, oysters, steak and cognac were offered. At mile 20, the smell of cognac was pungent, but we muscled through it and passed on the protein and desserts, sticking to our normal race rituals. I finished the race in 4 hours and 45 minutes (1735th out of 7905 total runners). Approximately 900 runners didn’t finish and maybe decided to drink more at one of the lovely chateaux. (The cutoff is 6.5 hours.) Trying to be smart, I didn’t have any wine, but Mark drank at about 10 stops, since he didn’t train for this endurance race. We learned that running a marathon for fun is still incredibly hard, but the reward for crossing the finish line was a medal, an Asics backpack and a fantastic bottle of wine to take home. If I would have run faster (2:50:12 was the winning female time), I could have won my weight in wine. On the stage at the finish, the fastest female and male runner each sat on one side of a seesaw, and officials placed cases of wine on the other side until it balanced; they got to take those cases home. Hmmm… I’ll train harder for next time.
The next day, the marathon festivities continued with a 10K walk through vineyards with live music and wine tasting. (You sign up for this when you register for the marathon.) We enjoyed a stunning, sunny day and tasted a wide variety of Haut Médoc wines. At the end of the walk, we were greeted at a large white tent with a three course meal, dancing and wine, of course. When the bottles at the table were drained, barrels were available to fill them.
I highly recommend this marathon if you appreciate superior wine and long distance running. If you want to take part in the wine on the course, I would advise training for it. Have people set up wine stops throughout your long training runs. Unless you can win, take your time and savor the fruits of Bordeaux and festive atmosphere. I assure you, it will be the most entertaining marathon you will ever run. Santé!
- Take the direct Delta flight from Pittsburgh to Paris
- Take a train from Charles de Gaulle to Bordeaux
- Rent a car at the Bordeaux train station (My intrepid husband drove 8 hours to Bordeaux after an overnight flight. I would not recommend this, especially when you don’t pay attention to google maps and discover you are driving directly into the Gironde River. Taking the ferry across was an interesting way to see the area, but it was not planned!)
- Stay at the Pullman Hotel 10 minutes north of Bordeaux, or book early and stay in Pauillac. Packages are available on the website.
- Register for the 10K walk through the vineyards
- Explore Paris before you leave France
- Amusez-vous bien! (Enjoy!)
Main website to register and learn more: http://www.marathondumedoc.com/index.php?view=article&id=66&tmpl=index_en