Wine and Running DO Mix: The Festive Bordeaux Marathon in the Medoc, France

No, this article is not about drinking lots of Bordeaux wine until you are exhausted from all the exercise of lifting the glass, pouring wine, lifting the glass again, uncorking another bottle, and pouring again.  Nor is it about visiting 26 chateaux in one day for wine tasting.  It is about the race that takes place in September in the Medoc area of Bordeaux (actually the name of the marathon is Marathon du Medoc, http://www.marathondumedoc.com/).  It is one of the funnest races I have been a part of – not only the wine but because runners come all dressed up and bring props too (be careful one of those props doesn’t run you over, I had a close call!).

Bordeaux marathon  (France)

Lady bugs ready to run

Wine barrel as a prop in the Bordeaux marathon (France)

The barrel is to push ALL the way during the marathon. Nuts!

The Bordeaux Marathon…

My friends (Chris and Wendy) and I thought of going after a larger group had spoken about going together, renting a house, and perhaps some of us running the marathon.  In the end, between one thing and another, the group whittled down to just the 3 of us.  We pretended to train for the marathon as we planned the trip…

My plan was not to run the entire marathon (while I have ran a half before, I really think the human body is not intended for the punishment of a marathon; marathon runners out there, I am not saying you are crazy, but I would be if I ran one!).  I figured I could train for about 6 or 7 miles and, on the day of, perhaps crank another 6 miles out of adrenaline gained by just being part of the event.  And I say event not race because this marathon is an event.

The festive atmosphere begins at the starting line with music blaring and a lot of staring – at the wild and crazy costumes (or sometimes, almost nothing on…) and props.  Then participants go through small towns in the Medoc, past chateaux, through chateaux, or even in between vines in a chateau (and I won’t tell you what I saw some runners do on those vines…  that je-ne-sais-quoi that makes Bordeaux wines SO unique…).

Chateau in the route of the Bordeaux marathon (Frnace)

Great views along the way

Oh, and did I mention that along the way, various chateaux are serving wine to the runners?  I don’t know how the finish line scene looks but after 26 miles of running-walking and sampling wines, I can only imagine.

Bordeaux marathon going through Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien

Going through Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien

As I said, I had planned to run part of the marathon but I was not planning to walk 13 miles to get to the end.  So, my friends and I scouted the route the day before with the route map to find what would be an easy-to-find spot for them to pick me up that fit within the range I planned to run.

Large wine bottle landmark in Bordeaux, France

Easy enough landmark to remember, you think?

In reality this turned out to be around mile 6 as for the next 10-15 miles, there did not seem to be a town that would be easy to get to with the road closures or a spot easy to find.  It so happened that my stopping point was one of the chateaux that was serving wine to runners… coincidence or miracle?  You be the judge…

Wine stop at a chateau during the Bordeaux marathon (France)

Wine stop!

Runners do get to pick up their race number, etc. the day before at the race fair event.  It is a good thing as it helped us figure out how to get to the starting line since we were not familiar with the region.  Even though we had done that, the day of the marathon itself we still had some challenges along the way and ended up following a bus that we identified outside of the city of Bordeaux as likely heading to the marathon!

I greatly enjoyed the run and those 6 miles passed so fast not because I am fast but because of the fun environment. I carried my small digital camera with me and enjoyed snapping pictures along the way.  People dress up for the event and some have props though watch out, one big thing on wheels got out of control on a downhill and almost ran a few of us over…

Going through Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, St. Julien

Runners with their LARGE prop – runners beware: they are drinking and pushing!

Even if you are not a serious runner or not ready for the distance, I would encourage anyone to try it like I did and experience running and wine in a new way.  I do recommend to stay close to the Medoc (we were staying at the far end of the Bordeaux region which led to a too-early-for-humans wake up call).  If you are a serious runner, it is a fantastic run through beautiful land and sites but you may want to stay away from the wine stops :)

There was a good number of things we wished we had known about the marathon and the area before we got there.  Do you have any questions?  Maybe we can help?   We found it hard ahead of the trip to find good info in English, hence the offer…

This entry has received a lot of hits!  What information are you seeking about the Bordeaux marathon?  We’d love to hear from you!

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Comments

  1. Wow, what a unique experience! I would say the marathon can be for serious runners as well as for people like me (I managed to jog/walk for approx 3 km :-)). But I missed the memo about dressing in a costume so I ended up running as “an American wanna-be marathoner.”

    Another interesting aspect – the marathon chooses a theme each year – the year we went the theme was – surprise surprise – American Indian / Country Music! No joke, there were folk music bands around and at one point near the start of the race (as the crowd and runners were getting primed), a loud speaker blasted “West Virginia, mountain momma…take me home…” Amazing…we were in this tiny French village, alongside thousands of others…all shouting the words to this American country music song…

    Anyway, a few additional memories I have of that very fun and unique experience:

    1- the costumes people wore – some were absolutely out of control…there were groups of guys dressed like women…others had more festive costumes like bumble bee or clowns…some people – get this – pushed a float/cart of sorts, like they were in a parade!!

    2- passing some of the best vineyards in the world – this marathon event literally passes by and through some of the most well know vineyards in the world…absolutely beautiful scenery…well, except for the occasional runner stopping to “take care of business”…hey when you gotta go, you gotta go!

    3- taking a shot of wine at each chateau – thats right, almost every chateau on the route has tables set up outside…it is a tradition to stop and take a small sip of wine…yes they also have water and fruit, etc…not everyone stops of course…the more serious runners continue onwards

    4- the magical 3 kms…I completed 3 kms of the marathon before petering out…and walking back to the starting point in the village…hey, that’s 6km!

    5- Chateaux DuCru Beaucaillou- this venerable chateau happens to be owned by an ole college friend of mine (lucky me!)…I hadn’t visited in years…we got a private cellar tour and got to imbibe a few glasses of the good stuff…fun times!

    In a nutshell, the Bordeaux Marathon a great and unique experience! Highly recommended as a participant or as a spectator…I hope to actually train to complete the marathon one day…or perhaps I’ll just train to make it to a few more chateaux along the route…they don’t call it the “longest marathon in the world” for nothing.

    Sante!

  2. I’m trying to ascertain the date for 2010 Medoc, but the organisers tell me that it’s not confirmed till Jan 2010. Can that be true?

    • Hi, Tony, I am not 100% sure but that sounds somewhat believable to me (I don’t mean any disrespect! The organizers actually put together a great event.) The application form doesn’t come out until January either and, when we did it, they actually used regular mail to send us the paperwork. I think if you look at the dates for the last, say 3 or 4 years, you can begin to narrow down when the likely dates will be. I seem to recall it is usually around the same time in September. Enjoy it and remember that part of your training is having some wine :)

  3. Hi! I am looking for info about doing the marathon without going with a tour group? I am reading that only 1000 foreginers are allowed in, and the best way to guarantee entry is with a tour group? http://www.marathontours.com is the group out of the US. Looks pricey to me and I’ve never done a tour as I prefer to be flexible.
    Was it hard to find accomodations? where did you stay? approx how much did you pay for this trip other than the race entry fee? etc
    thank you for your help!

    • Hi, Lucy, we applied for the race as soon as the application became available in January and we both made it in. Not sure if the limit is real or not but it didn’t affect us. I’d recommend looking up the date when the application becomes available and skip using a travel agency – I bet you’d save $. I recall we went to their website and indicated our interest and we were emailed once the application became available (something I was skeptical would happen…). We stayed way too far from the area as we wanted to spend most of our time down there in an area in the eastern part of the Bordeaux region. We regretted being so far as we had to wake up way early. I would imagine that if finding a place to stay near the race start/finish, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a place in the city of Bordeaux proper. Under either scenario you would have to get transportation to go to the race and come back. We rented a car and drove to the race the day before to know where it was, etc. If you are going alone, maybe you don’t want to do that. Maybe that tour is sounding more and more appealing? :)

  4. Hi, fellow “foreigners” :). I have run Marathon du Medoc three times, and will be back for more in 2010. My tip re registration is a very simple one – do it on your own, skip the agencies, and do not even try to get your race number as a foreigner. Instead follow the Forum section on M du Medoc web site, starting July, and you will find someone willing to sell his number due to injury, change in their plans etc etc. Once you find the seller, all you need to do is change your name in the system, which you can do at the same venue where you pick up numbers in Pauillac. You will run with number tag saying you are someone else, as those have been already printed. In 2009 I ran as Mr. Didier :). You should however look for accommodation well in advance. Hope this helps, F.

    • Frank, thanks. We also did registration on our own and it wasn’t that bad at all. In terms of accommodations, we ended up way to far for our taste but we can’t complain: the place we stayed at was otherwise idyllic!

  5. Hi! Thanks for your posting! My friend and I registered in February for this marathon. I’m planning on running it, and my friend is thinking of running a half, so I smiled (and was relieved) to read your posting! I have to say that the registration process is awkward. Also, as of this year (apparently), in order to get a registration number, one must register via the travel agency and book hotel accomodations as well. So, we both have registration confirmations and (hopefully) hotel rooms for Friday and Saturday. I say “hopefully” because we paid for everything via the online registration, but at this point we only know the rooms are at a “3 star hotel in the Bordeaux suburbs”. :-) I saw the other posting about the travel agency, and thought perhaps that would make life so much easier, but it does indeed seem to be a lot more expensive. And, what the heck, I’m going to a marathon in a costume (still undecided, but the theme this year is comic heroes)that serves wine at water stops…I think I can go with the flow! :-) We are looking for places to stay close to the area to get there a week (or so) early…appreciate any suggestions that anyone has. Also, is it best to fly into Paris and take a train, rent a car, …?

    Thanks for the info!
    Sarah

    • Sarah, taking a train to Bordeaux from Paris is a simple way to get down there. The part you will have to figure out is how to get to/from the marathon if you don’t have a car. I am not saying it is hard but you will have to figure that part out. Maybe someone out there has suggestions on how to get from the city of Bordeaux to/from the marathon if folks don’t have a car? We had a car and drove down from Paris for the fun of it.

      Let us know how it goes and, more importantly, what costume you decided to wear :)

  6. non-runner wife says:

    Hi! My husband is participating in the 2010 Medoc Marathon.
    I am not a runner, so, would like to get some recommendations as to what I can do in Pauillac while waiting for him. Thanks.

    • My friend’s wife basically found a nice cafe and brought something to read while she killed time. The town will be quite lively that day due to the events so there will be a lot of people watching to be done, I am sure!

  7. Another a very great writeup by you hope to visit more really soon.

  8. This almost looks too crazy to be real! What a fun experience! I’m glad you didn’t get run over by the props haha. ;-)
    Pola (@jettingaround) recently posted..Photo of the Week: A street in Oaxaca City, MexicoMy Profile

    • Almost did as some folks lost control on a downhill of the large kiosk-on-wheels they were pushing. Good thing I wasn’t wearing headphones! It is lots of fun!

  9. Austin has a Turkey Trot every Thanksgiving. Although it’s not a marathon (5k and 10k), it brings out people in all sorts of costumes. Keep Austin weird, right?
    Leah Travels recently posted..A Sunny Day at Cloudy Bay WineryMy Profile

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