Marathon Date: September 08, 2001
My Age: 65
My Finish Time: 4:38
My Marathon Rating: Most Fun
Memorable Moment: The many colorful costumes
Medoc Marathon selection and registration:
After the rain, wind, and cold of the Dublin marathon in 2000, I started looking for a marathon in a country where the weather would be less of a challenge than Dublin’s weather was. While scouring the Internet for my next marathon challenge I came across a very interesting marathon in France called the “Marathon des Chateaux du Medoc”. The name that it goes by in most of the Literature is its nickname – The Medoc Marathon.
The race is the world’s longest marathon at 26 miles and 385 yards – Runners World ranked it second best marathon after the New York marathon. The marathon is not about the speed at which you run, it’s about fun, food, festivities, and most importantly – the Medoc wine. The race is so popular throughout the world that they have had to limit the number of runners to 8,000.
The marathon is built around the following 4 fundamental pillars: Health – Sport – Conviviality – Fun. The main goal of the Medoc marathon is to attract runners of all types and have them discover the benefits and pleasures of long distance running. The registration form explicitly discourages entries from individuals obsessed with speed records or from anyone who is sad, unfriendly or stressed out. Unlike other marathons, which typically reward the fastest finishers with money and a trophy, this one presents the winner with their body weight in Medoc wine and gives everyone else a colorful medal if you cross the finish line within six and a half hours.
After reading all of the information about the marathon and contacting some runners who had run the marathon I quickly decided that the Medoc marathon would be my 3rd worldwide marathon. I started my Medoc registration process on January 5, 2001 and it took me 5 months before I received my acceptance slip and Bib#. The main reason that it took so long – other than it’s worldwide popularity – was that in 2001 they did not have on-line registration so you had to FAX the marathon for an application form – it took me about 3 weeks to receive my form. I also found out that only 20% of race places were reserved for foreign runners. After I received the form I found out that I needed a letter signed by my doctor stating that I was physically fit to run the marathon. After I had obtained all of the required information I then mailed the application, my entry fee, and the approval letter from my doctor. It took about 40 days before I finally received my Bib# . Despite everything that I went through it was well worth the time, aggravation, and waiting to run this marathon – I finished the marathon and also had a fabulous time before, during, and after the race.
Medoc Marathon Training Program:
To prepare for the Medoc marathon I used the same 18-week 750-mile training program that I used for the 1999 USMC marathon and the 2000 Dublin marathon. Even though my Medoc training program was the same as my USMC and Dublin marathons it was much more difficult to complete. The reason that made it so difficult is that I moved from Lexington, Massachusetts to La Jolla, California in the middle of my marathon training. It took me about 3 weeks to get everything packed for the move, take care of all of the change of address issues, and to somehow get rid of the extra furniture, clothing, books, etc. When I finally arrived in LaJolla on May 15th it took me another 3 to 4 weeks to get settled in my new apartment. Once I got settled I joined a running group in the San Diego area that would meet every Saturday morning and run in different areas around San Diego.
After completing my 750-mile training program without any serious injuries I relaxed and tapered for my last week of training. When I started my Medoc training in Lexington I was running in the rain, snow, and cold of New England and when I finished the training I was running in the sunny skies of La Jolla along the ocean – quite a difference in weather conditions. Due to my move from Lexington, Massachusetts to La Jolla, I only ran one race to prepare for my Medoc marathon. The race and the result was:
04/28/02 Carlsbad, CA ½ marathon – finish time = 1:53 *5th in my age group
Medoc Marathon Travel:
My daughter Lisa came with me so I decided to spend 3 days in Paris before traveling to Bordeaux. We arrived in Paris on Sunday September 3rd for a three-day stay before traveling to Bordeaux. While in Paris we stayed at the Millennium Opera Hotel, which was walking distance to the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre Museum. One of the highlights of the stay in Paris was going to the “Bar Hemingway” – named after Ernest Hemingway- located in the Ritz Hotel.
On Wednesday the 5th we left Paris and took the Bullet train to Bordeaux – it was a fast and very scenic train ride from Paris to Bordeaux. While in Bordeaux we stayed in the Sofitel Aquinta hotel – which was walking distance to the center of Bordeaux and about 30 minutes to the train station that would take me to the start of the Medoc marathon in Pauillac. We took in some sightseeing in Bordeaux and visited some of the Medoc wineries. We flew to Barcelona, Spain on September 10th and settled in our hotel – the Utell International Hotel that was walking distance to many of the great restaurants, famous sights, as well as walking distance to the waterfront. We spent the rest of the day getting accustomed to our location and taking in some of the sights as well as eating some of the great food. We were in Barcelona on September 11th when we received the terrible news about the planes crashing into the Trade Center buildings in New York City. When we returned to our hotel we received a note from the hotel manage “ Please if you need something let us know as soon as possible.”
We were very fortunate that our flights back to the US were on schedule and we left Barcelona as planned and we flew to London where I caught my flight back to San Diego. Lisa missed her flight and had to wait for another flight before returning to Boston. It was a very sad ending to my Medoc marathon.
Medoc Marathon Highlights:
On Friday I took the train to Paulliac and went to the Expo to get my race number – they could not find my information and after an hour of looking they finally found it. The evening before the marathon we went out to get my Pasta and met a group of people from Texas who were also running the Medoc marathon. We went back to the hotel and I was in bed by 10:00 pm. I did not get a good night sleep – had an upset stomach from the Pasta I had the night before. I woke up at around 5:30 am and decided to take the early 6:30am train to Paulliac instead of the 7:30am train that I planned on taking. Took a cab to the train station and found out that the 7:30 train would not be running and the next train after the 6:30 am would not go out until 10:30 – if I did not get up early to take the early train I would have missed the start of the marathon. The train ride to the race start was very interesting as the train was crowded with runners from around the world in their unique race costumes. I arrived at the Paulliac train station around 7:15 and walked to the start of the race – it was already crowded with most of the 8,000 expected runners.
Everywhere you looked there were runners dressed in colorful costumes awaiting the start of the race. While standing in the group of runners I met a number of women who were dressed up as Pigs – including the ears, nose and pink costumes. I found out that they were from Cincinnati – their photo was on the marathon results book that we received after we got home. Some of the more unique costumes were: six runners who carried a casket with someone laying in the casket, a woman dressed as Scarlett O’Hara, a man dressed in a French Foreign Legion uniform, 4 Santa Clauses, 3 men dressed as witches, a clown, 2 Donald Ducks, and a man dressed as a Matador with the red cape.
The presentation of the costumes started at 7:30 am – this is where the runners vote on the best costume – the presentation lasted until 9:15 am. The entertainment started at 9:15 and ended at 9:25 when the wheelchair race started – I have always admired the wheelchair participants. Prior to the start of the race I decided not to drink any wine along the race route because I had set a finish time goal that I wanted to make, and stopping to drink the wine would definitely increase my finish time. The gun for the race start went off at exactly 9:30 am – I was back in the pack and it took about 15 minutes to cross the start line – which is also the finish line. The loop racecourse was surprisingly hilly with many gravel tracks along the way, it starts and finishes in the Center of Paulliac and goes along the storied villages of the Medoc wine region, around village roads, through Chateaux courtyards and rows of ripening grapes. Wine was served at 21 wine-tasting stands throughout the race route and there were also 18 food stands along the route that served - Oysters, steak, cheese, oranges, bananas, prunes, meat, etc. There were 25 musical groups from string quartet to Reggae along the route along with thousands of cheering villagers encouraging the runners. With most of the runners wearing colorful costumes it was more like Halloween than a marathon.
At mile 1, we passed Chateau Grand-Puy-Ducasse which was the races first wine stop, there were so many people lined up to taste the first wine of the marathon that it was time consuming and difficult to get around them to continue my run. As I got more into the race I found that the race route had a lot more hills than was told to me and that some of the paths through the vineyards were not very wide which made it difficult to run. All along the route there were bands playing and tables covered with all kinds of great food. The crowds, numbering around 70,000, were cheering “Allez! Allez! as the runners in their many colorful costumes sprinted, jogged, walked, and in some cases staggered their way through the picturesque vineyards to the finish line. At the ½ waypoint of the marathon a very loud band was playing and there was a very enthusiastic crowd cheering us on – many runners stopped to “high five” the fans. Children would run out to greet you and run alongside of you for a little way.
When I reached mile 18 I was running along a dirt path through the vineyards when I saw a runner on his knees and he looked like he was in pain. I slowed down and yelled out to him to see if he was okay but got no answer as I got closer to him I asked him if he needed any help again – no answer. Finally I stopped near him and was going to help him up when he turned his head toward me holding a glass of wine – it was very clear to me that he had way too much wine. After the encounter I moved on shaking my head – I turned around to see if he had gotten up but when I looked back it appeared that he was lying down to take a nap.
When I reached mile 21 I started to slow down as my Quads were starting to really hurt which made me slow down my pace. A runner next to me saw that I was hurting and he did his best to encourage me not to give up and to continue to the finish line. I continued to run but it was clear to me that I would not meet my finish time goal. After a very long and painful 2 miles I reached mile 23 where there was a very long table setup with literally thousands of Oysters and many bottles of white wine. I still do not understand how after running 23 miles in the heat and dirt of the vineyards a runner can stop to have Oysters and white wine – but from the number of runners waiting in line for a chance to savor some Oysters, there were quite a few of them. After another long and slow mile of pain I reached mile 24 where there was grilled beef on the menu – I did not stop to sample any of the beef for fear that if I stopped running I would never finish the marathon.
When I reached mile 25 I knew that I would meet one of my goals, which was to run the entire 26.385-mile of the Medoc marathon. As I approached the finish line I tried very hard to finish strong – my mind was willing but my body said “not to-day”. There was a long red carpet at the finish line so everyone that finished the race did it in style. After I crossed the finish line I was given a very nice Back Pack with the Medoc marathon logo on it [I still have the Back Pack]. I waited in line with other finishers to have a woman wash the dirt from our faces that we collected while running through the vineyards. After that if you wanted you could get a free massage or if you had an injury, blister, etc there were medical people available to treat you. The only part of my body that really ached were my Quads so I took a lot of time stretching and drinking as much water as possible. Once I was able to walk without pain I walked over to a huge tent where there was all of the areas red and white wines, beer, cheese, meat, fruit, and even ice cream – and a number of different bands playing. I definitely had some of the great wines of the area and ate until I could not eat any more food. It was a very happy and loud scene as the runners were sharing their Medoc marathon stories. After about 2 hours of food and wine Lisa and I headed for the train station and our trip back to Bordeaux.