Author: Aigars Nords5 COMMENTS
It happens yearly on the second week of September and, needless to say - in Bordeaux district. Actually, it is hard to imagine a better venue for a wine marathon! Bordeaux is one of the largest wine producers in the world and this event draws thousands of wine enthusiasts. A route goes through Médoc area, bringing together two seemingly incompatible things - racing and feasting. It is a perfect marketing, in fact, attracting those, who otherwise maybe wouldn't go to Bordeaux to taste its wines and admire an aristocratic air of its chateaus. While the classic marathon of 42,195 km requires strength and stamina, here the distance is full of fun. A fierce sense of rivalry replaces wine tasting en route and enjoying of a marvelous atmosphere of legendary estates and vineyards. For few days in September this fantastic festival fills the minds of local Frenchmen and all the guests, flocking in Bordeaux.
The number of participants is limited to just 8 thousand, meaning that an early registration is a smart thing to do. While in a classic marathon applicants are selected by a random lottery, the old saying "the early bird catches the worm" proves to be right in Marathon du Médoc. Online registration through the marathon website www.marathondumedoc.com starts already at the beginning of year and the maximum number of applicants is reached just in a few days! In early September wine enthusiasts flood the region - hotels are full and chateaus swarm with people, therefore hotel reservations and visits of wineries should be fixed in advance, too. A marathon participation fee of 30 to 100 euro seems pretty insignificant, compared to vast variety of fine wines offered for tasting during the race.
As a rule, a joint dinner, for an additional fee, is served before the event. Usually organized at one of the most beautiful chateaus, Ducru-Beaucaillou, for example, it is a great chance to meet, greet and mingle with the other participants. Light hors-d'oeuvre and a relaxed atmosphere make it especially pleasant and enjoyable. Around the same time an international EXPO fair is held in Bordeaux, too, however, it seems rather average there. No trendy brands of sportswear, footwear or food products are presented, as companies already know that none of the world's fastest marathoners will gather there! Marathon organizers do not overdo with a sophisticated preparation either - just participation numbers and electronic chips are distributed to the determined wine enthusiasts.
42 km is not a kid's stuff, therefore, you should carefully consider, which castles you plan to visit for wine degustation before marking them into your participant's card. Excessive amounts of alcohol and an intense physical exertion in + 25°C or even more might be a not very healthy combination. Yet, there are crazy ones, avid enough for red wine and confident of their fitness, who manages to pop into some 20 chateaus during the run!
An electronic time recording chip, fastened to participant's leg has largely a symbolic meaning. Médoc marathon, unlike its serious New York, Berlin or Chicago counterparts, is not done not against the clock and the globe's fastest runners do not make their world record attempts there. This marathon is just for pleasure. It's an excellent opportunity to savor very good Bordeaux vintages and to sense the profound pride and fondness that local people cherish for their vineyards, their chateaus and their overflowing enthusiasm to share it with others.
The race starts at the town of Paulliac, the very heart of Médoc region, with all the most exclusive wine chateaus located in its neighborhood. The average age of marathoners is never below 40. Representatives of prestigious wineries are among participants, honoring the event with their teams. Attired in special uniforms, they not only promote their own chateau but try to figure out strength and weakness of their rivals, too.
A traditional sportswear is not at all what you want to wear there. Just the opposite! It's a carnival, nearly as good as in Rio and participants dress accordingly. It is a great chance to let imagination run free and costumes of people, jogging through vineyards, are a proof to that. Some of the most resourceful outfits are to be seen there - gentlemen of respectable age impersonate wine bottles, young and striving are dressed as waiters - in white shirts and bow-ties, they are equipped with trays and glasses, too. Ever-present symbols of sexuality appear side by side with a funny cow and a wheelbarrow, created by several people together. And there run the Blues Brothers, too, huffing and puffing, in their black suits, ties, hats and sunglasses. It's a true masquerade, at times taking place in a sizzling heat of +35ºC! Weird accessories, yells of excited supporters and exactly at 10 a.m. the start-signal goes off and a tumultuous run in the length of several hours begins!
Refreshment stands are available after each three to four kilometers, like in a real marathon, however, forget about energy drinks there! Frenchmen do their best to test the abilities of runners. Marathoners are treated with ham, oysters and even foie gras! It's easy to imagine how this delicious stuff affects ones speed. Tasting of numerous wines on the way, adds even more irony to the idea that it's a marathon, in fact. Those, having managed to reach 20 kilometers mark, just wet their lips, no more. However, you still may grab a wine label or some souvenir and, with a recovered strength, return there later again, if a hasty wine drop had been to your taste.
Bordeaux district is famous for its castles and wine marathon is a brilliant chance to admire their aristocratic magnificence. Unfortunately, doors of some top-notch castles, like Chateau Margaux or Chateau Latour, stay closed for the event of the year as their wines are sold out for several years ahead. Other wineries, not hustling too hard with harvesting, meet marathoners not only with a good selection of wine and information on their production but with some musical performances, too. Here and there very good rock groups and choirs perform along the route or elating sounds of classic music reach the runners, coming from some chateaus - Beychevelle, for example. Someplace else a proprietor himself comes out on a small balcony, strums a guitar and enjoys a festive atmosphere.
If marathoners in Berlin have no time to admire the Brandenburg Gate, then, running through Médoc, you have to be sure to take in all the beauty of the district. True gems of local architecture and must-see spots for wine enthusiasts are Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, Chateau Palmer, Chateau Phélan-Ségur, Chateau Pichon Longueville Baron and Chateau Beychevelle. Every bit like pictures from wine books they fascinate thousands of visitors and tempt to return there again and again. Tasting of fine wines during the run most definitely is another attraction. The program, however, does not include stopping at wineries and popping into wine cellars, or else - it wouldn't be called a marathon, would it?
More than two and a half hours elapses before first lucky ones appear on the red carpet of the finish straight. Then, one by one, follow those, who also have managed to conquer the distance, the heat and the famous French delicacy - dried ham! Wine is the last thing exhausted runners might want, yet, the first one to arrive at the finish line receives an amazing prize - his weight's worth in great wines! A medal and a bottle of wine in a traditional wooden box is an award to everyone who finishes the distance. Yet, the feeling itself that you have taken part in a marathon full of flavor is the most rewarding one. Subsequently, a group photo is taken and those, who still have strength left, can visit some chateaus.
Address: 33250 Saint-Julien-Beychevelle
Phone: +33 (0) 5 56 73 20 70
Fax: +33 (0) 5 56 73 20 71
Address: 33250 St-Julien-Beychevelle
Phone: +33 (0) 5 56 73 16 73
Fax: +33 (0) 5 56 59 27 37
Address: 33180 St-Estèphe
Phone: +33 (0) 5 56 59 30 09
Fax: +33 (0) 5 56 59 30 04
Address: 33250 Pauillac
Phone: +33 (0) 5 53 89 78 00
Fax: +33 (0) 5 53 89 78 01
Address: Cantenac, 33460 Margaux
Phone: +33 (0) 5 57-887272
Fax: +33 (0) 5 57-883716
Address: 33250 Pauillac
Phone: +33 (0) 5 56 73 17 17
Fax: +33 (0) 5 56 73 17 28
Posted in 2008.