On Saturday, September 2, 2023, I ran my 42nd marathon, the Marathon du Medoc. It was unlike any other marathon!
(For a full list of all the marathons I have completed, check out THIS PAGE.)
This marathon was a big ol’ party – literally! And the party just kept getting crazier farther into the race. It was a whole different kind of marathoning and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to experience it.
The Marathon du Medoc is often called the “longest marathon in the world.”
Longest, not because its more then the standard 26.2 miles, but because it passes by 23 châteaux in the Bordeaux region of France and all of these châteaux hand out wine to all the runners. The wine tastings vary from a small sip to a full glass!
The marathon also has “compulsory” fancy dress (i.e. costume). This year’s theme was Gastronomy- Dustin and I ran it together dressed as milk and cookies!
My sister Erin and her husband ran their race together as well, with him dressed as a taco and her as a taco enthusiast!
My marathon recap will include the details of the rest of our trip, but I am sure people are mostly looking to this review to read more about the actual marathon!
Keep in mind that this is my personal experience with this race (via Marathon Tours) which could vary greatly from another person’s experience, so if you are considering running the Marathon du Médoc, definitely google around for other reviews/recaps as well!
Getting to Bordeaux:
Dustin and I took the Eurostar from London to Paris on the Wednesday before the race, and spent a lovely evening in Paris. My sister and her husband were traveling to Bordeaux from the U.S., so they did have a flight transfer in Frankfurt, Germany and they arrived the Thursday before the race.
The train was an easy option for us coming from London; it was probably about the same price as flying from London, though slightly longer travel time.
On Thursday morning, we ran 5.75 miles along the Seine in Paris, then showered, grabbed a croissant and coffee and then headed to the Gare du Montparnasse train station to catch a train from Paris to Bordeaux.
We arrived in Bordeaux around lunch time and had a quick meal at one of the kiosk pizzas- not bad. And very fast!
Then we checked into our hotel for our stay, which was the Bordeaux Chateau Chatrons. To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t a great hotel, but it was the hotel that Marathon Tours selected, so we didn’t really have a choice. I would not recommend staying at this hotel; I would have much preferred to stay in central Bordeaux, but instead we were about 1.5 miles from the more charming part of the town.
Upon checking in, we did go for a stroll to pick up water and Gatorade and check out the public garden (Jardin Public) before joining some of the Marathon Tours group for a shakeout run along the Garonne. No matter what city you are, it seems the best place to run is always along the river!
That evening, Marathon Tours hosted a welcome dinner at the hotel. There, we received our race packets and an overview of the itinerary for their trip.
On Friday, I got up early for a 4 mile solo run along the Garonne river.
Then, the coach dropped us off at the official marathon expo.
The below picture is of my sister with the “sweeper” vehicle that was on display at the expo. This is the vehicle that swept runners from the course; technically the cutoff was 6.5 hours, but they allowed people to finish up to 7 hours. My friend said she saw the sweeper crew stopping at each château to party! So definitely not a serious endeavor. I have a feeling they mostly swept people who weren’t at a certain point by the half marathon mark, as the course ran a figure 8, meaning you passed by the start/finish in the middle and it was an easy drop-out place for runners. Out of the 8500 runners who started the race, about 7000 finished. I have heard that many people go into this race experience planning to DNF and just taste as much wine as possible!
We finished our Friday-before-the-marathon with dinner at the Château du Taillan.
It was actually a really long day of touring; my feedback to Marathon Tours would be to offer a ½ day option for participants who did not want to be out and about ALL day from 9 am until 10:30 pm the day before the marathon. By the time we got back to the hotel, I was exhausted and still had to put together my race outfit. This is just my personal preference, but I would have loved to have skipped one of the tastings and the dinner, and had a bit more free time this day, even though our group was wonderful and I really enjoyed getting to know everyone, it still would have been nice to have the option to rest a bit more before 26.2 miles!
Marathon du Medoc race day!
Our coach bus from the hotel to the start line in Pauillac left at 7:15 am; of course, when you are part of a tour with 40 people, nothing ever happens on time. I don’t think the bus actually left until closer to 7:40. The start line was about an hour from our hotel; the race started at 9:30. A very late start for a marathon, especially on a VERY hot day! The high for the day was 90F or 31C. HOT.
But fortunately, this wasn’t a marathon about time or pace. It was about the experience and from the minute we arrived, I was caught up in the excitement of this very unique experience.
Walking with Dustin to the start line, we were so amused by the costumes around us.
These grapes were actually part of our Marathon Tour group, two brothers from Manchester. They were awesome!
I couldn’t believe what some people were running in, especially on a HOT day.
Our cookies and milk costumes were easy enough to run in, though my cookie costume was still very popular with the little kids who were cheering: “Allez Allez Le Cookie!”
As we waited at the starting line, there were trapeze and circus performers up above us. It was a riot!
Dustin and I did try to push our way towards the front of the pack. It was quite crowded (8500 runners), so we wanted to break away from the main crowd just a bit. Like many other European marathons, it felt like we were running in someone’s hot armpit for the first two miles as it was so packed. It felt impossible to break away from the crowd. Finally, by the first wine stop (mile 2?) we were able to run a bit and breathe!
Dustin quickly decided he was going to taste at ALL 23 wine stops- bold choice! I planned to run the first half and then start to taste the wines, and that’s exactly what I did. I would stop with him and take photos at each château, but it wasn’t until the Lafite Rothschild, which is a very nice wine, that I started to imbibe!
By then, Dustin was pretty tipsy, but the wine never caused a problem for him! He was feeling the vibe. He WAS the party. Ha!
In fact, he thought it helped keep his mind off the heat. We were both drinking a lot of water in between the wine. In fact, TMI, I was more hydrated at this race even in the extreme heat + drinking some wine, than I was at Vienna in April when I struggled afterwards with dehydration (and this race was way more fun!)
The marathon course itself is not exactly easy- due to the way you run up to all these chateaux, you are actually on trail or rock or very loose pebbles quite a bit. There was a fair amount of running through fields on dirt paths, and it was by no means flat either!
But did it matter? No, not at all. Since we had made decent time on the first half, Dustin and I knew we had a lot of time to spare.
With each wine stop, the participants got a little rowdier!
Wine and chocolate (GU)!
This winery had cold cups of beer, which was a nice change from red wine.
Some of the chateaux had more than just wine- one had a chocolate fountain with marshmallows, frose, cold beer, frites. It felt more like an ultra marathon, with coke instead of a sports drink (the coke tasted AMAZING) and tons of food and snacks at each “aid station” or châteaux. And everyone was hanging out at each stop for quite some time (some people probably never left- there were a fair number of DNF’s here!)
There were oysters at the 38km and beef tartare at 40km! There were amazingly refreshing ice pops at 40km as well- so, so good. I tried it all!
The course is never finalized until right before the race as the organization doesn’t know which chateaux will participate. They try to keep it as close to 26.2 miles as possible, but its not a certified course.
The winner did post a 2:25 finish time- I am guessing he didn’t stop for any wine, ha!
There were only kilometre markings at this race, no mile markers. These splits are from my Garmin. I would say we mostly ran in between the châteaux and then would stop for 1-2 minutes to hang out and drink wine!
Mile 1: 11:01
Mile 2: 10:26
Mile 3: 8:53
Mile 4: 9:02
Mile 5: 10:23
Mile 6: 9:53
Mile 7: 10:15
Mile 8: 9:03
Mile 9: 9:44
Mile 10: 9:25
Mile 11: 9:17
Mile 12: 11:39
Mile 13: 10:27
Mile 14: 9:57
Mile 15: 11:25
Mile 16: 9:58
Mile 17: 12:26
Mile 18: 11:59
Mile 19: 9:58
Mile 20: 13:31
Mile 21: 13:55
Mile 22: 11:08
Mile 23: 12:45
Mile 24: 11:06
Mile 25: 12:39
Mile 26: 11:19
Final bit: : 10:01
Strava posted my “moving time” at 4:34; I never paused my Garmin throughout the whole experience, so I was surprised that’s what Strava would post vs. elapsed time, which was 4:50 on both Dustin and my Garmins. (4:54 was my gun time on the official results.)
It was hot- very hot. Maybe one of my hottest marathons yet? I think its almost always hot in Bordeaux this time of year. And the heat is a challenge, even when you’re doing a race solely for fun. It is still 26.2 miles/42 km, and one still needs to respect the distance and the effect that heat can have on your body.
But despite the heat, it was so much fun- what a party! The wine, the costumes, the bands, the food- what a celebration! If you’re willing to let yourself have fun on this marathon, you’ll have an amazing time. Now, its not for everyone- you probably should be a fan of red wine, ha! And you probably do still need to train, I don’t think you can walk the entire thing and still finish in time, unless you never stop at the chateaux. Yet even walking 26.2 miles isn’t easy without a bit of training!
But I can see why this is a bucket-list experience for marathoners. There’s nothing like it in the world. A cultural phenomenon. One of a kind.
Would I do it again? Maybe- if I had friends who wanted to. But I’m very glad I did it and was able to share the experience with Dustin. He rated it a 10/10 and felt incredible. Granted, we were running 2 hours slower than his normal marathon time, but he honestly said all the wine made him forget about the heat! And he was in the mood for beer at the finish.
Post race, we got our medals, a duffle bag, all the food and drinks, and a full bottle of wine (every runner got a different kind of wine in the box, from a £10 to a £100, you wouldn’t know until you opened the box it came in!)
There was a tent for runners at the finish with tons of food, drinks, a DJ- the marathon party continued on to the afterparty!
Dustin and I had lots of time before the coach bus would be leaving so we went back to the bus to get a change of clothes and took advantage of the free showers at the finish. It felt so nice to rinse off all the salt and sweat (and spilled wine!)
My running friend Tina also participated in the marathon and she did not go through a tour company like we did. She had a BLAST and enjoyed the experience immensely, though she did mention that the shuttles to the expo from Bordeaux and pre & post marathon were a bit chaotic and stressful, so something to keep in mind. There aren’t a lot of hotel options right in Pauillac, so most runners stay in Bordeaux, so there were limited taxis or ubers as well.
It was a long day; we weren’t back to the hotel until 5:30 pm. My sister and her husband were pretty tired, so they decided to skip dinner and just get room service. Dustin and I actually felt pretty good, so we showered and took the tram into central Bordeaux for a nice dinner at La Tupina. As often happens post marathon, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we didn’t eat as much as we thought we would, and by the end of dinner, I was very ready for bed.
On Sunday, September 3, there was a recovery “balade” or walk through the wineries- it was meant to be somewhere between an 8k and a 10k; my Garmin had us at about 5.5 miles of walking through beautiful French countryside, with a few stops at gorgeous Chateaux along the way for tastings. It was a cool part of the race weekend; I would recommend participating if you can.
We ended the “walk “balade” at a big party tent with a band and lunch- everyone was dancing and having an awesome time- this was a really memorable part of the trip; I had so much fun with our tour group this day!
That evening, my sister, her husband, Dustin and I had the evening free to wander around Bordeaux. Magical little evening.
Monday September 4th
This day started with a 5.75 mile run with Dustin along the Garonne:
Then we loaded onto the coach bus for one more day of exploring, with another chateaux visit in the beautiful town of Saint-Émilion, at Château Soutard.
The town of Saint-Émilion is a Unesco Heritage Site. Very pretty.
The day ended with a gala at the Château Agassac with our Marathon Tour group. There was more wine (of course), a fun dinner, and some prizes for runners within our group!
Overall, a wonderful trip- a great combination of running, exploring, wine, and time with my sister and husband and new friends via Marathon Tours!