As the race starts, you’re surrounded by runners wearing tutus and Smurf costumes underneath their racing bibs. Each stride takes you past stunning vineyards and toward the next château. Soon enough, you’ve run the first of 26.2 miles, and you’re sweating in the September heat. There’s staff handing out water, but everyone is lining up for wine. Welcome to the Marathon du Médoc.
Marathons and footraces are a world of granola bars, blister care, and sugary packages of energy-giving goo. This classic French race through wine country has all that, as well as a party atmosphere and 23 stations that offer wine, cheese, oysters, and foie gras, often set out like a tasting at a picturesque winery. The tone is set the night before, when participants tend to complement the traditional carb-loading pasta dinner with healthy helpings of local wines. Each year’s race has a theme (think “Amusement Park” or “Tales and Legends”), so don’t be surprised to see a runner dressed as Robin Hood vomiting at mile five.
The Marathon du Médoc truly is about the journey more than the destination—you might find yourself entirely forgetting about your finish time as you sip wine while an orchestra plays. Still, running 26 miles is always a challenge, so remember the wise words of a sign once seen along the race course: “Pain is just the French word for bread.”