The 27th annual Medoc Marathon was run last weekend, through the beautiful countryside of France.
For those who haven't heard of it, this is in fact a real marathon, with real runners. I was invited to participate, as press, not as a runner (I only run if someone is chasing me), an assignment I took on faster than a Beverley Hills Housewife takes on a glass of Chardonnay. While the thought of chasing through, ahead of, and behind a bunch of earnest wiry men and women, the likes of which we see populating the North American marathon circuit, would hold little appeal for me, this marathon is different. As in a total celebration of "Vive Le Difference."
You see, while the Medoc Marathon invites runners to complete an official marathon length course of 42.195 km (or 26 miles), this particular race has some additional qualities you won't find in Boston, New York, or even your local Canadian marathon. The differentiators include the fact that there are as many wine stations as there are water ones; French bread stuffed with foie gras is a food/energy source which is handed out alongside the bananas and oranges, and of course the really defining part of the marathon... it's done in costume.
This year the costume theme was "animals." Which, in a liberal French interpretation, apparently includes insects, a protest-sign-carrying Bridget Bardot, German beer hall frauleins, construction workers, hunters, and even a few geishas. Not to mention the spandex short wearing mounties I also met, Sharon and Michael Vipond, who had made the trek from Vancouver.
"It's ridiculous. And so much fun." Said Sharon, as she threw back a small shot of red wine before trotting off again on the course, which incidentally weaved its way through some of France's most celebrated vineyards and chateaus in the Bordeaux region, including those of Rothschild's.
"You are going to go back and report that all French men are crazy", said my driver. Oh, that's right. I was weaving my way through the marathon runners on the back of a motorcycle, driven by Herve Bruneau, a volunteer from a local bike club. "No, of course not!", I said, while dodging the errant wing of a tutu-wearing, fully-made-up ladybug, hairy legs peeking below his frilly trim.
But as I looked around, it did become apparent that many of the male participants had gleefully embraced their female animal side. If held here in Canada, I have to believe the men here would have displayed a preponderance of moose, grizzly bears, and beavers... at most maybe a graceful elk. I'm pretty sure most of the male marathoners I know would not have jumped at the chance to slip on some fishnets and don a sexy cat costume. You have to run 26 miles in this outfit, after all, not just stand around at an adult only costume party.
As we drove through the small villages, chateaus, and country roads, many local townsfolk cheered and waved flags, the children obviously excited to see the colourful costumes of the 8,500 registered runners (of which an impressive 7,350 would finish). Their reaction to "Le moto," as we drove by, was not quite as enthusiastic.
I've never witnessed such joy and fun in the marathon spirit. And when I heard "Les Canadiens!" announced as our two unmounted friends crossed the finish line I had a moment of pride mixed with pragmatism. After all, they didn't have to break out the tulle to participate or complete in the run.
The Medoc Marathon runs again next year on Sept. 8. I'd start training now if I were you. In fact, I think I'll start with this Cabernet Sauvignon and pate myself. Let the games begin.