To the Médoc for my birthday, so I can enjoy some of the world's
finest wines as a fitting tribute to my longevity.
You see, my birthday is on the Friday, but the Saturday is the day
of the Marathon du Médoc, so we're in lockdown mode, nothing
but sensible food and drink and an early night! Ok, technically only
Amanda is, but the things I do for love, eh?
This is her third MdM, so we're old hands now. First time, we bought
an expensive and poor-value package with an uninspiring hotel in
Bordeaux and a long shuttle bus ride there and back. Second time we
DIY'd, and rented a motorhome which we could park at the municipal
campsite just around the corner only minutes from all the action.
This time, though, we'd only want a motorhome for the weekend, but
with a minimum of a week's rental we can't take that route.
Accommodation in Pauillac itself is all but nonexistent and sells
out more or less instantly, but we have a cunning plan. We have
found a place to stay some 20km away, then we'll drive in to near
the race start, park the car and ride our bikes the last two or
three km. Apart from my digital floozy (aka satnav) being a bit
stroppy and trying to take us on the heavily congested 'obvious'
route until forced to accept we aren't going that way, this plan
This year's theme is Fête Foraine, or 'Funfair' to us
monoglots (well, those whose only glot is English, of course: to
French monoglots it's still Fête Foraine). As usual, while
not everyone's interpretation will be entirely clear, most people
make a good effort.
Ok, obviously the few available rooms have to be taken by somebody,
and these resplendent butterflies are waving down from their balcony
right above the crowd. The hotel, incidentally, is called the Hotel
de France et d'Angleterre, which may possibly be a reference
to the glorious days in the Middle Ages when the French crown was
held by a Brit. Of course, then we had to go and lose the Hundred
Years War, and I'm sure much of the support for Brexit is based on
still-simmering resentment for that 15th-century humiliation.
But everybody in town seems very nice to us and nobody says the
B-word in our presence.
Now, who else can we find to provide a bit of colour...?
It's Daddy Bear, Mummy Bear and Baby Bear (not the children's
edition, of course). Obviously the question marks after Trop du
vin??? point out the existential question of whether such a
thing is in fact possible. Philosophers like to debate the
difference between 'necessary' truths and 'contingent' truths, and
certainly quite a lot of du vin is necessary for this.
One for the aging hippies among us. Nobody we know, just people who
can't resist a camera
And one for the ladies!
One for, err, I'm not exactly sure who...
One for the thanataesthetes perhaps (yes, that is a word I've just
made up, but I think it's quite a good one). Just because you're
dead, that doesn't mean you can't wear a pink hat.
Ok, enough of this frivolity, we've got a race to run!
Even right at the front, where the serious runners tend not to go
overboard on the dressing up, it's good to see Brane-Cantenac is
showing some proper team spirit. They've been up among the top teams
every year we've been here: deuxième cru perhaps, but they
have aspirations towards premier courant (which is my best
guess at "top run" in French, and Google Translate is of no help
here at all!)
They're encouraged on their way by cheering spectators and random
That's another nice thing about this race, the names printed on your
bib number so that everyone can cheer you on, not just your friends
or family. Not unique, but rare in events of this size.
The route passes through vineyards and villages, and in many places
it's only a narrow bit of road separating the two.
Not a cloud in the sky, and it's predicted to reach 28C today,
perhaps the hottest MdM ever.
They go thataway, I'll go thisaway and head 'em off at another
"Vive les moutons!" - not runners, but supporters, taking the
Baron Philippe Merry-go-Sheep along the road to where the running
route crosses it.
Even the (relatively!) humble crus bourgeois can have some
classic architecture. This is Larose Trintaudon, which I confess is
not a name that trips off my tongue. However they tell us that the
domain is "now one of the largest vineyards in the Medoc both in
terms of size and production, based on the great potential of its
‘terroir’" It does slightly spoil the romance to learn that
the family who created it in the early 18th century sold out long
ago and it's now owned by the insurance company Allianz!
Yes, that is cake stretching almost as far as the eye can
see! Strangely, there doesn't seem to be any wine here, although
that's definitely a winery building just behind the stalls.
Heading up to Cos d'Estournel now, which is Amanda's definite
favourite château architecturally speaking. Sadly they're not
joining in this year, nor were they in 2015 for our previous outing.
In 2011, I didn't have my bike, so I was much more limited in what I
could see, and obviously Sod's Law would suggest that that was the
year when Cos was pulling out all the stops.
Never mind, we'll still have a little pose by the gate.
Did I mention it was hot? A lot of people are walking even though
we've still a long way to go.
Some châteaux let bicycle riders through their grounds with the
runners, some don't. Château La Haye are one of the ones that don't,
but Amanda had told me that it was a real pity I'd missed their
wonderful balloon display last time and I'd been hoping to get a bit
But they only stop you going in through the in door; ride around and
you can enter via the exit! La Haye's balloons have become something
of a tradition I gather. Oh, and they are giving out wine
samples. Naturally I do my duty and take Amanda's for her.
This year the carrots might well be cooked; in 2015 they had just
been covered with water and no heat applied at all. I had to use my
little waterproof camera at that point that year.
It's not just wine I have to consume on Amanda's behalf: oysters
too! And note my matching top (although I haven't got the skirt).
So to the finish line, and if she's really run the whole race in an
inflatable allosaurus I'm most impressed!
Despite me shouting at her (and not being altogether inconspicuous,
I would have thought), Amanda still doesn't see me as she
concentrates on the finish.
She's been suffering badly with cramp in the last quarter of the
race and has had to stop and walk several times. Consequently I am
under strict instructions not to take a picture of her showing the
finish clock with what she expects to be a horrendous time. It will
come as a great and pleasant surprise to her (not such a surprise to
me!) to find when the results are in that everyone was slow
in today's conditions and she's well up there in the top 10%.
The longest marathon in the world is over for another year, and much
fun it has been. Now we'll have a little refreshment and check out
the many food stalls and maybe (well, ok, definitely!) have an ice
cream before reversing the morning plan and riding the short
distance back to the car and then on to the B&B.
And hey, it's a day late maybe, but time now for a birthday glass of
Today the Médoc, tomorrow the Loire; but that's the running done for
Love to all,