Dressed for the Test: Part II of Running to Médoc

Every September in the Médoc region of France, a peninsula located on the Gironde estuary north of Bordeaux, a marathon is held which introduces the runners to some of the finest wines in the world. It is a costume event and the route takes you through the renowned vineyards of Médoc where you can taste the very best each winery has to offer.

The difference in the training between a half marathon and a full marathon is not just 21 kilometers. It is deciphering carbs and fats on food labels. It is finding the right socks to wear so your feet don’t blister. It is chafing and heat stroke. It is the choice between enjoying a social run, with muffins and coffee afterwards, or getting in that very long run that you know you must do.

None of this was done well, because, the bottom line is we run for fun. But we tried and in the end Karen and I, with two friends who came along for support, boarded a plane to Bilbao. Bilbao? Yes, in Spain. We decided to make our venture a road trip and we traveled for a week in Northern Spain before cruising into France.

The wine in Spain is very cheap. Nowhere in any runner’s training manual does it advise to drink wine daily during the week before the run. However, hydration is imperative and it was easier to find cheap wine than good water.

On Friday, September 8 ,2006, we drove our little Renault into Pauillac, a typically quiet riverside village of 5,000 residents. The population had tripled for the weekend with the arrival of eight thousand runners and their friends. Tents were set up all along the shore line. Waves of French cooking mixed with boisterous patriotic song filled the air. The French know how to party.

The next morning Karen, the French Tart, and I, the French Poodle were absolutely dazzled when we ventured out of our little Hotel de France et d’Angleterre. Eight thousand noisy happy runners, still drunk from the night before, had taken over the main street. There were chickens, roosters, centurions, bumblebees and hairy ballerinas. Laughing and dancing with excitement we hovered behind four French chefs wearing only their hats and aprons. Only in France. That would be our motivation to ignore our hangovers and keep running. We did not want to lose sight of those bare butts.

The gun sounded and we were off.

It was so tempting to sample the wine at the various Chateaux such as Chateaus Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Léoville Las Cases. Some who indulged were dropping off, choosing instead to lie under a tree listening to the orchestra or band playing at each vineyard instead of run further. The ranks thinned. There were various short cuts back to the starting gate. Karen and I ran on.

We were told that the temperature hit 38 degrees at its high point. By the half-way mark, Karen had run a little ahead and I had lost sight of her. As I approached the 22k mark, I heard my friends shouting my name. I spotted Karen stomping back towards me. “That’s it, It’s too hot. I’m not doing this anymore. Let’s take the shuttle bus back.”

“Karen”, I said seriously. “I never want to run this long and far again. But, damn it, even if we walk the second half, we are finishing this marathon. Then we can say never again.”

And we did. We crossed the finish line very late in the day, tainted by the heat, abandoned by the crowds. A few faithful spectators lingered along the sides with the hope that their friends would be close behind us.

It became not about the run itself. It was about completion. It was about taking on a task and following through. It continues to be about completion. It touches every area of our lives.

Soon after our return home, the Coach called. “Hey, Cathie, how about we try a triathlon?”

“Where’s the carrot?” I asked.

Catherine Marson is the proud mother of two grown sons, Michael and Leo. She works in finance, but aspires to be a struggling writer someday. She began running when she was just forty-eight years old.

Dressed for the test, In the photo above, runners wear costumes in the South of France. The author is also wearing pink.Runners in Pink
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