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Le Marathon des Châteaux du Médoc is known as the world’s longest marathon. The route is the official 42,195 km distance of course, but for some it is a lot longer thanks to the many distractions on the route.
Created in 1984, by a group of enthusiastic runners and La Commanderie du Bontemps du Médoc et Graves, the Marathon du Médoc has now become a 'must run' alongside New York, London and Boston. It takes place each year in early September, before the red wine harvest starts. The reputation of the event has spread, thanks to the prestige of the region and also the reputation of the Marathon as much more than just a sporting event. Over a third of runners come from overseas, both serious runners and serious wine enthusiasts book their spot well in advance, as numbers are limited to 8 500.
The four themes of the organisation are health, sport, conviviality and partying.
Health and sport are pretty obvious themes, it's the partying that makes the difference here, and that same party atmosphere can make the route seem a lot longer.
The circuit loops through the vineyards of the Saint Estèphe, Pauillac and Saint Julien. The Médoc is one of the flattest wine regions of the world, with a high point of just 44 m above sea level, so it seems the perfect place to run a Marathon. However the significance of every little gravel outcrop along the way certainly makes itself felt to the runners.
Over 50 points along the route offer succour to the runners, but it is not only the usual oranges, water and energy packs that are available here to fuel people on their way. On The Marathon du Médoc, runners are encouraged to slow down at the Chateaux on the route; Best of Wine Tourism winners , Château Gruaud Larose and Chateau Cordeillan Bages are amongst the properties on the route to welcome the weary. Some runners make the most of the hospitality at Chateau Cordeillan Bages to stay on for a few days and recuperate afterwards.
The most serious runners might take a glass of water to refresh themselves, for others there is a glass of wine on offer, and many enthusiastically participate, it might even be the reason they signed up for this in the first place. They can enjoy everything from oysters to steaks grilled over vine clippings - yes really! You can see why this might take a while. There is live music along the road adding to the festive atmosphere. Over 90% of runners dress up. The theme this year was Super Heroes and local school children dressed up too, cheering the runners on their way. To end it all there was a big party on the waterfront of Pauillac where over 4000 guests celebrated their success. So conviviality and parting are very much part of the theme of the day.
Chateaux don't have to be on the route to take part, Best of Wine Tourism Winners from Margaux also put up teams of runners; Marie Laure Lurton of Château La Tour Bessan had a team of 30 runners this year and there were six runners from Chateau Lascombe
Applications are now open for 2020, what are you waiting for?
photo credits : AMCM/Mainguy