Monday, September 13, 2010
I didn’t mean to run a marathon. It kinda happened by accident. Like most things in my life, I was there for the food. And the wine. And the beautiful scenery. I guess I just got caught up in the moment and decided that running a marathon without training for it would be a good idea.
It all started two years ago when a colleague told me tales of a magical marathon in Bordeaux. Thousands of people dressed in crazy outfits ran from winery to winery drinking wine and eating cheese all throughout Medoc. I had never had any desire to run a marathon before then (in fact it was almost a goal not to run one), but the lure of 26.2 miles of costumes, claret, and cheese sounded too good to pass up.
Two years later I got my act together and registered with four friends to run the Medoc Marathon. None of us took the training seriously; I started a month beforehand and the most I ever ran prior to the event was a lousy four miles. I planned to shuffle through the first few wineries and then ride back to the starting line in the sweeper car that they promised me on the website.
On the day of the marathon we put on our costumes (I went as the Little Red Riding Hood to my friend’s Alice in Wonderland) and got on a bus at 6:30am. Then came the hour and a half drive to Pauillac, where the marathon started. After killing some time near the starting line, we were off. It was cool in the morning and the vineyards were beautiful. We shuffled along at a tranquilly slow pace, enjoying the amazing scenery of the region.
At the fifth kilometer we came to our first winery. The novelty of drinking wine during a run made us all laugh as they handed us small cups of claret to sustain us on our journey through the vines. Several kilometers later we arrived at our second winery, this one offering a live band, a tiny tour of the barrels, and a huge table with oysters and pate. I was in marathon heaven. It may have been the wine talking, but I even went so far as to tell my friends that this was the “best idea ever.”
Fast forward a few kilometers of rolling hills and impossibly picturesque chateaux, and we were at the half way point. A giant sign read “Courage! Plus que 22.695kms!”, which in retrospect I realize was a joke. At the time I was so happy to have made it that far that I decided to take it as encouragement. Two of my friends headed back to the starting line, but three of us shuffled on.
By the 25th kilometer I was running by myself in a gaggle of smurfs, bees, gladiators, and vikings. I promised myself that I wouldn’t drink any more wine, but then I arrived at Chateau Lafite Rothschild. You can’t not try the wine at Chateau Lafite Rothschild. So I enjoyed a taste with a Parisian smurf named Etienne, which is exactly how such a wine should be enjoyed.
Shortly after that I started feeling the effects of my lack of training. In the beginning I enjoyed thinking of the distance in kilometers, as it made me feel like I had run farther than I actually had. But by kilometer 28 I had changed my mind. 14 kilometers to go sounded far worse than 8.7 miles. For awhile I tried to think of a system of measurement that would cut the distance down even more (leagues?), but my body refused to let my brain have enough energy to think.
The terrain wore on, and I ran through wineries full of people doing the electric slide and eating what must have been delicious cheeses. For the first time in my life, the thought of eating creamy brie was wholly unappealing. I ate a few apricots and a piece of banana, but with no knowledge of the proper way to nourish oneself during a marathon, I wasn’t sure how much, if anything, to ingest. Instead I just guzzled more and more water as the temperature climbed to a sweltering 87.8 degrees (that’s 31 for all you Celisus-ers). It was about then that I began to regret drinking wine all day the day before. Way to hydrate.
By the 35th kilometer I was seriously considering death as a valid excuse for not finishing. As more and more ambulances lined the roads, I wavered between encouraging myself to keep running and telling myself that I would be the next person on a stretcher if I didn’t stop. The former philosophy won in the end. The last few kilometers featured more tables full of oysters, Jambon de Bayonne, and wine and cheese that I could barely look at. Depressingly, they also featured a lot of the runners that had already finished.
At the 40 kilometer mark I ran into the person I sat next to on the bus in the morning. It was a good thing, too, because I was running out of ways to motivate myself (“you can die right after you cross the finish line” wasn’t doing the trick). We ran the last bit together, during which time I even had the energy to tell my new friend that this was the “worst idea ever.”
Finishing the marathon felt very different from how I imagined it. As we crossed the line at 5:50:40, there was no victory lap (42 kilometers was more than enough running for one day), no overwhelming feeling of accomplishment. There was only the pain in my legs and feet, and a woman that handed me a medal, a rose, and a backpack containing a bottle of wine. At least I got a bottle of wine.
I hobbled over to the massage tent, but the line was so long that my legs couldn’t support me though it. Instead I went to the food tent, where I was promptly handed a pâté-smothered piece of bread. It wasn’t exactly what I was in the mood for right after finishing a marathon, but I wasn’t going to turn down my first real food in over eight hours. The bread was followed by another slice with jam, a cup of cola, and about seventeen cookies (it wasn’t my fault they were all stuck together). After that I found my friends at a table outside and collapsed into a chair, wishing I had a knife with which to amputate my feet.
Later that night we found ourselves back in Bordeaux. I was feeling a bit better, but was hungrier than I’ve been in a long time. We peeled our costumes off, cleaned up, and went for a feast at a local restaurant. It was only then that my brain started functioning again (I think the wine helped) and I was able to laugh at how stupid I was to have thought I could feel good running a marathon. A plate of cannelloni, a giant bowl of risotto, and a generous scoop of gelato later, I was feeling sane enough to make it a goal to never run another marathon. If I go again, it will be for the food.