Race review: Medoc Marathon 2015

Medoc Marathon 2015 medal

The first question you ask yourself when you sign up for a marathon probably shouldn’t be, ‘who will be the designated driver?’ Unless of course you are signing up for the infamous Marathon du Médoc. Now in its 31st year the marathon is growing in popularity and infamy. If you’ve not heard of it let me explain. The Médoc Marathon is held in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France. Bordeaux is of course famous for great wine, and the Médoc is where the best of the best comes from. The marathon starts in Pauillac, alongside the Gironde river and makes its way through some of the most famous, and stunning, vineyards in the world. And those vineyards like to give you wine, lots of wine. In 2015 there were 16 official wine stops on route with more available from the local villagers if you needed topping up. Oh, and don’t forget the pre-marathon party (with wine), the bottle of wine in your finishers pack, the post-marathon beer tent (free to all finishers), the post-marathon party and fireworks (with beer and wine tents) and the Sunday recovery walk through more vineyards (with wine) and recovery lunch (well you can probably work out what’s served with that!). How does that all sound? Pass the paracetamol? And, this is probably the only marathon you’ll do where they serve oysters, steak, waffles and ice-cream as you go round. Antacids?

Well this year was our fourth year at the Médoc Marathon, my second competing, and first completing the full marathon. I’ve been very unlucky with this event, picking up injuries prior to the marathon three years in a row. This year I was determined to finish even if I had to crawl round, and trust me after the first ten wine stops you see some people that are very nearly crawling, so I wouldn’t have looked out of place. We’ve had a mixture of weather, our first time it was in the low 90s! This year it started hot and sunny (I also started with red hair). Then halfway through the rain started, and it didn’t stop for nearly three hours (by the time I finished all the hair dye had been washed out, not a trace of red left). But there is so much going on around you that you don’t even think about the rain, or that you are walking 26.2 miles. From rock bands to jazz, brass bands to dj’s and even a George Michael wannabe, the entertainment is incredible. The only thing better is the support. All the local villagers turn out; helping with marshalling, cheering you on, cooling you down with their garden hose, belting out Abba classics from their stereos. They are quite simply amazing.

My only grumble with the marathon is the ‘sweep-up truck.’ To ensure that participants get round in the allotted 6hrs 30mins, there is a sweep-up truck, manned by people with actual brooms, who chase you along and beep horns in your ear. They are lovely people, I got to know them quite well, but when they have been on your heels for nearly two hours you start to resent them a little bit! But also without them I wouldn’t have achieved my current pb, having knocked 21 minutes off my old one. So I begrudgingly say, merci.

This is a fantastic event, even if you don’t like wine, there is so much going on, so many different events, that you are guaranteed to have an amazing time. It also has an incredible international following. I’ve spoken to runners and walkers from all over the world, for some it’s their first time, for others they come back every year.

If you fancy taking part next year, it will be held on the 10th September. Registration normally opens in February, however it is now such a popular event, that you will have to keep an eye out for when it opens, and register as soon as it does.

Oh, and did I mention, it is compulsory fancy dress? Next year’s theme: Tales and Legends.

Medoc Marathon 2014 - Carnival

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Power walking: How far do you want to go?

Half marathon and 5km medals - one crazy weekend in July

Fancy doing an event but aren’t sure how far you want to, or can go? Having a goal means that you are more likely to stick to your exercise plan, but there are several different distances for you to choose from. When I finished my first 5km it was a relief. Lots of people do 5kms, it would have been embarrassing not to cross that finish line. When I finished my first 10km I swore I’d never do another race again. When I finished my first marathon I was blubbering wreck, and again, swore never to do another race. But after countless 5kms, several 10kms (not my favourite distance), a couple of half marathons, a few marathons and one 32.5 miler, I know the importance of having a goal. In fact, the reason I do so many races is that if I didn’t sign up for an event I would probably struggle to get out of bed on a Sunday morning to do yet another 4, 6, 10, or even 20 miler.

So how do you choose what distance you want to do? Fitness level is of course one consideration. Time is most definitely another. Let’s take a look at the standard distances and see how you can fit them into your life and exercise routine.

5km

5km, or 3.13 miles in old money, is the shortest distance you will find for most race events, and the starting point for most walkers. This distance is suitable for those who have not done any exercise for a while. It is also great if you are short on time as you can train for a 5km in six weeks, doing 1.5-3 hours a week. Race for Life runs 5km events, for runners, joggers and walkers, around the UK every year.

10km

10km (I’m sure you can do the maths on this one), is the next step up. If you have a base level of fitness and can walk for 30 minutes at a steady pace without getting out of breath, then you should be able to train for a 10km within six weeks. You’ll be looking at doing 3-4 hours a week of walking.

Half marathon (13.1 miles)

This is where the serious miles start. To complete a half marathon I’d recommend that you sign up for a 5km or 10km first. Not only will you build up your fitness levels and endurance, but you’ll also gain race experience.

For a half marathon you’re looking at a 12 week training plan, with a committment of 3-4 hours a week at the beginning, building to 5-6 hours by the end of the plan.

Full marathon (26.2 miles)

The big one. For a lot of walkers, this is a bucket list distance. Do it once, tick it off. Firstly, I must warn you that once is rarely enough. Secondly, many walkers sign up for a marathon having never done any other races or distances. I’m not going to say it’s impossible to do a marathon without having done any other distance before (my brother proved me wrong on that one), but it will be tough, and you will hurt a lot more after. And you will probably be put off doing another event again.

If you have already done a 10km or a half marathon and have maintained your fitness levels, you should be able to train for a marathon within 12 weeks. If you haven’t done anything before, I’d recommend a minimum of 16 weeks. Timewise you are looking at a weekly committment of 3-4 hours to start with, building to 6-8 hours in the middle and tapering to 4-5 hours. This might not sound like a lot of time, but take into consideration that one day a week you will be doing a ‘long one’ of up to 5 hours.

There are also a variety of distances in between these, for example the Great South Run is 10 miles, but the above are the standard distances you will see advertised. Remember that no matter how far you go, you still got out there, you still went for it, you still achieved something. And you may want to find somewhere to hang your medals, because once is never enough. Trust me.