Saturday, 10 September 2011

I am The Marathon Jogger!!!

Short version:  Did it.  :)

Long version:  Probably better you stick with the short version above.  OK?  What, you're still here?  Alright then...

The trip over was interminable and the cloud blew away to give a nice sunny start to the day.  Damn.  I was a total bag of nerves and babbled incessantly the whole way over.  Thanks so much to Malcolm for  taking me there and holding my hand.  Couldn't have done it without you...

We got there in plenty of time and, in spite of the place being overrun with cars, got parked up.  I'd had breakfast on the way but really, really had to go.  If you know what I mean...  Queued for an hour for a loo and was really pleased I  had had the foresight to bring my own paper with me.  (Yeah,  I know:  Enough detail is already too much.)

Everywhere I looked, there were people in fancy dress.  So much so, that I felt  I hadn't made an effort.  If I do this again, I'll  definitely get dressed up for the occasion but on this  inaugural event, I hadn't wanted to  overcomplicate the day for myself.

With 15 minutes to go, we arrived  at the back of the start area and started to move forwards through the runners when a cheer went up.  The race had started early and I have no idea why.  Our friends son had the same thought so it wasn't just me.  Anyway, it had clouded up nicely during my, er, wait earlier so the  temperature was  perfect.

The first couple of kilometres were very stop/start as I had really begun at the back of the pack and some of the streets were quite narrow in places. It began was quite breezy and began to drizzle as we left Pauillac and headed out into the countryside and stayed like that for most of the first 15 kilometres. 

Now, the refreshment stops are a little unusual on this event.  Due to the predominantly hot weather, there are  more than a dozen water/food stops.  However, in addition to this, there are almost twice as many  wine tasting stations.  The marathon winds through what is probably the greatest wine production area in the world and passes through the grounds of world famous chateaux including properties such as Pichon-Longueville, Mouton Rothschild, Lafite Rothschild and Phélan-Ségur.  Yes, I really did  mean that you can sample wines as you go along the route.  In addition to the usual refreshments (bananas, raisins, bread, etc.) there are also vol-au-vents, paté and even foie gras all offered freely.  In addition, several  of the villages and even  individual families  set up impromptu stands offering  food and drink to the runners.  It really  is amazing.  I passed on the wine and rich food, focusing only on the road ahead.

Around  20km, I spotted  family and friends in the crowds, a welcome boost.  I paused to chat and to kiss the little one and then off I went, encouraged and refreshed.  What  I didn't know was the the 4-year-old  was really upset that I ran off and  they had a heck of a job to cheer her up afterwards.

About this point, my legs started complaining a bit but nothing too bad.  This grew steadily out to around 35km.  My elation at running further than  I had ever done before was short-lived  as this was where I hit the only significant  hill.  It lasts around 3km and under normal conditions would  pass as a gentle slope.  Today, however, it was like scaling the north face of the Eiger. By kilometre 37 I was having to walk a hundred metres or so every kilometre and then jogging again to the next  kilometre marker.

At this point, things became a little bizarre.   I was pre-occupied by  not having seen my supporters since the halfway point (more on this later) when the refreshment station really changed.  A lot.  Over the last 5 kilometres, there is in effect a five course meal served up  at the official refreshment stations.  Jambon ( dry-cured ham), followed by oysters (no, really), steak and chips, cheese and ice-cream.  I by-passed all but the last of these as I was really suffering by this point but that glace au chocolat was the best I ever had.

As a final curve-ball, there was a  special station where you could repair your make-up before the finish and it was truly bizarre to see groups of exhausted people painting each other before doing the last few hundred metres.

I somehow called up a last reserve of energy to jog the final kilometre to the finish where I was given a medal, a kiss and very purple sport bag  full of loot.  Still no family in sight.  I cooled down and stretched.  Still no family.  So I went into the runners refreshment tent. In here, there was an all-you-can-eat free buffet for  finishers.  Meat, cheese, fruit, yoghurt, deserts, bread.  And beer.  And, of course, wine.  All as much as you wanted.  I picked at the fruit and  gratefully took a cool beer when my wife managed to get in touch.

They had had a  blowout driving between  points on the course and the car had somehow fallen off the jack.  No one was  hurt but, in honesty, they looked more tired than I did.  So, after a shower and another medicinal beer, I got behind the wheel and drove us to the evening revels.  Many thanks to Brigitte and David for  looking after us all, especially as they were expecting so many guests the day after.

And so to bed...