Running the Marathon Du Medoc AKA the France Wine Marathon

Oh boy. Where to start. Ever since I finished my journey to every country the world, I’ve been trying to find cool things to do around the world. If it’s combined with exercise, even better. And not much on our planet comes cooler than running a marathon AND drinking wine, so when I stumbled across the Marathon Du Medoc, aka the France Wine Marathon, I was intrigued. So I did a little more research.

Marathon Du Medoc
Marathon Du Medoc

What is the Marathon Du Medoc?

What is the Marathon Du Medoc? Well, it’s other name is the France Wine Marathon, so I’m sure you’re getting the picture. It’s a French marathon race, held every year in September, since 1985, with over 8000 runners year year!

So basically the Marathon Du Medoc is 100% a REAL marathon, all 26 miles (42.2km) of it. BUT, rather than having water breaks every 1km or so, there are WINE BREAKS.

Yes, I’m 100% serious. The Marathon Du Medoc route runs through various vineyards and chateaux during the 42km. Roughly every 1km or so, you reach a new chateaux. At that chateaux there will be a ‘water break’, except 90% of what’s on offer isn’t water, it’s wine. Little plastic cups of the stuff, unlimited really. There are also some snacks (cheese, crackers etc) AND if you’re a spoil-sport, there even is water to keep you hydrated.

You repeat this chateaux to chateaux race until 26 miles, and 20-25 wine stops, until you stumble over the finish line.

Marathon Du Medoc
Our Marathon Du Medoc team!

Where is the Marathon Du Medoc?

The French wine marathon is near Bordeaux, in the south west of France. It’s a 90 minute drive, about 50km north.

It’s run in the vineyards of ‘Medoc‘, hence the name.

How do I get Marathon Du Medoc tickets?

Eurrrrrrgh. IT’S TOUGH! I ran a Marathon Du Medoc tour last year as one of my onestep4ward trips and IT WAS A NIGHTMARE TO GET TICKETS!

The simple answer is that you get tickets through the official website here. However, you can’t pre-book tickets. And the tickets are all released on one day, and they sell out within an hour or 2.

I had already sold 20 spots before the tickets were released and as I had harassed, begged, borrowed and stole to get tickets in advance, they kindly phoned me the day the tickets were released. That day, I was on honeymoon in Lake Como! I ran back to my hotel, booked 20 odd tickets. Refreshed once more, and they were sold out. That was close. So yeah, they’re super difficult to get hold of. Beware.

How many people enter each year?

Over 8000! It seemed like it was 99% French people, there are very few foreigners (probably due to it selling out in a day!).

How much are Marathon Du Medoc tickets?

There are various different ticket options. The basic option is 96€ just for the race entry. You can also include dinner the night before (it’s a big party), a party after, a small event the day after etc etc.

Last year, I bought the most expensive option which included the posh dinner the night before. DON’T DO THIS! It runs super late, and you don’t really want to drink toooo much before running a marathon.

My top-tip is to buy the basic entry ticket ONLY, plus the transport to/from the event (about an additional 30 euro or so if I remember rightly).

What’s this about fancy dress?

Normally, 95%+ of people run in fancy dress. The organisers determine a theme of fancy dress each year. Last year, in the event we participated in, fancy dress was compulsory! Even for the semi-elite. Although of course, it’s not policed, so don’t worry.

medoc marathon
The day before the medoc marathon

Isn’t everyone really drunk on the French Wine Marathon?

It’s a personal choice. I did it with a really fun group of people, so for most of us, YES! Equally there were a few people in our group who had never run a marathon before, and they hadn’t exactly killed themselves training (!) so they treated the actual race day with respect and pushed themselved to finish their first marathon. So some of them barely drunk.

For me, I had just climbed Denali, North America’s highest mountain and one of the seven summits, so I was fit. That meant that I could ‘run’ at the back with the slower entrants but fully enjoy EACH AND EVERY WINE STOP! We didn’t miss one. And often we doubled and tripled our samples.

My Training advice for the Marathon Du Medoc?

My number 1 tip for running the french wine marathon is to train for a marathon. If you want to maximise the experience, train properly, for 3 months or more. Then, on race day, forget about getting a good time. Use your fitness level to experience the whole thing with a smile on your face and a glass in your hand. That worked out perfectly for us.

Is there a cut-off time?

Yes, officially 6 hours 30 minutes. But in reality it’s closer to 7 or even 7 and a half hours. A trolley of sorts, and a guy with a sign, walks briskly noting the 7 hour time. If they catch you, you’re out. We stayed 5/10 minutes ahead of them the whole time. It was a fun game of cat and mouse. But it wasn’t so fun for the people who hadn’t trained, they were genuinely worried they might get kicked out.

But as I said in the tip above, the key is to be fit, so that’s never a risk. At any time you can put the afterburners on and leave the trolley in your wake!

marathon du medoc tour

Do you have to pay for the wine during the race?

Nope! It’s a fun atmosphere, and the chateauxs are very much part of it. So each chateaux provides their own wine. Pretty genius on behalf of the organisers to be honest.

More than that, the wine is essentially unlimited. Feel free to have water, or one glass, or 3, or 5!

What’s the success rate of finishing this thing!?

Due to the boozy nature of the event, and the boozy nature of the night before for some people, it’s inevitable that people drop out. Some of our group didn’t manage to finish it, and that goes for hundreds more too!

I think people assume it’s easier than it is. But if you’ve never run (or even walked) 42km before, you’ll be surprised how hard it is. Now add plenty of wine… there’s every chance that you’ll fail if you haven’t trained. It’s up to you whether you care or not. For me, if I enter something I 100% want to finish, where for others, they don’t care. Each to their own.

Where do you sleep when you run the Marathon Du Medoc?

The Marathon Du Medoc is obviously in the ‘Medoc’ region of vineyards. It’s 90 minutes north of Bordeaux. So there are 2 schools of thought really. Either stay in the Medoc region (limited availability, not much to do), or stay in Bordeaux (a bit annoying getting to/from the race, but much more accommodation options and stuff to do outside the race).

For me, I recommend staying in Bordeaux. The race organisers offer transport to/from the race. It’s not smooth, but it works. So all good. And on the way back, you’re a bit drunk anyway!

wine marathon medoc
wine marathon ‘water’ break

Marathon Du Medoc Tips:

  1. Buy only the entrance ticket. The other tickets with additional activities aren’t necessary to be honest.
  2. Choose your fancy dress in a way that allows you to still be quite mobile. We choose ‘Dodgeball’ for that exact reason.
  3. Stay in Bordeaux. And book your accommodation 6 months in advance if possible, it sells out!
  4. Train for a real marathon. That will allow you to drink and enjoy the experience without dying from the 42km distance!
  5. Do it with friends. SOOOOO much more fun that way.
  6. Make the most of the event. We included a vineyard tour before hand too in Bordeaux, it was beautiful. We also then took the train north to Paris and visited Champagne (more booze) and the epic Moulin Rouge (even more booze). What a week.
  7. Plan a detox after!
france wine marathon
Anthony and me

Running the Marathon Du Medoc; My Personal Experience

I run a lot of cool trips through my blog and my Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Central African Republic, Turkmenistan, Mali, South Sudan. If it’s a little scary, and one of the least visited countries in the world, I normally run trips there! I don’t normally run trips to the most visited countries in the world, like France! But the prospect of running a wine marathon convinced me. And knowing the people who join my other epic trips, this would be right up there street.

So I organised it. And it sold out in a day! Quelle surprise. We all met in Bordeaux the day before and began sampling the local delicacies, mostly red wine. Our group did a vineyard tour, and did the dinner event the night before the race (as mentioned above, not recommended. We got back super later and had an early start for the marathon the next morning. I made a big mistake here.)

Marathon Du Medoc
Marathon Du Medoc

Race day though? It was epic. A 6am bus from Bordeaux to Medoc. A bit of a hectic time trying to find the start points etc, but once in place it ran like clockwork. We had a group of 22 or so. All in fancy dress. Some doing their first marathons, some doing their 20th. Some non-drinkers, the others… quite the opposite.

The energy at the event is magical. Thousands of people. All in fancy dress. All ready to go. Media everywhere, helicopters filming. It was truly something else. And off we went.

We stayed in a group of about 6 or 7 of us. All friends. All similar-ish level. LIke all marathons, the start is hectic. Thousands moving forward. Within 10 minutes we were at our first ‘water break’. And despite the crowds, we weren’t skipping it! 2 glasses of Bordeaux later, and we were off once more.

2nd break. Wine.

3rd break. Wine.

4th, 5th, 6th. Wine. More wine. Wine.

wine marathon france

Smiles grew widers. At least they did with the people who had trained a bit. For the others as we approached the 10th km, a quarter of the way through, some grimaces appeared. The wine consumption decresed a little for some. And by the 21km, the half-marathon mark, was reached. We lost a few brave soldiers.

But on we went. 10-20 water breaks. Wine. Wine. More wine. Wine. I was feeling a little drunk. At the 22km mark, we were tripling up our glasses but shock, horror, the trolley almost caught us! We had our first glimpse of the cut-off mark. Eeeeek.

We sped up for a couple of km to leave the grim reaper behind and moved on. Not skipping any wine stops of course! We weren’t the only ones consuming our fair share and more.

Where some chateauxs were simply giving out wine, by the 30km mark, some of the chateauxs were mimicking something close to actual parties! It was still only midday or so, but live music, dancing, extra wine all around!

french wine marathon

By 35km, even the strugglers knew they could force through another 5km, so it was a true party mode by then. By then time we reached 41km, with 1km to go, we were pretty tipsy to be honest. 7 hours in. No trolley in sight, it was a victory lap.

Suddenly not only was it just wine, but oysters, steak and even champagne at the stops! And there we were, our team still solid. Allbeit perhaps swaying a little side to side!

We made it with about 10 minutes to spare. A brilliant day. Just the annoying 90 minute bus ride back to bordeaux and we were done. CONGRATS TEAM!

The blurry good times continued, but that’s for another day. The champagne at the late night Moulin Rouge was a highlight, as was the sunset Seine cruise, and of course our trip to Moet and Chandon. The booziest trip of my life. Detox directly after? Not for me, I stupidly had preorganised a trip to Oktoberfest. So off we went to Germany…

france wine marathon

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