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"It's all about taking on liquid and making friends," winked a RoboCop. He wagged a finger. "But not too much wine!" A health certificate (physical rather than mental) is required to enter the race. "It's hectare after hectare of hospitality out there" Photo © Yves Mainguy/AMCM "It sums up l'esprit du Medoc" Jean-Yves Saint-Céran of the PR department said as we stood at the starting line in Pauillac, beside the Gironde estuary. "On this day we celebrate health, sport and joie de vivre." A Wookiee in shorts offered me a wine cork to chew on. "To keep up my energy levels," he explained. Les Bouchons de Bordeaux are delicious almond sweets made to look like wine bottle corks. "You should try and eat three corks a day to keep the cramp away," a passing Romulan smiled. "C'est l'Aquitaine way." I limbered up among a sea of Ewoks. You could tell the serious runners from the fun runners. The elite runners weren't wearing Batman suits or Superman capes. "It's hectare after hectare of hospitality out there. The friendliness is almost unbearable," said a gentleman dressed as a Borg. I was surrounded by tentacles and green faces, Timelords and Jedi. "This run's about your tastebuds. Not your lungs and legs," said a Joker. From start to finish, degustation stations, or "les postes sauvages," offer local specialties such as "grenier medocain" (flattened paunch of pig) and Bayonne ham. People hold out cheese to you as well as ice cream cornets. Whereas most spectators at marathons encourage you with cries of "Keep it going" or "Allez! Allez!" in Médoc they just say, "Paté? Paté?" At the time of the marathon, a roadside sign of cow does not mean you are approaching a cattle grid or crossing. It means: "Warning! Complimentary gourmet barbecued entrecôte steak ahead washed down with a rather nice local rosé." There are 29 wine tasting stops en route. Local producers pitch tables by the roadside to tempt you with their wonderful wares. The Cap Ferret oyster stands were my downfall and the sponge stations offering the local "Lillet" fruit liqueur made in Podensac. Before I got to the "Vers St-Julien" signpost, my face was the colour of Merlot and I felt I had aged 20 years. I started walking like Frankenstein within a half a mile of the start. Not because of cramp. But because of gout. I began to hallucinate when four Godzillas bounded past me pursued by Bilbo Biggins. Fortunately, for a while I found myself in the slipstream of R2-D2 and Willy Wonka. I remember being passed by Dumbledore. Or was it Gandalf? And a number of Buffies and Brainiacs.
Then came real humiliation. When you are overtaken by a Yoda in a pram, you know your athletics career is over. Or never really started. It was a pity. My training had gone well. The roadwork had been put in. For three months, I had gone to as many cheese and wine parties as I could. I had miles of cheese strips under my belt. After a short nap among the vines, I followed the smell of gastronomy back into Pauillac to see the victor cross the line and win himself roughly 80 bottles of wine - his body weight in wine. Every competitor gets a T-shirt, a knapsack and, at my race, an optional handshake from and photo opportunity with King Kong. A Klingon appeared beside me and blurted out, "Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!" Photos © Yves Mainguy/AMCM He bore his teeth, crinkled the frown lines on his cheese-grater forehead and handed me a post-race digestif. "Today is a nice day to die!" Obi-Wan Kenobi collapsed nearby. "Un vignoble effort, mon ami," a voice said. It came from the direction of Aslan. Although it may have been Conan the Barbarian. Or Gollum. Only in France… For further information: Medoc Marathon takes place each September, you can run or join a walking route: www.marathondumedoc.com If you want to register for next year's race: http://www.marathondumedoc.com/ reglement/ www.tourisme-aquitaine.fr Hotel Continental
Bonjour and bienvenue to the Autumn
Features continued 54 UNESCO World
From April to October the big draw
The Cathedral of Chartres The Cathe
The Old town of Chartres The best w