It’s no mean feat to run a marathon. It’s even harder to run one in 30 degrees of dust clouded air whilst dressed as a morris man and with an inbuilt inability to run past any source of music without breaking into a jingling thigh-slapping dance. Yet dance we did and marathon we must.
To add a couple more personal disadvantages (and I’m not including lack of training here, since no self respecting contestant enters the Marathon du Medoc after actually training for marathon distance) I was also seemingly the only vegetarian in all of France which made carb-loading a tad harder and less enjoyable than it might have been at home. Ask for a vegetarian dish in any authentic French restaurant and they will either show you the door, laugh at the ridiculous joke you just made, or try to feed you a nice big plate of fish. If vegetarianism is a tricky concept to master, there’s really no point in trying to explain pescetarianism (holding a specific grudge against fish). To top it off nicely, I was also busy menstruating. Sorry to mention this chaps (and hardcore feminists who would probably rather deny that a monthly loss of blood can have any bearing on life in general), but menstruation is the biggest energy suck a woman can have, rivalled only by actual pregnancy (or so I have heard). This presented further exciting challenges that nobody else appeared to be having during toilet stops (I use the phrase loosely since it usually involved no toilet) and communal showers…
And so, against all odds, after a hearty bread supper the night before and ample beverages, we set off to the beat of the drums.
The bramble accident
I had run ahead a little way to gain some peeing time so that I could find a nice secluded spot out of sight from the main route. I saw my chance when I spotted some greenery to the right of the path and waded in to find a nice dense little patch to crouch in. Unfortunately they were brambles. Now I was stuck, losing time, bleeding a little from my shins and still in need of a pee. I waited for the team to catch up and pull me out and then darted off down another path. Then had to sprint to catch up (generally the sprint is saved for the finish so this wasn’t ideal, but I could actually run now given that I wasn’t carrying a full bladder).
The sweeper was hot on our heels. After all that dancing and the pee-relays, we were dropping towards the tail end of the race. The clowns with their horns and timing boards were right behind us (and at times in front). After stopping to see if we could be of any help in a medical emergency, we then had to sprint to get ahead again and made it by a pretty slim margin. We would all be seeing honking clowns in sandwich boards in our dreams for days to come.
Just as we were in our final few chateaux stops, the water seemed to dry up. We were flagging somewhat (some more than annoying others), and the only drinks on offer were wine. No matter, we thought, knocking back a delightful little glass of sweet dessert wine, there will be water at the end. So onwards we plodded, swaying slightly under the scanty squirt of villagers’ cooling hosepipes. Those honking clowns were on our heels again and the vineyards were endless. My bottle was getting extremely light along with my head. A brightly feathered gentleman dressed in glitter and little else veered to the roadside to vomit, the sun catching his jewelled surface and scattering the floor with circles like a mirror ball. ‘Honk!’ went the clowns.
Then rounding the corner, the end was in sight. We assembled in morris formation (a line) to cross the victory line in jingling synchronism and the crowd went wild (probably). Yes, there would be medals, goody bags and glorious gift of gifts: water! But alas, there was not. When you finish just ahead of the sweeper, there are a lot of people who have finished before you. An unprecedented number apparently. We strove onwards towards the beer tent in search of fluids and food, but found a dry and empty bar, drunken athletes rolling over the tables like squiffy tumbleweed. One morris went down having managed at least one wine at every stop and now faced with a fence, had some misjudgement issue and sort of bounced back off the top. Just as we were about to give up, another morris spotted the trophy we’d all been seeking… a solitary bottle of water!
A communal shower and many limping steps later, we were nursing our shiny new medals and our hamstrings and promising ourselves that that was the last time. Again. (So we’ll all be booking our flights for next year shortly).