Done: Race #11 of the LauranDoes179 ALS Challenge!

Glad tidings, reader(s)!  I’ve popped in to let everyone know that, on Saturday the 12th of September, I completed le Marathon du Medoc which was the 11th race of my LauranDoes179 Challenge to raise money for the Blazeman Foundation for ALS research as part of the larger TeamDrea Challenge.

All clean and tidy at the start line
All clean and tidy at the start line

Le Marathon du Medoc is held every year in the heart of the Bordeaux region in France and is the most bizarre and brilliant way to spend the day – ever.

Marathon du Medoc is so awesome even Jesus runs it!
Marathon du Medoc is so awesome even Jesus runs it!

The course runs through the famous towns and vineyards of Saint-Estèphe, Pauillac, Saint Julien, etc.  There were 18 wine stops this year at various Chateaux along the route where one could have a glass (or three) of some pretty special wines (Lafite was the first stop of the day, followed later by Beychevelle, Leoville Barton, the list goes on).

Me at the Phelan Segur wine stop
Me at the Phelan Segur wine stop..about 11km into the race

Along with the wine, there are local food specialities on offer, including oysters, cheeses, steak, ice cream, and foie gras at various points along the course.  Fancy dress is compulsory (this year’s theme was ‘Dressed up to the Nines’) and the Chateaux spare no expense or effort when it comes to putting on a party all along the route.  Most have bands playing and decorations up and donate about 250 bottles of their wines (mostly the second wines rather than the Grand Vins but still…) served up to thirsty runners by Chateau staff and family.  It is a wonderful, wonderful race punctuated by the beauty of the region and architecture, the delicious wine and food, and the generosity and wonderful spirit of the Chateaux.

Balloons among the vines
Balloons among the vines
A band plays us to the next wine stop
A band plays us to the next wine stop

So the scene has been set.  Now let’s get on with the trip report.  Mike and I arrived in Bordeaux on Thursday morning and made our way to Margaux where we were staying.  Thursday night we had a fabulous private tour and dinner at Chateau Phélan Ségur in Saint-Estèphe with the Chateau’s managing director, Véronique.  Phélan is a wonderful and friendly property and has been one of my favourites for a long time so it was incredibly special to be able to spend time with Véronique and learn more about the history of the Chateau and the region.

Praying at the altar of Phelan Segur
Praying at the altar of Phelan Segur

Friday morning meant it was time to get ourselves up north to the town of Pauillac which acts as Marathon du Medoc HQ so we could look round the expo and pick up our numbers (and hang out at with the Haribo folks, obvs).  The rest of the day was pretty quiet and was rounded out with a lovely picnic supper, procured from the gourmet epicerie at Chateau Lynch Bages, back in the hotel room and an early bedtime.

It's me!
It’s me!
I think the mascot was actually drunk
I think the mascot was actually drunk
Hangin' with Haribo
Hangin’ with Haribo
At the Expo!
At the Expo!

Saturday was race day!  Mike and I got up early, hit the marathon breakfast provided by the hotel, got into our costumes, and got on the road to Pauillac and the start line.  We made it to the chute with plenty of time to spare ahead of the 9:30am kick-off and enjoyed a pre-start aerialist show before the gun got all 8,500 of us on our way.

Aerialists perform before the starting gun
Aerialists perform before the starting gun
Me and Mikey at the start line
Me and Mikey at the start line

On we went merrily enough heading North to Saint-Estèphe in a wide loop which took in Lafite Rothschild, Phélan Ségur, and Montrose amongst others.  We then headed back through Pauillac, stopping at the local cooperative, le Rose Pauillac.  Our route headed south until Chateau Beychevelle and then headed back up towards Pauillac through Saint Julien and Saint-Lambert stopping at the Leoville properties and passing the formidable Chateau Latour (no wine tasting there, sadly).

A soggy bottle of Amiral at the Chateau Beychevelle wine stop 33km into the race
A soggy bottle of Amiral at the Chateau Beychevelle wine stop 33km into the race
Let us in, Latour!
Let us in, Latour!
Heading past Leoville Las Cases on the way back to Pauillac and the finish line
Heading past Leoville Las Cases on the way back to Pauillac and the finish line

After an ice cream and a glass of bubbly, the finish line awaited us on the shore of the Gironde back in Pauillac.  There, we got our medals and our bottle of wine and I got my rose and my kiss as is customary for lady finishers.  We celebrated our success with a(nother) glass of wine and a cold beer in the finishers’ tent watching some crazy Swedish people dancing to Bruce Springsteen.  It was a perfect way to end the day.

Finished!
Finished!
Mikey and I celebrate our success!
Mikey and I celebrate our success!

The event is magical and I’m so glad I did it again (having completed it in 2014) but my race was beyond tough.  I badly sprained my ankle in July which has left me with quite a lot of residual pain.  This is obviously bad from a pain perspective but it has also meant my training hasn’t been what it should be.  My ankle began to hurt at about 4km and didn’t give me any relief until I crossed the finish line.  It hurt so badly I had to take long walk breaks – something I am not proud of.  There were lots of tears on what should have been a fun, carefree day of running a wonderful race for a great cause and Mikey had to do a lot of positive talking to keep me going (thanks Mikey).  I was mortified to be walking for such long stretches, I was stressed about making the cut off time, and worried Mikey wasn’t enjoying his race experience as much as he should have.  But as the finish line came in sight and Mikey coaxed me at a slow trot along the final stretch of red carpet, the tears turned into those of joy and pride.  I did it.  For Andrea, for the Blazeman Foundation for ALS research, for everyone not able to do what I can do.  I did it.

Completely breaking down as I crossed the finish line
Completely breaking down…about 20 yards from the finish the tears came flooding.

Everybody has strengths and that’s awesome.  But sometimes we wish these strengths, these things which separate us from others or help us to know our true selves, were different.  For example, I wish one of my strengths was athletic ability.  I wish the image I had in my head of a long, lean figure cutting through the miles of a marathon matched the reality of a lady of middling height and weight plodding along at the rear end of the pack (in a tutu).

My rear at the rear
My rear end at the rear end

I sometimes catch myself in a game of ‘if only:’ if only I was 10 lbs lighter, if only I hadn’t injured my ankle in July, if only I had gone ahead and taken that gel 13 minutes ago, if only I had worn the compression socks…..I would be running faster and better.  But here’s the thing: I am who I am thanks to the opportunities, challenges, hard work, successes, and failures I have experienced throughout my life and no amount of ‘if only’ is going to change that.  I toed the start line of le Marathon du Medoc a lady of middling height and weight with a sore ankle and no real athletic ability to speak of.  That was that…that was my lot.  But you know what?  I’m glad I was that person at the start line because I finally put to bed the delusions of ‘if only’ when it comes to running.  I will never be Paula Radcliffe or Mikey for that matter – fast and lean gazelles polishing off the miles – but I finally came to terms with that BEING OKAY.  Because I learned what my strength was and that’s absolute unrelenting determination to get a job done NO MATTER WHAT.  No, I didn’t win.  In fact, I barely finished this year.  But finish I did and that makes me one heckuva success in my book.  Run on, tutu girl, run on.

Care to help me with my fundraising for the Blazeman Foundation?  Awesome!  I have a ‘donate’ button in my header or you can follow the link below:

www.active.com/donate/teamblazeman/laurandoes179    

I’m now 115.31 miles into my Challenge (including the 13.1 miles run by Mikey in race #10)….63.69 miles left to go!  Given my ankle injury, Mike is representing LauranDoes179 at the next race, the Loch Ness Marathon on the 27th of September.  The next time I run is race #13…the Great Scottish Half Marathon in Glasgow on October 4th.

PS: I’d like to give a shout out to a lovely lady I know, Elaine Durkin, who made her half marathon debut this weekend at the famous and fabulous Great North Run in Newcastle.  She and her fellow running buddies killed it and, judging from the pictures, it looks like they had a whale of a time in the process (and at the pub afterwards!).  Big congratulations, Elaine!  Xx

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