Run, Bryan, Run...

1st marathon complete!
Forty-two kilometers and, just like that, it’s over.  After five months of training, I completed my first marathon, the Marathon du M├ędoc, and have returned home [soberly] to share the tale.

The marathon, the brainchild of Secrets ofParis’s Heather, was not quite what he had prepared to experience.  Late summer heat (33 Celsius), 8500 other runners, and wine breaks at every 2k mark were not part of our weekly training routine.  While our livers were naturally prepared for the wine, which we enjoyed minimally, our legs weren’t as ready for the beating.

Dressed as cowboys, strutting our American best, we joined Roman soldiers, Norse Vikings, Egyptian pharaohs, and other costumed runners from around the world to celebrate this year’s theme, civilizations in history.  The sun beat down as the sweat began to race down our skin, but once we started to run, we were determined not to stop.  Then we hit the first chateau.

Wine flowed freely as if Bacchus himself were running alongside us, quantities of red that would not diminish as we hopped from chateau to chateau.  Heather and I abstained until about halfway through, but not everyone did.  By the 5th kilometer or so, heads were already popping up over the vines throughout the vineyards as women were hiking up their shorts and men were shaking the dew off the lily, if you will.  I admit I took my own bathroom break halfway through, so think of me when you crack open a bottle of 2012 Bordeaux…it’ll be a good year.

The race continued with dozens of water breaks, snacks, sandwiches, cookies, and bananas.  Our motivation, however, was the promise of oysters, steak, and ice cream at the last five or so kilometers.  With knees wobbling, sunscreen slathered over our arms, and that nagging question of “Why did we do this, again?” in the back of our minds, we trudged forward as our fellow marathoners got drunker and drunker.

The stretches of vineyards, beautiful chateaus, and parade of costumes kept us entertained as volunteers hosed us down with a welcomed splash of cold water that got a shriek or two out of Heather.  Spectators from the local towns lined the route, calling out names, which were printed on our numbers.  There were a lot of “Allez Bryan!” and far less “Allez…Heezer!” a pronunciation handicap among the French that led Heather to finally scream her own name at an MC towards the end of the race.  “Allez Heathur!” he said, bewildered, but close enough.

And they run...

Somewhere between around 25 kilometers (it all got kind of fuzzy with the sweat and dust on my sunglasses), we stopped at a Rothschild chateau for one of Heather’s favorite wines, a photo, and a quick stretch.  The wine was delicious but not exactly the refreshment that one needs while running in such heat.

We continued on.

And on.

And on.

And on.

For the next few kilometers, the pain was bad.  Like, I-need-to-stop bad.  We stretched and downed a few more ham sandwiches and pushed on, finally making it to the 32 kilometer point, signaling the 10k countdown.  The end was in sight.  We just had to go up a few sandy hills and long stretches of tree-less paths that, at this point, were making me wish I were a bit drunker.  Our fellow runners were, for the most part, slowing down, even walking, and more importantly, getting in our way.  We breezed by them, the sober Sallies that were going to finish in a respectable time and with pizazz.

Costumes galore...
Nine kilometers to go.  Eight.  Seven.  Six. Oysters. Five. Four. Steak. Three. Ice cream! Two. One. And finally, the end was in site.  As onlookers cheered us on, Heather and I ran across the finish line, two cowboys from Pennsylvania who ran a marathon through some vineyards and chateaus.

Finishing time? Five hours and fifty eight minutes.  Not quite the 4.5 hours I imagined, but we still finished in the top 50%, so I say it was a success.  It earns the moniker "World's longest marathon."  Above all, it was fun, we got a medal to show off, a new gym bag, and a bottle of wine.  Check and check.  And I suppose I was a little proud as well.

The best part?  They’ve already announced the theme for next year.  As we predicted, or rather hoped, the organizers chose science fiction.  We only have a year to prepare our costumes and the pressure is on already.  Now that we’ve survived one, we know what we’re up against.  Drunk Darth Vaders and red-wine stained vampires, we’ll see you next September!