Lonely Planet Writer

Combine wine, cheese and vigorous exercise at France’s gourmet running event Marathon du Médoc

Most travellers heading to France spend time sampling the country’s incredible food and wine – but it doesn’t often include running a marathon at the same time. But each year, the Marathon Du Médoc is held, combining running 42 kilometres with stopping to taste wine, oysters, steak and more.

Athletes run past Medoc's vineyards, near Pauillac, during the 30th Marathon du Medoc, a 26-mile (42.2km) circuit in the Medoc wine region near Bordeaux in south-western France which takes in more than 30 of the regions' chateaux and vineyards, on September 13, 2014. The Medoc region's world-famous chateaux include Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Latour, all open their grounds and cellars to offer runners some of the world's most respected wines at 23 drinks stations along the route, as well as countless food stops serving local delicacies from foie gras, oysters and entrecote steak, to ham, cheese and fruit.
Athletes run past Medoc’s vineyards, near Pauillac, during the 30th Marathon du Medoc, a 26-mile (42.2km) circuit in the Medoc wine region near Bordeaux in south-western France which takes in more than 30 of the regions’ chateaux and vineyards in 2014.  Image by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images

The marathon was launched back in 1984 and has since grown incredibly popular, to the point that the event must be limited to less than 10,000 participants, which means thousands of applicants don’t make the cut. Thankfully, most of the marathoners are more focused on having a bit of fun than setting a record time, enjoying the snacks and the scenery along the way. The route weaves through the incredible wine region, located northwest of Bordeaux, taking runners through a circuit of more than 50 châteaux.

A runner stops of a wine break in the courtyard of Chateau Montrose, near Pauillac, during the 30th Marathon du Medoc, a 26-mile (42.2km) circuit in the Medoc wine region near Bordeaux in south-western France which takes in more than 30 of the regions' chateaux and vineyards, on September 13, 2014. The Medoc region's world-famous chateaux include Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Latour, all open their grounds and cellars to offer runners some of the world's most respected wines at 23 drinks stations along the route, as well as countless food stops serving local delicacies from foie gras, oysters and entrecote steak, to ham, cheese and fruit.
A runner stops of a wine break in the courtyard of Chateau Montrose, near Pauillac, during the 30th Marathon du Medoc, a 26-mile (42.2km) circuit in the Medoc wine region near Bordeaux in south-western France which takes in more than 30 of the regions’ chateaux and vineyards, on September 13, 2014.  Image by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images

The jovial spirit also applies to the dress code: participants eschew traditional running gear for fancy dress as they hit up the course’s 22 refreshment stands, 21 food stands and special gourmet stands with oysters, ice cream and more. While normal marathons may have volunteers handing out sports drink to tired runners, this event gets straight to the wine. This year’s marathon, which is on 10 September, is already closed to registration; however, many of the châteaux open their doors during the marathon and visitors can schedule a time to sample some wine.

Athletes dresses in colourful skirts run past Medoc's vineyards, near Pauillac, during the 30th Marathon du Medoc, a 26-mile (42.2km) circuit in the Medoc wine region near Bordeaux in south-western France which takes in more than 30 of the regions' chateaux and vineyards, on September 13, 2014. The Medoc region's world-famous chateaux include Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Latour, all open their grounds and cellars to offer runners some of the world's most respected wines at 23 drinks stations along the route, as well as countless food stops serving local delicacies from foie gras, oysters and entrecote steak, to ham, cheese and fruit.
Athletes dresses in colourful skirts run past Medoc’s vineyards, near Pauillac, during the 30th Marathon du Medoc, a 26-mile (42.2km) in2014. Image by NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images

The fun is also not limited to the marathon itself – there is entertainment scattered along the route, and the evening is capped off with a huge ball that is open to all, complete with a fireworks display.