The Marathon Du Cognac – What a weekend !!!

Much earlier in the year I was looking for a marathon with a bit of a difference. Something abroad that would be as much about having fun/an experience as much as doing a run.

We originally looked at the Marathon du Medoc but the ballot etc seemed all too complicated and then I came across this one. The videos on YouTube looked interesting and the reviews all without fail, mentioned the atmosphere, the friendliness and the general spirit of fun. So, we signed up and I bought a bottle of cognac to practice with!

This blog will be longer than normal because of all that happened but please stick with it!

Pre Race

I’d had a chest infection and resulting cough etc etc so I knew it would be a survive rather than thrive job round the course. With the agreement with my wife that if I felt bad I would stop at halfway (when you go near the start). Flights and hotel had been paid for so not going wasn’t an option.

Friday

Early start with a drive to LGW to catch a flight over to Bordeaux. All very easy and my wife took re-hydrating seriously


Car hire pick up and quick 90min drive to the town of Jarnac (where the courvoisier cognac factory is based) and the event team were getting organised


Nipped to the hotel to dump our stuff then back to Jarnac for lunch (carb loading). Lovely weather which disappeared for race day!


A quick walk by the river to the number pick up which was a little chaotic, but included in our race entry cost (90Eu) was a bottle of cognac, a grape plant, a running sleeveless jacket, ticket for the pasta party and a ticket for the gala dinner on the Saturday night.


Interestingly, for the running geeks amongst us, we were also told to carry a GPS monitor which was to be turned on 10 minutes before the race and that way you could be live tracked around the course. It slipped into a pocket behind your race number but this was the first time I’ve carried one (pic next to an iPhone 6 for scale)


Our friends from Paris then arrived, Andy, Emilie and their baby Ali and we went for a quick cognac tasting


A quick wander back to the hotel to get ready for the pasta party at 7:30pm. Expectations were for a bowl of pasta, some running chat and an early night. Nope, got that wrong!

The pasta party started with all the people in line being serenaded by a bag pipe player as we came into the room. Sat at lines of tables chatting with our neighbours. Ours were the group manning the aid station at about 27km’s and took a shine to us and said they would have some special drinks for us… We saw them at their stop and they weren’t wrong!!!

Anyway, apertif of cognac and a kind of tonic water with a starter of soup, then wine and lasagna. This took at least two hours and in between as the bottles emptied, they were replaced! A band came one to play some classic French tunes! The Belgiums (a whole coach load came) an the Bretons (about 50 off them) had sing offs and general revellery!!! Some pics to try and demonstrate


At 10:30, because we’re athletes, we went home! Never seen a party like it before a race!

Saturday – Race Day

The race started at 9am so breakfast at 7, got ready and then drove to Jarnac (5 minutes) and were welcomed by a group dressed as Asterix and Co


Went to bag drop, last minute worry wees and then watched the 10k runners go off. So 4000 odd runners, only 3-400 were doing the marathon which was a worry, what did they know…

As we ambled around waiting for the start, the announcer suddenly said “we’re going to start the marathon 5 minutes early because everyone is ready”. Well not quite everyone as we legged it to the start!!!

The start was to the “The final countdown” with flares and ticker tape going off as we ran down the quay into the country side on a figure of 8 loop.

We soon found ourselves towards the back, Andy and Gemma had agreed to run with me until at least half way and then after that play it by ear based on how everyone was feeling. 

Throughout the whole race, the marshals, the aid stations etc were brilliant. The people were amazing, so friendly, loads of shouts of Bon Courage, loads of them had music playing or bands playing. Having some liquid/food whilst a band was playing God Save the Queen was something else!. We got some good humoured Brexit abuse but have never had so much encouragement and great banter.

In terms of aid stations there was water/flat coke and snacks every 2k at least and some times more frequently. In terms of cognac they were every 3/4km roughly with it either neat or with tonic water (at least we didn’t cramp up).

At 17km we went through the first Cognac house before we re-entered Jarnac. On offer, steak, pate, dried meats, oysters, wine and of course cognac! I tried everything apart from the oysters, just couldn’t face them…


The countryside was also stunning but can’t say I captured it very well so some running pics that amuse me!

Little and large do running!


Very poor attempt at a selfie…


Quick an old building, must take a picture


And finally, is it cognac or is it water?


And yes, behind me is someone dressed as the village people in leather trousers and a string vest! The chafing….

Back to the run, Gem and Andy ran on ahead from about 34/35km as I needed to sort myself out and just get in, in under 6 hours to make sure I got the medal. So lots of mental maths and less stopping at aid stations!

At 36km the second large cognac house was run through


Prior to that we had run through an abbaye and a farmers courtyard with lots of food, drinks a DJ etc. 

At 37k mentally I knew 5k, and we’re done. Helpfully it started to pour down with rain but eventually saw the sign for 40km which gave me the boost required.


A nice run downhill to the waters edge, back along the quay and into the finish area.


Over the line, handed a medal and then was interviewed on the loudspeaker. The next photo has drawn much p1ss taking out of me as I have a face on, where the runners high hasn’t quite hit, I’m being asked questions about what it was like running in the rain etc and in all honesty I wanted to sit down and have a little rest. Enjoy…


A massive thank you to three people:

Andy and Gem – they dragged my sorry butt round most of the course and then seeing Gemma at the finish cheering me on was amazing. Running behind them hearing their incessant chatter about all manner of things was hilarious!!!

Bernard – turns out he’s the president of the organising committee or something. Anyway, at about 38k he drove next to me, window down. He asked if I wanted a lift to just before the finish. When I said no, quite strongly, he laughed and said I thought you might say that. Anyway, that was followed by mind if we chat whilst you run. 1.5k later I had put a spurt in and realised he had just done it to make sure I finished under 6 hours. Great guy and he is the one stood in the yellow at the finish. He got a bit sweaty hug before I crossed the line. 

Race over, handed more bottles of cognac, had a quick celebratory beer and then wander to the car and to the hotel to get some kip.

Weekend over, I think not! Next the gala dinner…

Gala Dinner

After an hours kip, into our glad rags and back to the salles des fetes for the post race festivities. Bagpipe players, Bretons going nuts in traditional gear, 4 courses (we left after the dessert at 1am), aperitif (as much as you wanted), rose and red wine (again all you can drink) and great food of Salmon starter, duck, salad and cheese and profiteroles.

Some pics to try and illustrate:


We danced, we drank, we ate and made friends and then eventually had to go home (we were the first!).

Sunday

Just general pain all over!

What a weekend, have never experienced anything like it before. The tag line of the marathon is “Challenge de la Convivialite” and I think whilst the marathon is still a marathon and they are always hard, the whole weekend is about exploring the area, the atmosphere, the people and their great desire to make it a weekend to remember. We’ll be back. And if you fancy it, this is the link: http://www.marathonducognac.net

Finally on our journey home back to England it was only right we celebrated with a G&T:

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