Sunday, September 12, 2010
Marathon Du Medoc 2010, France
This year was the 26th edition of Medoc Marathon, a proud tradition of the southern French which is second to the Paris Marathon in term of international popularity and participation level in France. Held on 11 Sep, Sunday in this wine growing town called Pauillac, which is about two hours ride from the historical city, Bordeaux where my accommodation is located.
Capped at no more than 8,000 runners, all participants practically had to fight hard for a place based on first-come-first-served only. Over in Singapore, this year our Stanchart Marathon boosts of some 60,000 runners in varied categories, an Asia record but in this Medoc event, quality stuff counts much. Almost every runner dressed to the occasion - the theme this year was 'Comic Hero', though many were not in sync with the given theme but really, who bothered much. I'd never witnessed an event like this in Singapore, so much alive and the supports from the ground, simply blew me away. For the record, this Medoc event actually attracted some 37 nationalities from around the globe excluding the French runners, of course. Our highly paid STB personnel should learn a lesson or two from them on how to internationalise our big-name marathons, the likes of Stanchart Marathon & Adidas Sundown Marathon luring the foreign runners and to cultivate/motivate local supports to the fullest. This is much more healthier and wholesome than relying on capital intensive IRs to bring in gaming tourists to our shore, rightly or wrongly. Without doubt, it will inspire more Singaporeans to appreciate sports.
From our little red dot, we had six participants (me & Yaw Heng included) and we are proud to say Singapore is the only country hailing from Southeast Asia. However, I lament I did not get to meet any of our Singaporean counterparts though I did chance upon some oriental faces along the way. Japanese runners form the bulk from Asia, some 165 of them to say the least.
I have to say it is indeed my greatest honour to be running this Medoc event, my second 42km marathon where I did my first at last year's Stanchart run. All this was only made possible with sponsorship by France Tourist Office in Singapore and AirFrance, the latter for the air passage. Thanks once again, to my sponsors for their kind generosity.
On the day of event, I got up early at 0545hrs and by 0630hrs, Yaw Heng and I were waiting at a designated pick-up point near our hotel for the 2-hour coach ride to Pauillac. We had runners hailing from the U.S.A., Canada, U.K., Mexico and Japan taking the same coach with us - a motley group of people indeed.
We arrived at about 0830 hrs in Pauillac. It was a sunny morning to start off and the morning weather was cool, something we can never get to experience in our humid Singapore. Everyone was getting ready with their own costumes and raring to go. I put on my 'self-made' Flintstones tee while Yaw Heng drew out his 'Lao Fu Zi' costume. I then put on the water-based tattooes, two Singapore flags on both sides of my face (patriotic, right?) and the logos of AirFrance and France Tourism on both my arms (to thank my sponsors). Yaw Heng had a Singapore flag on one side of his face and a Malaysia flag on the other (He is a PR, having best of both world). I saw one participant in his Flintstones costume and gestured to him which he responded with a thumbs-up. In fact, there were quite a number decked in Flintstones costumes. Hordes of participants arrived and we slowly made our way to the start-off point.
The announcer was simply energetic though I couldn't understand a word of French utterred out. We swayed with the music, danced & clapped in unison and at 0930hrs sharp, we were finally flagged-off - the race had begun. Though it was sunny, the weather was still cool much to my delight.
For the first 10km, we were running on tared road or gravel path but it was generally flat. I was doing fine, keeping pace with many front runners. At almost every turn, there were some supporters rooting us on. The clock showed 59mins plus at 11km mark which was a fast pace for me, considering it was a 42km run. I must say I was pleasantly pleased with the timing thus far, hoping to clock under 5 hours if I can maintain this pace to the end. However, I felt muscle strain on one my legs at about 15km mark which I normally do not encounter in my training and past long events. Disregarding it, I pressed on but moved on slower pace. We ran past long stretch of vineyard, there no shade to shield from the sorching sun which was getting fiercer and fiercer as the clock ticked on. There were no toilets anywhere around, we had to relieve in the vineyard or by the bushes and ladies too - modesty seemed to be secondary. As we moved further, the path was mostly undulating and that was the challenging part when our legs began to tire down. At some point, we had to run through a stretch of sandy path too. The supports from the residents were simply amazing. They were rooting us on, calling up our names (I had my name on my tag) which was certainly morale booster for me. Save for the vineyard, at every corner we can find residents offering us an assortment of items from water, wine, food, fruits, medical assistance and even live band.
The clocked showed 3 hrs 15 mins at 30km mark and by then I wondered to myself, "I had to finish at least 1 hr 30 mins in the last 12 km in order to come under 5 hrs which was own my personal target." Heart willing but my own body did not seem to want me to fight on. The cramp on both calves and thighs was building up fast. I had to stop, did some stretching and then walked & ran intermittently. At one stop, I had to sought the assistance of the medical helper who massaged on my legs which did help greatly.
Admittedly, the last 12km was indeed punishing for every 1km seemed like eternity when both my legs were aching like hell. Under that condition, there was no difference between running or walking, I had to straggle between running and walking. Many runners shot past me, even some much older men and women. At some point, an old lady who had an Alsatian dog in tow got past me too. Somehow, I managed to overtake her again and from there on, I did not see her in front of me anymore, phew!
The sun whether it is in Singapore or France is equally torturing. Imagine running under the sorching sun for 4 to 5 hours and for some, 6 hours or longer, without shade in the entire journey, I can feel I was being roasted alive.
Slowly but surely, I inched past 39km, then 40km and then 41km. I decided to quicken my pace in the last 1km despite the severe pain in my legs. Just ahead, I saw the grand stands holding the crowd at the finish line and I mustered my last and raced down the last 100 metres to the applause of the crowd. The clock showed 5 hours 9 mins 40 seconds when I ran underneath it and by my reckoning, my net finish should be 5 hours 7 mins plus. Though I couldn't clock under 5 hours in this event (well, will live another day to achieve my personal best in the near future, this is my target) but on whole, I enjoyed this event thoroughly.
Admittedly, none of our event in Singapore can come even near to that. Fantastic is the word to describe the occasion. To the organisers of Medoc Marathon, kudos to you guys for the great job.