Last Saturday I got up at the crack of dawn and drove some friends to Pauillac to run in the Marathon du Médoc, also known as the world's longest marathon.
Now, if you're mad enough to slog your guts out running a marathon, there probably isn't anywhere better to do it than in the Médoc because this is a run with a twist or two.
The route takes the runners through the vineyards and courtyards of twenty-three chateaux where, naturally, the refreshments tables groan under hundreds, nay thousands, of glasses of excellent Médoc wine along with oysters, and cured ham, and ice cream and all sorts of other local gastronomic goodies.
And as if that wasn't enough, the whole thing is done in fancy dress. Almost everyone makes some sort of effort except for the odd party pooper in boring old lycra shorts and a running vest. This year the theme was animals so we cheered on cows, ladybirds, zebras, bunnies, pigs —and the odd man defiantly dressed as a woman — as they hirpled, sprinted and staggered their way back to the quays in Pauillac. The ears were a bit droopy and the tails were sometimes a little less than bushy by the time they got to the finishing line.
My friends Steve and Jim had come all the way from Fife for this, with Alexia to cheer them on. We met others who'd come from even further afield including a mother and her son who had come from Philadelphia just for the weekend, some Swedes, loads of boozy Brits, and a surprising number of Japanese people. There were 8500 very sweaty participants in all.
Despite the very high temperatures, which had just about reached a sweltering 30°C by the end, the Scots didn't give in and take off their kilted cow outfits and, of course, felt duty bound to taste each and every wine. In fact, when they realised they were in danger of coming in under the five-hour mark, they sat down, enjoyed the view, and had a second glass at the last chateau.
Mad, mad, mad. And no I won't be doing it myself next year.