Rule number one of Medoc is that you take part in fancy dress.

Race day began at the Le Continental Hotel in Bordeaux at 4:20am, to become Cilla Black. This involved dressing as the 1960s singer as well as looking like I was from the 1960s in terms of a grayscale effect.

Getting ready for this event took close to an hour and involved taping nipples and the belly button as the seam of the dress would rub in these places, taping my head with HandyGrip Cohesive bandage (the non-adhesive bandage left over from last year’s Hume Hovell 100km event) so that the wig would stay on during the run, painting my face and upper arms grey, putting on the 60s style ‘chessboard’ dress, the beehive wig, the green and gold Australian wristbands and finally the white compression socks and Hoka running shoes. The hat and the Jackie Onassis sunglasses were in the Spibelt and attached to the Spibelt in case of emergency (for the hat). I had to do some emergency deforestation on my legs to remove some leg hair that was showing below the dress, adding a few more razor cuts for the collection.

I went downstairs to breakfast and wasn’t really sure of the reaction I received dressed in costume. I did notice other runners in costume (e.g Angus Young) so I didn’t feel as if I had got the date, location or event wrong. Jane Anderson just shook her head when she saw my costume. The pre-run breakfast consisted of a bowl of muesli, water, apple juice and 6 croissants.

Runners and supporters walked as a group from Le Continental to the Le Normandy hotel to meet the other Travelling Fit runners for a 6:45am departure to Pauillac. Our group photo includes runners dressed as Angus Young, Devo, Boy George, Madonna, the ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’ (my description) from Guernsey all dressed as Freddie Mercury, two aerobics instructors preserved from the 1980’s as well as yours truly as Cilla Black.

According to Lee from Travelling Fit the bus ride from Bordeaux to Pauillac may have set a new Travelling Fit record with 3 people being sick at one time. I sat next to Peta on the ride and she said that I looked pretty ill as well but that was just the face paint. After just over an hour and two stops along the way, we arrived at Pauillac to see other runners heading to the start in various costumes.

Once off the bus. I went to the back of the bus to finish off painting exposed areas of skin (arms, shoulders, back of neck and legs) to complete the look for Cilla Black. My friend Samantha took a photo of me, I said goodbye to Lee and I said that I will see you on the course, then followed the brightly-dressed crowd for the start.

Security took some time to pass through as the crowd was funnelled into 3 or 4 guards who checked bags and fired off toy guns. I entered the start area at 9:05am ready to run from 9:30am. The pre-race entertainment was great with a 3 man band playing from a platform suspended over the start line. Runners were dancing to the music, taking photos and comparing costumes.

Money for Nothing from Dire Straits was the cue for the race to begin. Two French fighter jets provided a flyover over the start, there was a dix á un countdown and the race was on. Confetti was everywhere as you crossed the start line.

There was so much to take in during the run so I will mention the memorable parts of the race (code for I’m only writing what I can remember here).

The first 5 to 6 km was quite crowded with 2 wine stops during this time. I decided to skip these stops. I was passed twice during this time by Jane who was walking the event. My first wine stop was at Chateau Beychevelle after about 10km (I think).

As for costumes and sights on the course; far too many to remember and mention: Those I could recognise and remember from the run included ABBA, Kiss, the Beatles (pushing a cart and singing Yellow Submarine), the Beach Boys, Slash from Guns & Roses, Baywatch babes, punks, the Eagles, Bob Marley, Crazy Frog, one runner dressed as the Eiffel Tower and another runner dressed as Jesus (carrying the cross).

Toilet stops were made within the vines in various vineyards. Each chateau that the course passed was well presented with wine to sample, either in glasses or cups. Some chateaux had bands playing on course which added to the fun. I did try to high five a lot of the children on the way. Supporters would shout out “Allez Magan” which was strange but this was because the prenom was where the nom should have been on the bib and vice versa. Obviously “Allez John” would have sounded better and easier to say. I would stop and pose with supporters on the side of the road or at chateau who were in costume as well.

Our leader Lee and support crew (including Samantha and Jane’s husband Royce) provided moral support and the opportunity for photos at the 20km mark of the run.

From memory I had between 6 to 8 glasses of wine during the run, including at Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Chateau Lilian Ladouys. There was one point where I was attempting to look refined and elegant while drinking a glass of red in front of an official cameraman but I managed to spill the wine down the front of the dress.

During the run there were two heavy storms, one late in the run around 35km which made the going quite tough in the Hokas running through a muddy vineyard.

Food and water was plentiful at the stops on the course including fruit, croissants and cakes. For this run I kept to the banana slices and at one stop, sampled the tomato (shades of Tokyo marathon here). In the interest of value for entry I did stop for an oyster and white wine, the steak and the glace (ice cream) in the run towards the finish.

Four hours, 41 minutes after hearing “now look at them yo-yo’s” on the other side of the road, I crossed the finish line. I felt comfortable the whole run, slow at the start before finishing the second half of the run quite strongly. The red beehive wig stayed in place for the entire run. I was met at the finish by the event mascot and received a guitar shaped finisher medal.

During the whole run I did not see another runner dressed similar to me. I scanned the finish chutes for someone in costume for another photo when on the far right chute I saw a lady in a black and white dress with a similar pattern to mine. I said out loud that “after all day not seeing anyone dressed like me, there you are”. We shared a photo and then I received the finisher’s kit of a bag (shaped like a record), a cup with a holder [I said to Samantha that originally I thought the cup holder was a dog lead]. There was plenty of food and drink available for runners at the finish.

We obviously didn’t receive enough rain during the run as it rained twice after the race, once while I was in the shower and again walking back to the bus.

The next day was a recovery walk of approximately 10km starting and finishing at Chateau Livran. We all received a tres bien tasting cup for the walk. Multiple chateaux held wine tasting along the way. Back at Chateau Livran Samantha and myself sat with Terri and Lauren and another 1000 people for a fantastic 3 course lunch and live entertainment with singers and dancers. Amanda was spotted bopping away to the music at the back of the tent, glass of vin rouge in hand. A few of the Travelling Fit group ventured onto the dance floor, grooving to a cover version of Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster” and the like.

The bus ride back to Bordeaux was highly entertaining with the “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” from Guernsey leading the way with renditions of “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Fat Bottomed Girls” and other songs of the era including “Wonderwall” (and other songs that turned the air blue). The men from Guernsey were joined by Amanda, Gayle & Cameron, Julie (complete with a haka attempt) and the Gaffeys (Benjamin and Jay).

This was the best atmosphere I have ever experienced during a marathon. Regardless of the elapsed time I really enjoyed the course especially a few early hills. The theme, location, participants and spectators combined to make this event a “must-do” for either first-time marathoners or once in a lifetime (with apologies to the Talking Heads) marathon runners as well as experienced marathon runners.

Thanks to the following: Samantha Kellner, Emma Brown for suggesting the event as discussed during the Sydney Marathon of 2014, Celine from the Campbelltown Joggers for the initial costume ideas, the Travelling Fit group for a great time and finally our leader Lee Peacock and Shaylee Angell, the travel agents from Travelling Fit.

John McGann