Champagne Marathon

A sweltering hot day, running through world famous vineyards, talking to vignobliers, French angels carrying water. Where are we? – Reims, France of course for our third European Marathon in 3 months!

Another early morning dash to catch the Dover ferry and then a drive along the autoroute the 280km to Reims, the destination for our latest marathon. It was with some trepidation that we drew up in the little village of Haut Villiers in the heart of the Champagne district. Even by my standards this was a “spur of the moment” adventure – sure we knew we were running in France and a couple of weeks ago we had decided on Reims, with the intention of running around the city.  But just 2 days before we left I decided it would be more fun to try and run through the vineyards and of course Marlena was up for it! Would we get permission, what would be the route, how would we get enough water – so many questions!

Anyway, we sorted out our gear, synchronised watches and we were off! Within a few hundred yards we spotted a stone with the words “Moet et Chandon” painted on – so we had arrived in one of the world’s most famous vineyards, how amazing was that! We turned off the road and had a magical run along a broad white path, that snaked down through the vines toward the river Marne. It was barely 11.00am but already the sun was baking and reflecting off the chalk path – this was going to be hot one! We came across one of the workers tending the vines and asked if we could continue our journey. “A marathon, of course – good luck” (we even managed to get him to take a picture).

Still keeping to the white paths we zig zagged along the side of the vineyard – climbing and descending, climbing and descending as we headed towards the river and the bridge that would take us to the other bank and yet more vineyards. We crossed the bridge and headed down a tree lined avenue before taking a narrow road that climbed steeply through the vines. It was hard work and our water was running low – never mind there would be water in the next village and the views across the valley to the vineyards beyond was stunning. Up and up we climbed passing through village after village but no sign of water anywhere – Marlena ‘the camel’ was fine but Andrew ‘the zebra’ was struggling! We spotted a bridge in the distance and started our descent towards it to cross to the other side and head the 13 miles or so back towards the car. Another village and still no shop that was open. We stopped and asked a lady who was watering her garden (oh the irony!) where the nearest shop was. “Nothing will be open but wait here”. With that she retuned with a 2 ltr bottle of water – our saviour!

Suitably refreshed we continued and with 15km to go found a shop that was …. open! We stocked up and knew that we would have enough to get us back to the car. Marlena was moving easily but I had picked up a niggling injury to my knee after about 25k and was struggling – it was only 10 days since I had done the 100k ultra and on reflection I hadn’t left enough time to recover – oh well you live and learn!

Finally we made it back to the car and checked the watches – oh no another two miles to run! We set of up the hill with much swearing and cursing (and laughter – Marlena learnt some new words) before heading back and seeing the watch click to the magic 26.2 – we’d done it, one of the best runs I had been on and a personal milestone too – I had clocked up over 160km in ten days! Beautiful scenery, a challenging course with an elevation of over 2,500 ft and glorious weather – what more could you want!

You can find a video of our champagne experience in our youtube channel and don’t forget to follow us on twitter @masairunning

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