The last time I went to a vineyard I ended up texting the person stood next to me telling them I was in a vineyard. You can imagine how sober I was!
This time was slightly different.
Living by a lake where the mountains shoot straight up like skyscrapers, encapsulating Queenstown in the middle, made the drive out to Alexandra even more spectacular. The landscape slowly opened up during the meandering drive through impressive valleys and gorges. As the road drifts down into Clyde, the nearest town to the race, large expanses of open land, fields and vineyards appear before us. One of these vineyards is our destination.
McArthur Ridge vineyard was the location of the inaugural 'Run the Vines' half marathon. Being a new, very small event we didn't need to arrive too early, thankfully, as we were late leaving the house and my third coffee still hadn't created any movement! We had just enough time to warm up, collect our numbers, visit the portaloo (very important!) and get our laces tied up. We, being me and Taff, my boyfriend, who was running the 10km race.
At about 9:00 we were all beckoned to the start line. The half marathon runners were ushered to the front, ahead of the 10km runners and then 5km. The safety briefing was followed by a prayer and that was it. It was time. Just as my body had decided it needed one final run to the toilet, we were off! At least that took the stress away of debating whether I should or shouldn't go. There was no choice.
From the very beginning there was a great vibe and positive energy within all of the competitors. People were chatting and every face displayed a huge, beaming smile. I'm not sure if that was down to the relaxed atmosphere of the race or the weather being absolutely perfect for running.
From the start we followed the only straight section of the race along a gravel path. From there on it was like running round a giant maze. If you spun me around at any point I'd have no chance of telling you which way North was. As I was still recovering from injury, my plan was to keep my pace nice a steady for at least the first half. To help with this I focused on taking in my surroundings and enjoying the views. This wasn't difficult as I could literally see for miles and miles, enough vineyards to keep me drunk for at least a year!
Running between the grapevines was like something out of a fairy tale. At some points I did half expect to see a rabbit with a pocket-watch bounce past, or a crazed man with hats and tea-cups!
This race could by no means be described as flat but definitely not hilly either. It has just the right amount of undulations to keep your legs working, combined with plenty of smooth, rolling downhills. Having all the twists and turns between the vines means you never had long drawn out periods to make you feel like giving up. You never knew what was coming next.
As the route is so winding you can't really ever tell where in the pack you are. As I re-entered the race briefing area I knew there was 3km remaining and I caught up with a young lad in front of me. We had a nice chat as we tried to push the pace together for the last stint. I was shocked to hear from him that there were only two gents ahead of us.
This spurred me on, and with less than 2km to the finish I picked up the pace to get third place.
I would never have thought that just a year and a half after deciding to overcome my anxiety before races, that I would complete a race with a huge smile on my face, having enjoyed the whole entire event!
This is one of those lessons in life where you think, if only I'd started to learn one word of French per day a few years ago, I'd be fluent by now. Today is the day, get started! (Does not have to be applied only to learning French!)
With the race being at a vineyard it'll be no surprise that most of the prizes were a little boozy! For completing the race and being first female, I came away with a selection of craft beers, a lovely bottle of wine, a t-shirt and a cash prize (which I'm very pleased to say was the same for males and females!). But most importantly, I came away with a big smile and a new found love of racing!
Everyone knows that runners love beer and the organisers of this race must have been on to this too. The race is cleverly placed on the same weekend as the Central Otago Beer festival (Alexandra) which, of course, would have been rude not to have visited! And tasted all the beers!
Well done to all of the organisers and volunteers who made this a great event. If this year, their first year, is anything to go by, then next year will be a smashing event!
This blog would not be half as pretty if it wasn't for the stunning photos
taken on race day by Alyssa Drake. Thank you.