Where’s Wallis? Half-marathoning in Hunter Valley 

Hunter valley was a magnificent setting for my first (and perhaps last!) half marathon.

Amongst the vines

The original intention was that we have a girls weekend up in Hunter drinking lots of wine, purely as spectators for our friend Sal’s entry to the Hunter Marathon. Sal booked an awesome self-catered house in the Cyprus Lakes complex, only a couple of Kms from the centre on Polkobin and the start of the run.

The pad. Cheese platter and fizz for race prep.

Unfortunately due to a combination of: a) injury for Sal, and b) not knowing what’s good for us, we ended up with myself and Hannah signing up for the half marathon and Noppo and Mel the 10km.

Now Hannah was in peak fitness having completed the Gold Coast marathon a couple of weeks previously in a super speedy time. Although to be honest she’s probably been in peak fitness for the entirety of the 5 years I’ve known her!

Bondi gym with Hannah and Loren

I most definitely was not in peak fitness. Having struggled with shin injury (splints? Who knows!) I was regularly mocked at Tri-training for my ‘loud’ compression socks. It has since been concluded that the socks may have actually been causing the pain. As I was delicately told: “Not only do they look stupid they’re actually hurting you!!!”

THE socks

As a result the socks were ditched and I was running free as a gazelle, though without the speed or elegance. Hannah took Sal’s spot and happily trotted alongside me for the entire 21km, barely getting out of breath and keeping me going with entertaining tales. Her company offered an excellent distraction to counting the Kms and all I had to do was come out with a question every couple of Kms and then could just pant “yes….no….mmm hmmm” for the next 10 minutes whilst Han chatted away 🙂

She also obtained a packet of jelly beans at the halfway point. A very valuable nutrient booster for us both.

Han was evidently more excited to see our support crew than me. Or just had some energy still!

We finished in 1hr 48minutes which whilst by no means record breaking I was rather proud of for my first half on an ‘undulating’ course (read – lots of bloody hills!) For the record this pace is significantly slower than that at which Han did the entire marathon at Gold Coast so big thanks to her for keeping me company!

Whilst the weekend was originally a girls excursion the idea was floated to bring a few of our gentleman friends along. As soon as I mentioned that there would be running involved to Ben he merrily signed up. The plan was then to use him as bait to tempt more of the guys along. Unfortunately (or fortunately for Ben?!) this didn’t materialise and it ended up being 7 ladies and Ben.

He did however get his fill of masculinity for the weekend by insisting that we visit ‘FIGHTER WORLD’ aircraft museum up near Newcastle en route to Hunter on the Friday afternoon.

Boys toys at Fighter World – Williamstown

Now, to say Ben is a fast runner is perhaps an understatement…he can legitimately call it a race rather than a run. When we got to the start super early on the Sunday morning and they called 5 minutest to-go, Hannah and I blinked and he was away to the front of the pack to join our friends Ryan and James from Coogee Tri Club.

The half marathon course runs out of Polkobin towards the airport and then doubles back on itself. We crossed paths when Hannah and I had run about 10km and Ben was at 14km in 2nd place overall, where he remained until the finish. He was very closely followed by James and Ryan and I could just about wave in amazement at them all as I continued my panted “mmm hmms” to Han.

James and Ryan on the podium
Benny on the podium (and very coincidently the guy with orange visor who was in trampolining club at Manchester Uni!)

Ben finished about half an hour before Han and I so was able to cheer us over the finish line where I did a sprint finish to try and overtake a guy and Han thought I’d turned on her after 21k of being compatriots.

Gritting those teeth for a sprint finish!

We in turn saw Mel and Noppo coming home.

Mel – the happiest runner ever!


And another one (K-dog)

I can’t say that I’ve been converted to half marathons. The fact I’ve managed to do the distance has given me some comfort that I might not collapse if I ever attempt a half-ironman tri. For now though I’d like to try and get faster over Olympic distance. Aim for the coming Aussie summer.

My body has also been complaining somewhat, now that the shins are better it wants a new pain focus so has shifted up to my ITB band and left knee. I spent 2 weeks post-Hunter stretching vigorously but that didn’t stop the pain coming back with a vengeance at the finish line of the Sydney City2Surf run a couple of weeks ago. Though it was still an awesome day!

Iced up post City To Surf!

Anyhow, I digress. A trip to the Hunter Valley is not complete without wine. It was a shame that the run was Sunday morning rather than Saturday as this meant we could only drink ‘in moderation’ rather than the favoured ‘to excess’ on the Saturday.

I had actually, miraculously, managed to abstain from alcohol during ‘Dry July’ until this point, however I had always resigned myself to the fact that this would be broken come the Hunter weekend. One of the wine capitals of Australia – it would be rude not to!

Kristin (Noppo) had arranged a tasting for us at Mount Pleasant estate and it certainly lived up to the name. We had a fantastic sommelier who gave a great “wine for dummies” intro, peppered with lots of interesting facts and who also coped very well with 6 progressively tipsy women (and 1 man) as we worked our way through 15 of their finest wines.

It was a fantastic weekend and a great balance of fun and fitness.

Coming next…campervan adventures around the South Island NZ.


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