I don't know if anyone else has an event that they use as a milestone event, but I use this one for a few reasons.
- As I've already said, it's the first one I ever did - which in itself is pretty remarkable given that I was of the opinion that only mentally deficient people entered these sorts of things on purpose and actually enjoyed them! Having done the first one, I was immediately hooked and began looking for others to do. In the 5 months that followed I did 2 more events and set a goal to do more than 3 the following year - which I did.
- The charity partner for the 2014 event (my 2nd Anniversary) was the Leukaemia Foundation. My FIL had just been diagnosed with terminal Leukaemia, so I participated and fundraised fort the first time ever, raising almost $1,000 in his name for the foundation.
- I use it as a benchmark of my progress from year to year. My only goal is to beat my own time each year that I enter, so I always enter the same event. I don't care where I place usually reverse first and I don't care if I walk the whole thing, run it, hop, skip or jump it! All I want to do is to better my time from the year before. But yes, I do hope eventually to be able to run the whole thing. Which will be a long time coming given the all the hills... So. Many. Hills.
- But really, I just like anniversaries. I mean, who doesn't love to celebrate something!?
The day before race day, I did my local parkrun with the very lovely Leonie, who had been celebrating her very special birthday month.
Can you guess the number? It's more than 49 but less than 51... tricky I know!
She had come all the way up from Sydney to do the Winery Run Festival Half Marathon, and as she's addicted to parkrun, she came out to mine. Afterwards we dined alfresco at a local cafe with the most delicious breakfast and free coffees. We ducked into Aldi for a bit of a Look-See and then I went to collect my race kit.
When I got to Hunter Valley Gardens, where the event takes place, I picked up my race kit and scoped out the stalls that had already been set up. There's one that's there every year that stocks women's running gear and accessories. The first time I went, I bought a Spibelt best investment ever! and this year I bought a FlipBelt. It's a similar kind of thing to a Spibelt, but without buckles and zips. It's basically one big pocket with 4 openings that you slide your stuff into, and when you flip it over everything is locked safely in place. The sizing seemed spot on - I'm currently a size 20 and the XL (which they advertised as equal to a 20) fitted like a glove. I did however buy a size down as a goal item. I'm trying to track down the Aussie website, but the ones I'm finding don't have 'Flipbelt' on the product and I don't want to link you to knock off's.
I went on my own this year, actually a first for any event I've ever done, I always have my personal cheer squad with me aka BM & DD but they were both working so I was on my own. My stand-by cheer squad Friend Lyndal was there however, her dodgy knees prevented her from running, so she cheered instead.
I was able to see Leonie cross the line from her Half Marathon a couple of minutes before I began my event. She has had the worst trouble with her Achilles tendon, and was very careful not to overdo it on Saturday at the parkrun, but it didn't play well with all the hills involved in the Winery Run. Still, even as sore as she was, she soldiered on to run across that finish line!
My event however, was not to be.
It began on time and we all set off. As usual I was head down and shuffling my way around the village green before heading into the Gardens proper the initial stages of this running festival for all events is to run through a portion of the Hunter Valley Gardens themselves and then into the maintenance area and out through the vines of what was Tallowwood Winery.
As soon as you leave the Village Green and get into the Gardens you begin going uphill. You continue to climb until you're through the vineyard next door, and crest the hill at the top, turning onto Thompsons Rd.
I was about 20 minutes in and heading through the vines at around the 1.5km mark, when I came across a lady whom I shall call Edith, who was doubled over catching her breath. It's a pretty steep hill, and I have stopped for breath in that part before, so I overtook her and kept on going, not really thinking much of it, when I suddenly stopped, and went back to her. I asked her if she was okay, and it turned out that she was having a pretty severe asthma attack. Luckily she had her inhaler with her and she was hooking right into it too, let me tell you! but nothing else - no water, no phone to call for help.
I told her the first lot of race marshall's would be at the top of the hill about 200m away, and asked if she thought she could make it that far. She continued on, pausing frequently to try to get a good breath and to use her puffer, and I stayed with her until we got to the top. By this time the asthma was quickly worsening and she was beginning to panic, she also thought that she was ruining my race, so that was upsetting her too. Her sister, who was also doing the same event, had shot through much earlier, leaving Edith to struggle along by herself.
I had been quietly thinking of ways to get my new friend the medical attention that I knew she needed, as well as being able to continue on my way. But she was so scared, and so alone, that in the end I didn't feel like I could do that, so I stayed with her. The fact that she had a death grip on my hand played no part at all in my decision to stay...
The marshall's called the organisers, who came straight up to collect us and take us back to the staging area where we were met by the crew from St John's Ambulance. They did their thing wonderfully, and managed after heaps more Ventolin and hooking her up to the oxygen, to stabilise her condition before the Ambo's arrived to whisk her off to hospital.
In the mean time, they had managed to track down the elusive sister whom I shall call Morag, who swanned over to the car, and began telling stories about how she was photographed along the route, and how she got the photographer to take extra shots so she got one she liked.
Around about now was when Paul, one of the organisers, came over to me and told me to run through the shute, cross the line, and collect my medal. He said I had earned it, and I didn't argue with him at the time.
I did struggle with it later because I'm person that really likes rules and boundaries, so getting a medal for a race I didn't actually do, didn't sit well with me for a while.
Anyway, when I collected my medal, I also collected one for Edith. When I got back to her at the car, and gave it to her, Morag began squawking about not having one "If SHE gets one then I want one too, she didn't even finish!" is kind of how it went. Then she ran off to get one.
When she got back she complained about how hungry she was, and how they had planned to go out for lunch, and that it had been Edith's shout. Now they weren't going to have anything. Up until then I had held my tongue beforehand Morag had wandered off to get her handbag, wandered off to move her car, as well as the medal... but this got the better of me. I agreed that people get sick at the most inconvenient times, and that I expect Edith had only done it to get out of paying for lunch. At least she had the decency to look embarrassed.
All this, while Edith's blood pressure was dangerously low, her oxygen saturation was depleted, and she was struggling to breathe... no biggy...
Even though my event was a bust, I'm glad that I made the decision to stay with Edith. Yes, it should have been her sister that stayed with her, and cared about what happened to her, but in this instance perhaps it was better that it was a stranger.
I've been in contact with Edith since then, and we will be getting together in the coming months. She's recovering well, and I'm changing my name to Florence Nightingale...
Have you ever given up your race to help someone?
Would you do it again?