Barossa Brave half marathon – race recap

I didn’t seek out this little half marathon, it found me. After our Dopey challenge, I’d been looking for an event to stretch me and had found a marathon in the beautiful Barossa Valley. Even better, we found cheap flights from our local airport and locked it all in. And then the company that was organising the marathon cancelled the event. I have a lot to say about that but, rather than go into details, I have just learnt not to trust that they’re going to actually run events that they allow you to register for so won’t be bothering with their offerings in other places.

However all was not lost – the fabulous organiser of South Australia’s ‘Coastal fun runs’ stepped in and organised a smaller, charity event in its place and I signed up for that instead.

And so it was that I found myself meeting a bunch of other eager runners at Bethany Reserve in the Barossa Valley on Saturday morning. The distances on offer were a marathon, half marathon, 14km and 7km and I’d opted for the half. There were about 100 runners in the event and it had such a warm, friendly, local vibe to it. Even the huntsman who joined me in the toilet pre-departure seemed friendly and welcoming. Possibly a little too welcoming.

We all gathered at the start line, had a group picture taken and set off. The course was a 7km loop running out from the reserve, along a vineyard and a road before taking us on a creek crossing (dry but fun) and then out along an out and back arm which had a bit of an incline. And then it was time for the main event – the hill in the middle of the loop which rewarded us for the climb with spectacular views over the Barossa. And then it was down the hill, along the out and back arm again and back to the reserve…..to do it all again.

I had known from the start that this was going to be tough because of the hills but the pressure had been taken away by the very generous cut off time allowed. So I was measuring this one by how much enjoyment I could get out of it – a smile PB, not a time one. It wasn’t hard to achieve – what a glorious course on a glorious day with a glorious crowd. The hills were challenging as were the surfaces – longish grass and rutted dirt on some bits, rocks and cow pats hidden in grass on others and the always fun dry creek bed to navigate. The views were ample distraction – vineyards and farmland wherever you looked and the odd cow to say hello to. We even had gates to go through (others climbed the stiles but there was no way my legs would sign up for that so I got used to opening and closing gates). The weather was perfect – crisp and a little cloudy at the start while we warmed up then brilliant blue sky and sunshine by the last lap to bring it home. Magnificent.

Due to the loop and the out and back sections, we also all got to know each and there were lots and lots of smiles, high fives and encouragement from those completing all distances. Whenever I found it hard going, I remembered that, while I was doing the big hill 3 times, the marathoners had to do it 6 times and I couldn’t fathom how much my glutes would be screaming if that were me. So I smiled as I plodded my way up.

Husband had dropped me off then gone to parkrun and made it back in time for me to start my final lap. I definitely was plodding up the hill on that one but was still doing it with a smile – so grateful to be there and was as mentally strong as ever. My physical fitness might not quite have been keeping up with what I wanted but my mind was strong – there was no point where I felt like giving up or that it was too hard. Husband joined me for the last bit and I managed to run across the finish line to lots of applause from the crowd who were enjoying their post run wines.

What an event! Well organised, contributing to charities, a beautiful course with enough challenge to keep us amused and a great crowd of volunteers and fellow runners. Besides, any event where you’re standing at the finish with your medal and a glass of wine has to be a good thing.

My Polar Dream – book review

I first came across Jade Hameister‘s story at the National Young Leaders’ Day in Melbourne last year. On a day full of inspirational speakers, she stood out and captivated both the young people and adults in the audience. At the age of 14, she became the youngest person to ski to the North Pole from outside 89 degrees. At 15, she was standing on a stage in front of a few thousand people, recounting her adventures, filling us in on her future plans and sending a very clear message – young people and, specifically, young women can achieve great things. In particular, her #bravenotperfect message struck a chord with the 4 school captains I was with and it was something we talked about and took back to our classroom.

Later that year, her adventures continued with a trek across Greenland and, earlier this year, with a trek to the South Pole, allowing her to claim the ‘polar hat trick’ and become the youngest person to do so (amongst many other ‘firsts’).

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do not go gentle into that goodnight

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Having followed her journey via Instagram, I was keen to read the book of her adventures, released recently.

My Polar Dream‘ is a very easy read but definitely not lightweight, especially when you pause to consider the enormity of Jade’s achievements and what it took for her to get there. She is very lucky to have had supportive parents and the means to undertake such treks but neither of those factors lessen what she accomplished. To train for and complete such lofty goals (while also getting on with the business of being a teenager) tells a lot about her character and mental strength.

The book takes you through the 3 journeys and gives you insights into her days on the ice with nothing off limits. There’s discussion about her difficulties with finding appropriate places and conditions to go to the toilet and how it felt to be sharing time and a tent with Dad – probably not something I could have done for that long at that age. Jade also ensures she tells it how it was – not all sunshine and butterflies. It was hard, as if that word could possible describe the enormity of exactly how challenging it was. There were tears and parts where less resilient people would have given up but she is made of much tougher stuff and focused on achieving her goal.

Most of all, Jade’s personality and character really shine through. She is such a positive role model for other young women in an era where there is so much superficiality and focus on how people look on the outside, rather than who they are on the inside. The story of how she handled some internet trolls is particularly telling.

My Polar Dream‘ is definitely worth a read, whether you ever intend to embark on a polar trek of your own or not. And Jade’s TEDx talk is also worth watching and sharing for its powerful message – “What if the focus shifted from how we appear to the possibilities of what we can do?