By Jess Soutar Barron 12 May, Gimblett Gravels
At any crowded show there’s filing past others to get to the front row – from big-top bleachers to velvet theatre seats – or past sweaty backs through the mosh pit. And there’s waiting for the loos. And there’s drinking water because you should, and keeping on keeping on solely on the promise of wines after.
This audience too lines up, hydrates and eliminates, shuffles for position. The show on offer is our most spectacular selves, Hawke’s Bay, our landscapes, our ethos, innovation and industry, vistas and views, art deco to vineyards with apples, i-Way and Marine Parade in between. The audience is shuffling and sweating because today we are runners. Or walkers, or moochers, or amblers. (I am running but my head tells me I am a fraud, a natural born dawdler who has no right to wear this number (4042) on my chest, no right to wear lycra, who do I think I am?!)
We begin in a tight pack. The literal Gimblett gravel threatening to trip us, the shoulders of our collaborators too close, the rows of autumnal vine leaves and shrivelled bunches playing with perspective, coaxing our eyes away towards any possible exit. It’s almost too much as excitement tips over the edge and becomes anxiety. (My breath tightens, shallow and desperate; I’ve only just set off and I’m struggling.)
But then the pathway opens up and those who are serious take off, and the real walkers too power on, and us, who are left find our own pace in our footfall and our deepening breath. (I rehear some sage words emerging from my muddy mind: “Run Your Own Race”, and that suddenly makes sense).
Vines give way to apple trees, gravel gives way to drive, we travel past a second act of old red barns and tractors, a steaming pile of hot compost, verging of wildflowers (I recognise calendula).
The fence posts, the apple bins, the gate, the stile, a sneak peak of the Sleeping Giant, glorious Heretaunga in golden light, such a show off. A runner breaks away but only to pull up, thrust her companion out into the picture, whip out her phone and “Selfie”. (I push on, they soon catch me up and over take me).
Through the leaves music arrives, it’s five minutes – ten – before we reach the source. Peppered throughout the journey tiny stages with ‘a girl and a guitar’. (As I come up to one she’s belting out “Mercy, mercy, mercy” I know how she feels but the sign says 3km to go so I keep going).
There’s all shapes and sizes in this moving audience. Large and lean, Mums on a mission, Dads whispering to themselves: “I coulda been a contender!”. We know the real runners are coming up behind us, but we’re still here just to be part of it, to have the experience, to see the show. The Marathoners, those doing the Half, they’ll be heading our way now, they’ll be looking for their PB, “planning their run and running their plan”, they won’t be identifying curative flowers or eating apples or taking snaps. (I’m 1km away now and my mind has split off from my body. My body is simply sweat, and one foot after one foot after one foot, and breath in/breath out. My mind is mush).
Then, the dénouement, we turn and the gravel becomes road, up ahead the happy word FINISH, the standing ovation, the cries of “Encore”. (But I am done. Straight to the wings for me, exit stage left.)
Hawke’s Bay, you put on a great show. You were beautiful, a gracious prima donna magnificent in your dress of seasonal best. But a show isn’t a show without its audience so we were great too. (Even me – fraud or not – I ran my run and I made it to the final curtain.)
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