On Sunday 12 June the Marlborough Harriers had record turnout numbers for their annual Mt Vernon Grand Traverse, Blenheim. The event caters for all, with the full 18km traverse, an 11km walk/run, and even a 2km kids fun run.
The morning of the event hadn’t been the greatest for weather. My drive from Nelson was hurdled with storms and heavy rain, so I was thrilled to find that there was a gap in the weather for the race start.
The Harriers had a great event HQ set up and everyone seemed to know what was happening – always a good start.
Off we went. The 18km pack ran off first, initially down about 100m of road, then straight into farmland and trails where we would be for the rest of the run.
After some single track trails we then began our assent on the Forrest Hills Track before hitting the switchbacks of ‘Gentle Annie’. I won’t lie, I was now already feeling the effects of a heavy couple of days prior and felt every single meter of elevation.
Once through the switchbacks the view opens up – big time! You head south, following the ranges ridge-line before descending steeply on Split Apple Track, only to look ahead and realise that ‘what goes down, must come back up’. It certainly did, the climb to the summit point of Mt Vernon (422m) was a tough feat, but with the summit in sight you got the feeling that everyone was digging in with whatever they had left in their legs at this circa 10km mark.
After a turn around at the trig point a good decent led us to a well appreciated water station, which was a fun challenge in itself with the strong winds up there!
From here we embraced some amazingly fast downhill sections – mixed in with a couple more cheeky climbs around the corners. For those of you who get a sadistic buzz from putting your legs in the trust of gravity and just ‘letting go’ (like me) it really made up for all the pain of climbing just to let gravity do its thing and pretend to try and fly! wink emoticon
The race marshals greeted us with big smiles at the finish line where the BBQ was already going, and with plenty of refreshments to sooth even the most weary.
Overall this is a race that I would certainly consider again, and having seen how well organised, signposted and set-up the Harriers ran this event, I would love to do another one with them in the future.
– Ben Wallbank