Sports enthusiasts and wine lovers unite each July in the Hunter Valley, taking advantage of the month’s cooler temperatures and partaking in the annual Winery Running Festival. This event was established in 2006 to combine athletics, tourism and the famous Hunter Valley vineyards. The festival was born from the notions of two keen runners in the region who wanted to recreate France’s Marathon du Médoc on their own turf.
The Winery Running Festival is aimed at everyone regardless of skill level, with five different races ranging from the gentle 5km ‘Winery Wander’ and the 2km kid’s race to the more sweat-inducing 10km, half marathon and full marathon courses. An estimated 3500 participants take part across the five races each year, supported by a crowd of spectators who line the designated routes.
Beginning at the Hunter Valley Gardens in Pokolbin (a spectacular venue considered to be one of New South Wales’ best tourist attractions and renowned for its annual festive lights), all race routes take runners in a loop around the Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club, over a variety of terrain including gravel pathways, tarmaced roads and grassy verges, as well through some of the area’s most well-known vineyards.
The Audrey Wilkinson Vineyard, the Tallawanta Vineyard and the Brokenwook Winery are three such vineyards that offer their land to the race, giving wine lovers a unique opportunity to run through a selection of Shiraz, Sémillon and Chardonnay grapes, to name just a few. Those taking part in the more relaxing ‘Winery Wander’ can take the opportunity to visit the Cellar Doors for information about the vineyards and even some tastings of the locally produced wines, although this may be detrimental if hoping for a personal best!
Award presentations are made around midday, leaving the whole afternoon free for exploring the local area. Along with the official after event held at the Hunter Valley Gardens, you can also visit the gardens themselves, as well as a small selection of village stores and an adventure playground for the little ones. For those who are feeling a little parched after a long run and wish to continue with the race theme, there are a number of restaurants in the vicinity, such as the The Cellar Restaurant, that work closely with the vineyards visited during the race to serve up authentic Hunter Valley wines to thirsty customers.
Runners may also wish to check out some of the other Hunter Valley vineyards in Pokolbin that they didn’t see during the race. Tyrell’s Wines, Lindeman’s Wines and Oakvale all have vineyards on and around the race routes, and souvenirs from race day can be picked up from their Cellar Door locations.
Runners with aspirations of celebrating a gold medal win may wish to check out the past race results so they know what they’ll be up against. In 2012, the marathon was completed in a quick 3 hours and 4 minutes. Think you can beat that? Then sign up for next year and show them what you’re made of! On the other hand, if you’re not quite as quick, it doesn’t matter in this race! Take your time and check out the amazing scenery at the vineyards, and perhaps even enjoy a sneaky taste of Sauvignon Blanc en route.