If my body were a temple, it would be a shrine to red wine and carbohydrates.
Still, this temple – as decrepit as it can feel after indulging in a weekend of shrine business – makes a point of exercising every day, usually in the form of a walk or a run. It’s my way of keeping my mental health in check.
Over the years, I’ve found having an event to train for or a goal in mind is the most effective way to stay motivated, so I signed up to run 10km at Runaway Noosa Marathon in Queensland, Australia, and tagged on an extra few days to explore the sunshine state.
The run in Noosa is one part of a series of four in the Runaway Marathon Series across Australia and New Zealand, where everyone from elite athletes and groups of friends to solo participants pack their bags for a weekend away of good food, fabulous shopping and a run against a breathtaking backdrop.
Just a 1.5-hour drive from Brisbane Airport (or 30 minutes from Sunshine Coast Airport), I discovered the magical Noosa Heads, where laidback holiday meets beachside luxury, as surfboards slung casually across the back of scooters cruise past designer boutiques and trendy restaurants.
“You’ve got to go to this eatery… and this one… oh, and this one”, my helpful cab driver Steve excitedly pointed as we drove down bustling Hastings Street. Perhaps the stretchy spandex I packed would be useful in more ways than one.
Located just a short walk away from all the action, I checked into Peppers Noosa Resort & Villas before heading out to explore the raw beauty of the Headland Section of Noosa National Park.
With its magical network of coastal and inland tracks through native bush and rainforest, the park is a sanctuary for endangered wildlife, including glossy black cockatoos and tiny wallum froglets.
I could have ambled along the boardwalk tracing the coastline for hours – keeping one eye on the tall eucalypt canopy for kookaburra and koala, and the other on the surfers carving up the sparkling sea.
But I only made it out to Dolphin Point (you’ll spot pods of its namesake in the water below if you’re lucky), before the mouthwatering menu of Locale began calling my name, with its buttery soft parcels of handmade pasta and Italian antipasti.
The next day, after an invigorating two-hour morning surf lesson with the patient instructors at Go Ride A Wave, I padded across the squeaky white sand to Blended Health Bar and tucked into a fresh acai bowl with a cold-pressed juice, before visiting the village boutiques. In addition to the usual assortment of high-street stores is an inspiring (or dangerous, based on your level of self-control) mix of artisan wares, local art and sustainable Australian labels. Be sure to refuel at one of the town’s original gelaterias, Massimo’s, which serves up some of the best icy treats on the coast.
Later that evening, perched at Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club, I sat mesmerised as another spectacular sunset lit up the sky before plunging into the Pacific. Dishing up fresh and casual seaside fare, the much-loved hub is renowned for its generous burgers and moreish seafood platters.
Before I knew it, the business end of my trans-Tasman adventure was here, and I excitedly tacked on my race bib before joining groups of all ages taking on the 5km, 10k, half marathon
and marathon events.
Starting and finishing in Noosa Heads, the idyllic multi-lap course runs along the beautiful Noosa River waterfront, with – crucially – no hills. Aid stations offering sweet relief in the form of hydration are located every 2.5km, while athletes participating in the half marathon and marathon events also have Pacers (experienced runners tasked with completing a course in a set time).
Under the autumnal morning sun, I ran through the course motivated by the electrifying pockets of live entertainment and crowds of cheering spectators. “Run Now, Wine Later!” one supporter’s sign urged.
All too soon it was over. A wave of endorphins and a wedge of watermelon later, I collapsed onto the reserve with a smoothie in hand and newly minted silverware – er, a participation medal – slung around my neck.
The buzz of energy in the air was palpable, as more than 5500 participants aged between 10 and 82 proudly crossed the finish line, including more than 400 Kiwis. The oldest competitor to complete the marathon was an impressive 72 years young.
Athletes, friends, and families gathered to revel in their achievements, from completing their first-ever race to setting impressive personal bests.
Bars and food trucks served up ice-cold local craft beer and fresh tacos before everyone descended onto Noosa Heads Main Beach for an afternoon of sun, sand and celebrations.
I’m no sommelier, but a celebratory wine tastes better when you truly feel like you’ve accomplished something. Maybe this temple isn’t too shabby after all.
For more information on the Runaway Marathon Series, including upcoming races in Hawke’s Bay (August 26) and Queenstown (November 18), as well as Sydney (May 5) and Noosa (May 25) next year, see runawayseries.com