Barbara Spencer couldn’t walk a single kilometre last year without debilitating pain.
The Nelson woman had suffered through a fifth prolapsed disc in 2017, but made a vow to regain her freedom.
Barbara connected with personal trainer Denis Cooper after being encouraged to enter in the 10km walk at Kaiteriteri Gold.
Barbara completed the walk on Saturday, crossing the finish arm in arm with her ‘daughter out-law’ Francesca Harris.
“This time last year I would have been lucky to walk 2km,” Barbara says.
But thanks to Denis’ training regime and Francesca’s support, the duo conquered the 10km course in 1 hour 31 minutes and 14 seconds.
“The last hill was tough work, my back is OK, but my calves are feeling it.”
Barbara says the walk was a doddle for the “young gun” Francesca but walking alone would not have been nearly as much fun.
“I was there to support her, keep pace for her and talk lots to take her mind off the hills,” Francesca says.
Barbara’s elation was written all over her face as she reflected on her journey to the finish.
“It was really special to see how happy she was as she crossed the finish line and she far exceeded her expectations as far as how she felt and the time she did it in.”
Francesca says after all the work Barbara does in her community, she thoroughly deserves all accolades.
Barbara volunteers for the Nelson Hospice looking after terminal patients. She was a key part of making the mosaic couch on Days Track, and runs a mosaicking course for with a group of visually impaired people and op shop volunteers.
“Barbara is so generous looking after other people in the community,” Francesca says. “So I was really proud to see her achieve something so special for herself.”
Despite a change in course for the 2018 event, it was a similar result as veteran long-distance runner Phil Costley won his eighth-consecutive title in the half marathon.
Phil won the half marathon with a time of 1 hour 14 minutes 58 seconds, almost a full three minutes ahead of his nearest rival.
The 48-year-old set the course record in 2012 with a time of 1 hour 8 minutes and 59 seconds.
Making it two wins for Nelson, Trevor Voyce claimed gold in the 10km in 38 minutes and 15 seconds while Paula Canning was the first female across the finish line, finishing the 10km in 41 minutes 31 seconds.
There were a record number of entrants for the 28th annual event with more than 500 runners ranging from 12 to 70-years-old.
Event director Greg Dykzeul says for the first time in the event’s history the number of female runners outnumbered the men by 3-2.
“We are seeing an evolution with these events being supported by a lot more by women which is fantastic.”
The course had to undergo a late change with the usual route around Sandy Bay Hill inaccesible due to Cyclone Gita.
Runners set out toward Riwaka, through Kaiteriteri and Marahau, toward Split Apple Rock before turning around and finishing on the golden sands of Kaiteriteri Beach.
“We still had the traditional hills of Kaiteriteri Gold and because it’s a new course everybody got a record.”
Of the 500 runners, 200 competed in the half marathon and 300 in the 10km.
“It was a special day and we look forward to another 28 years of Kaiteriteri Gold,” Greg says.