This year, however, Neal has decided to tick ‘half marathon’ off his bucket list, and is taking part in the event for the first time ever.
“I have always been interested in doing it, but I suffered a ski accident a number of years ago and that restricted me. But finally I have found the right treatment and the body has come right.”
“It’s enabling me to take part this year in the walk part of the event, and who knows, I may run it next year if my body continues to improve,” he says.
Neal and his wife Judy became involved with the Vineyard Half when their award winning business Saint Clair Family Estate became the naming sponsor of the race.
“We got involved because we thought it was potentially a great event, and something good to be involved with, and that’s proved to be the case,” Neal says.
“It’s a great event with amazing scenery through some of Marlborough’s famous vineyards.”
Neal especially likes the fact that the race is designed for everyone.
“One of the things we liked about it was that it’s more about taking part than winning, it’s a unique event, and a fun event … it gives everybody who takes part in it a sense of achievement and of course, a bottle of Saint Clair wine at the end of it,” he says.
Over the years, Neal and Judy have seen participants make their way to their Cellar Door in Rapaura from all over the country, and the world, to take part in the race.
“It really feels as if every year is special. It’s just great to see so many people coming from so many parts of New Zealand and lining up for the event, we also get a special kick out of seeing people coming from overseas,” Neal says.
One competitor in particular comes to mind, travelling all the way from Norway to take part in the race for many of the 11 years it’s been running, Neal says.
“We make sure he gets special treatment and he has almost become part of the family.”
Speaking of family, Neal says the race has truly become a family event for the Ibbotsons.
“I have been in awe of my wife Judy, who is now fitter than I am and who has run it every year since its inception. And it’s great that our two girls, Julie and Sarina and son Tony have also taken part in the event; it’s become a real family affair,” he says.