May 22, 2015
With its famous food and wine culture the Barossa might not seem like the kind of place you’d meet dedicated sporty types – but with an avid footy, netball and cricket culture, along with a strong annual presence in the Tour Down Under, the Barossa is slowly losing its stigma as the “ten kilo valley”.
So when Ashley Ratcliff, winery and viticulture manager for the Hill-Smith family, announced to the cellar crew that he was running 42.195 kilometres through the five boroughs of New York City in the largest marathon in the world last year, no-one batted an eyelid.
“I’ve run all my life, but started doing long distance at the age of 18 or 19,” Ashley said.
“I worked my way into it, doing lots of half marathons and triathlons – I did my first marathon in Melbourne when I was 39. “People might think that its hard work to fit it all in between work, kids and an active social life, but you just manage.”
And manage he’s done – Ashley has been working for the Hill-Smith family for more than 12 years and in that space of time he has fathered three children, won Viticulturist of the Year, Horticultural Grower of the Year and JMA Engineering Wine Industry Award (all in 2013), and completed ten marathons, from Melbourne to the Gold Coast.
So why after so many years of running marathons all over Australia did Ashley finally decide to make the big trip to New York City?
“New York was on the bucket list for me. If you’re a runner, the New York Marathon is really the ultimate race,” he said.
“I was also just really lucky – it’s so popular now that there aren’t enough spaces available for everyone to run every year, so you have to go into a lottery – fortunately my number came up last year, and that was it.”
So after completing one of the largest marathons in the world, what are Ashley’s top five tips for pulling it off in true Barossa wino style?
Leading up to a marathon I ran at least 70 kilometres a week, doing three or four sessions of seven kilometre runs in my lunch breaks and longer runs on the weekends. I also ride my bike to the winery every day, a 20 kilometre round trip.
Having two young boys, I have been coaching the under 11s Angaston Footy Club for over seven years now. It’s a good way to stay fit and feel young and a part of the community – it’s also a great way to spend quality time with the kids.
I stayed in New York with my friend Bryan Fry, the President of Pernod Ricard, so we had a good time. I don't let running ruin my lifestyle, and like any Barossan I love my food and wine. I’ll always have a drink the night before – you have to hydrate with a few beers.
I was never too bothered about getting a good time in New York, it was more about the experience, but my ultimate goal is to run 20 marathons by the time I’m 50, so I’ve got another six years to run ten more. The next one I’m going to do is the Adelaide marathon – I haven’t done that one yet.
My best time is 3:20 but I did the New York Marathon in 3:50. To be honest, I spent a good amount of time taking photos and just enjoying the spectacle of it all. You have to allow yourself to take it all in and just enjoy the moment.