Having accomplished countless running and walking marathons in his life, you somehow get the feeling Joff Hulbert is simply content to take his calculated strides in a space of gratitude.
When marathon walker Hulbert crosses the finish line at the Elephant Hill Wine Estate in Clifton before 1pm he'll have covered the 42.2km distance for the 75th time of running and walking tomorrow.
But the 68-year-old retired lawyer from Napier hastens to emphasise — before the 8.15am start to the annual Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay Marathon at West Quay, Ahuriri — walking isn't an easier task for him because running became untenable.
"Walking is harder than running because you need more upper-body movement," says Hulbert, whose maiden running event was the Hastings Marathon in 1983, which he had completed around the 3h 40m mark.
"If there are any bumps you feel them," he explains.
He switched to walks 25 years ago.
"When you run you glide over bumps but when you're walking you hit the buggers."
Belonging to the Hawke's Bay Marathon stable helped in his halcyon days. He still is a member of the club, which has metamorphosed into Run Walk Hawke's Bay, enticing about 80 members to its Napier branch.
It's the fourth Bay marathon for Hulbert, who hopes to break the five-hour mark after taming the Mountain to Surf Marathon in 4h 48m in New Plymouth in March.
For the bloke whose personal best time in running the distance is 3h 04m, the initial challenge simply seemed too daunting to accomplish.
"I just enjoy the day," he says. "It's a challenge but you can't always guarantee the outcome because things can happen."
Hulbert has withdrawn from a couple due to injury — the last one was seven years ago in Whanganui when he injured a hamstring walking.
"I always hope to start at the pace I hope to finish at because if you start too fast you'll burn out."
Focusing on his pace works wonders.
"In my dreams I'd like to be about six minutes [for 1km] but for my sake it's probably better to be at a seven-minute pace."
Listening to his body overrides any desires to follow any written scripts although he believes dreams can help draw the lines of engagement.
He attempts to do three to four-hour training sessions, clocking up close to 60km a week.
For someone who used to travel frequently around the country as a legal eagle during the book end of his career with the Department of Conservation, Hulbert found running and walking ideal to maintain his fitness as well as therapeutic.
He flirted with triathlon and even Ironman in Auckland a few years ago but the training sessions of multiple disciplines didn't strike a chord with him.
"At that stage I had to stop running anyway," says the enthusiast.
Music has never been an option for Hulbert because of the need to remain alert at all times of snarling traffic.
"I'm very self-focused when doing the event," he says with a laugh, having competed in Sydney and Adelaide in Australia and a couple in the heat and humidity of the Cook Islands.
While big, he feels the Bay marathon tends to be a "slow course" because of the varying terrain which can include tracks and roads although the latter is faster.
He gives a thumbs up to the change in course tomorrow — from the Marine Parade to Sileni Estates Winery in Hastings — because it makes more sense in terms of where athletes are going.
"Going through vineyards when they're wet can be quite slippery but this year's going to be quite good," he says chuffed with a forecast of a typically fine 19C autumn's day with high clouds with gentle northwesterly winds after gusts buffeted the province for the best part of this week.
The event, which has lured more than 6000 entries, an increase of 29 per cent from last year, overall tomorrow, offers a Kid's Run, Cigna 10km and an NZ Sotheby's International Realty Half Marathon.
The half marathon field has gone up by 55 per cent and the 10km one by 42 per cent.
However, 76 per cent of the participants (more than 4000) are from outside the province.
Females dominate with a gender split of 66 per cent. The youngest competitor is 7 and the oldest Victor Smith, 88, in an overall field of an average age of 39.
The athletes will fuel themselves with 20kg of jet plane lollies and 5000 bananas with the hospitality of 500 volunteers.