It is official. Christchurch’s SBS Marathon is under starters orders for Sunday June 5, and race organisers are hoping it will help Cantabrians get back on their feet both in finances and fitness.
For 30 years Christchurch SBS Marathon Event has been New Zealand’s premier marathon event. Based on the 1974 Christchurch Commonwealth Games marathon, it had the fastest course, the biggest prize pool, and attracted the best runners and the South Island’s biggest field. But the SBS Marathon as we know it was yet another victim of Christchurch’s February earthquake.
The Town Hall start/finish venue – red stickered. The course, around the Avon River and Hagley Park – much of it ruined.
But organisers have announced that the event will go ahead on Sunday June 5 on an alternative course at Lincoln.
Race Director Chris Cox has been organising the SBS Marathon for 16 years and says the event meant too much to too many people to just disappear.
“This event means a lot to me,” says Cox. “It was running it long before I took over organising it, so it has been a big part of my life for more than half my life. But I’ve been astounded by just how much it means to other people.”
“When the earthquake hit in February I didn’t know what the marathon would do. I spent that day driving around finding my family and saw large sections of the course just ruined. The city was in such chaos I didn’t know what would happen. But in the weeks since we have had hundreds of people contact us wanting the event to go ahead. I’ve had people stop me in the street and come up to me at airports insisting that the marathon has to go ahead. So we decided they were right.”
Cox announced this week that the SBS Marathon will go ahead on an alternative venue in Lincoln. While in-depth detail has yet to be ironed out, Cox says that the 2011 SBS Marathon Event will be anything but an after-thought.
“Anyone who knows running will tell you that the SBS Marathon is a world class event and we don’t intend to undermine that,” says Cox.
The course itself will start and finish on Lincoln University campus and include residential streets before doing a circuit on the rural roads surrounding Lincoln township.
We looked very hard for an alternative course in Christchurch,” says Cox, but in the end we decided the City itself didn’t need any more stress and roading interruptions.”
“We identified Lincoln as having the best combination of facilities and roading, and the Selwyn District Council and Lincoln University were very supportive right from our first approach.”
“The venue is very good, with excellent facilities and great parking. The roads are very good quality with excellent cycle paths in some areas, so it will handle several thousand runners and walkers quite easily.”
The format will be exactly the same as the traditional SBS Marathon Event, with the classic 42.2k marathon distance, the 21.1k half marathon, as well as the 10k and the Kids’ Mara’Fun.
Cox says the alternative course will be fast too, saying, “That was important to us, because the SBS Marathon has always been New Zealand’s fastest road race.”
Indeed, the fast course and New Zealand’s biggest prize pool has made the annual Queens Birthday Weekend event the most prestigious date on the calendar among New Zealand’s elite runners, and Cox hopes they will continue to support the event.
“The SBS Marathon has been supporting the sport’s top runners for 31 years,” says Cox. “But right now Christchurch and the SBS Marathon Event needs support, so we’re hoping that the top runners can return that loyalty.”
Supporting the sport is important to Cox, who points out that the SBS Marathon has always been a peoples’ race aimed at runners and walkers of all age and ability.
“When I took over organising the SBS Marathon one of the previous race directors, Brian Taylor, said to me that the main goal should be for the event to be a reflection of the community and should benefit that community. Tragically Brian, who was the Chairman of the Christchurch Marathon Trust board, died in the CTV building during the February earthquake. I’ve always remembered the advice he gave me and now we want to honour his memory by honouring that advice.”
“If events like this are a reflection of the community we figured that holding the SBS Marathon could be one of the community’s first big rebuilding blocks.”
In 2010 the SBS Marathon enjoyed a record field of 5800 entrants, but Cox admits he doesn’t know what to expect in post-earthquake 2011.
“All we know is that people want us to hold the event and the region needs something to look forward to. Who knows, maybe it’ll strike a chord with Cantabrians wanting to get back on their feet and turn into the biggest SBS Marathon yet!”
Entries for the 2011 SBS Marathon Event are open again at www.sbsmarathon.co.nz. Entry forms can also be found at SBS Bank branches nationwide.