The new-look Christchurch Airport Marathon is poised to become another great earthquake recovery story. Following the February 2011 aftershock, last year’s event almost didn’t go ahead. But a last-minute organisational effort saw more than 3000 participants support a make-shift event at Lincoln. While pleasing for organisers, this was a far cry from the almost 6000 participants from 12 countries that had turned out in 2010. Entries for 2012, however, indicate a return toward the popularity of what has been the South Island’s premier marathon event.
Scheduled for Sunday June 3, entries for the 2012 Christchurch Airport Marathon are close to the record numbers of 2009 and 2010 when well over 5000 runners and walkers lined up for the annual Queen’s Birthday Weekend event.
Earlier this week, with four weeks still to go, more than two and half thousand entries had been received. “Based on past years that indicates race day will be well over 4000,” says race director Chris Cox. “So we’re getting pretty close to where we were pre-earthquake.”
“It’s really encouraging,” says Cox. “Two years ago we had record entries and then the earthquake forced the event out of the city and cut entries almost in half. This year we’ve bought the event back into Christchurch and Christchurch itself is slowly recovering, and our new sponsor Christchurch Airport has been crucial in the event’s recovery.”
Cox says the support this year is a mark of the event’s stature and the support for Christchurch in general, saying, “The amount of people who are travelling to the event from around the country despite Christchurch’s problems is overwhelming.”
Cox has also been impressed with the support from elite runners. Recent Rotorua Marathon champion Phil Costley is returning, as is Australian-based Dale Warrander and Rotorua standouts Sarah Biss and Steve O’Callaghan, while reigning national cross country and road champion Stephen Lett from Auckland is lining up for the Christchurch Airport event for the first time.
“The Christchurch Marathon has always attracted the best line up of any domestic race,” says Cox. “But the support from elite athletes since the earthquake has been really heartening. Guys like Phil Costley and Dale Warrander, who have both won here, were among the first runners to sign up.”
First and foremost, however, the Christchurch Airport Marathon Event is a community event. Along with the classic 42.2k marathon this festival of fitness includes a half marathon run and walk, a 10k run and walk and the Kid’s 3k Mara’Fun for children under age 15.
“We have always felt the event should reflect the community,” says Cox. “So that means providing something for people of all age and ability.”
Continuing with the community theme, this year’s Christchurch Airport Marathon will benefit Ronald McDonald House South Island. Participants are encouraged to sign up and run to raise funds for the family support charity.
Entries for the 2012 Christchurch Airport Marathon Event are still open. Race day in Sunday June 3. For details visit: www.christchurchmarathon.co.nz.