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Christchurch Community Rising to Marathon Challenge

Community Rising to Marathon Challenge

With more than 4000 entries, 200 volunteers and thousands of spectators, the Christchurch Airport Marathon has become one of the South Island’s most significant community occasions.

On Sunday Sir Richard Hadlee will ask more than 4000 participants from 12 countries to take their mark for the 34th running of the annual Queens Birthday Weekend event.

The eldest is 85 year old Leo Steel from Halswell, participating in the 10k run. At the other end of the scale, around 500 children will line up in the Kids’ Mara’Fun, while more than 100 secondary school students have trained for the 10k and half marathon events as part of their NCEA exercise science studies.

Other notables include 72 year old Aucklanders Bill Hodge lining up for his 175thattempt at the classic 42.2k distance. In contrast to Hodge, 65 year old Monica Lucy Tate (Akld) and 13 year old Caleb Cross (Chch) are taking on their first marathons.

Timaru’s Stuart Bennett has run the half marathon at very Christchurch Airport Marathon event for the past 33 years, missing only the inaugural event in 1981. Christchurch’s David Wells was a participant in that 1981 race and is lining up again for this year’s half marathon at age 72.

In the 1980’s Gavin Stevens was representing New Zealand as a cyclist and would eventually win a Commonwealth games gold medal. These days the 58 year old Aucklander is a world class masters marathon runner and on Sunday he’s taking a crack at the age 58 world record of 2hrs 35min 51secs.

For some this year’s event is more personal. Christchurch 37 year old Tony Cribb entered the half marathon because he’s been “wanting to get back into running after the small adventure of having brain surgery for a tumour.”

A group of Athletes from the Achillies Foundation for athletes with disability have also entered, led by blind runner Hannah Pascoe from Invercargill in the half marathon and severe asthmatic Leanne Byers in the 10k.

Similarly, Napier’s Warren Bernard is participating in Christchurch as part of his bid to run 20 marathons in 20 months to raise money for LIV Village, an international organisation rescuing and restoring orphaned children.

Race director, Chris Cox, attributes the continued success of the Christchurch Airport Marathon to a simple mantra of providing something for everyone.

“The Christchurch Airport Marathon has always been renowned as the fastest race in New Zealand and that’s great for the profile of the event, but we have always felt the event should reflect the community,” says Cox. “So that means providing something for people of all age and ability and aspirations.

“The full marathon is always the feature event, but over the years we have included more recreational options such as the half marathon and the 10k and walking options and the Kids’ Mara’Fun. These have been hugely successful because they create a more inclusive event.”

This year the event added a 1k distance in the Kids’ Mara’Fun, for children under aged seven.

I think the family appeal is important says Cox, whose own wife and two daughters have run the event numerous times.

“When we look through the entries, people leave comments such as ‘running with my Dad’ or ‘running with my mother’, ‘supporting my wife’... It’s quite gratifying knowing that the event can span generations and inspire an entire family.”

Indeed, 38 year old company director, Miles Franklin from Nelson, commented on his entry form that his only goal was to beat his father’s best time for the half marathon.

The Christchurch Airport Marathon is also a fund raiser for Ronald McDonald House South Island, the non-profit organisation that provides accommodation for families who have to travel from out of town for their child’s hospital care.

Entries for the 2014 Christchurch Airport Marathon are still open. Visit or enter on Saturday between 9:00am and 6:00pm at the event village on Orchard Road, Christchurch Airport.

Click here for further information.


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