Community Celebrating Its 40th Christchurch Marathon
With some 4000 entries, 200 volunteers and thousands of spectators, the 40th ASB Christchurch Marathon will once again be one of the South Island’s most colourful community occasions bringing together runners and walkers from all walks of life.
On Sunday, for the first time in more than a decade, the annual ASB Christchurch Marathon returns to the same course and venue as was used prior to the earthquakes. Race Director Chris Cox says the positive weather forecast should see more than 4000 participants on the start line.
While the event will also double as the New Zealand Marathon Championship, for most people it is a personal challenge taken on for as many reasons as there are runners.
At age 72, Christchurch’s own Shirley Rolston is taking a shot at becoming the eldest ever female finisher of the feature 42k distance in Christchurch.
Dunedin’s Peter Ruhen is down for the 10k and says he “hopes to regain the joy of running.” But at age 80 he will also be the eldest starter for this year’s 40th anniversary event.
Auckland’s 79-year-old David Wells, also in the 10k, will be the second eldest starter. But deserves mention because as a sprite 39-year-old he ran in the first Christchurch Marathon 40 years ago.
Age doesn’t appear to affect motivation either. The youngest entrant in the full marathon, 16-year-old Jonathan Shelton, is running the 42.2k with four family members and says simply, “My parents made me.”
The youngest starter in the half marathon this year is Christchurch’s 12-year-old Marcello Ferguson, who is running his first half marathon to raise funds for mental health.
Taking on the marathon, half marathon or 10k for the first time is a common theme. But there are a select few who just cannot stop. Christchurch’s Errol Amyes is running his 39th marathon, and his 38th will have been the day before in Levin.
No one, however, has a streak like Pegasus resident, Ian Lennie. The 71-year-old will be lining up for Christchurch’s half marathon for a record 37th consecutive year and says his only goal is “to keep going as long as he can.”
One runner who knows how to keep a streak alive is Christchurch hotelier, Olivier Lacoua. The 50-year-old is lining up for his 100th time over the classic 42.2k distance. Born in France, the Frenchman only started running in 2008. Since then he has run marathons all over the world and along the way has raised almost $50,000 for Red Cross, who he supports because of the support Red Cross gave him as a teenager following a bad accident on a school trip in Spain. On Sunday more than 100 friends and family will be running alongside Lacaoua as he tries to break that $50,000 barrier.
Race Director, Chris Cox, knows something about longevity. He has been organising the Christchurch Marathon for 26 of its 39 years and says, “I’ve always felt the greatest thing about this event is that it’s a true representation of the community, with different people from different walks of life and different motivations for why they run.”
It helps that the iconic route central city route from the Christchurch Town Hall, around Hagley Park and the Avon River is one of New Zealand’s most scenic and supportive courses.
“This course is very iconically Christchurch,” agrees Cox. “We see people cheering runners from their front gates and at intersections and we get bands coming out and playing music for the participants along the way.
“Entrants love the atmosphere we create around their personal challenge.”
Every participant, however, has their own motivation behind the challenge they face on Sunday. Like Oliver Lacoua and Jonathan Shelton, many run for charities such as Ronald MacDonald House, Mental Health, Youthline, Engineers Without Borders, Red Cross and St John, who have supplied first aid support to the Christchurch Marathon since the event was founded 40 years ago.
Indeed, this year every participant has the opportunity to help regenerate Canterbury’s Port Hills via a partnership between principal sponsor ASB and Trees That Count – a nationwide native tree planting initiative established by the Project Crimson Trust.
ASB Head of Community and Sponsorship, Mark Graham, says, “The ASB team is busy gearing up for Sunday’s event. This year to show our support for the community we will be donating a tree to Trees That Count on behalf of every runner who crosses the finish line. These trees will be planted shortly as part of the upcoming restoration of the Avoca Valley in the Port Hills.”
As the principal sponsor since 2017, ASB has contributed each year to the local community through various initiatives. This includes ‘Run back the Tracks’ in 2017 where the distance run by race entrants correlated to funding from ASB to help rebuild running and walking tracks through the Port Hills, following fire damage earlier that year.
CEO Adele Fitzpatrick says “Our breath-taking forests are part of the New Zealand experience, highly valued by Kiwis. From the Great Walks to our local reserves, they provide us with places to exercise in, spend time with our families or simply to marvel at.”
“We’re thrilled to be the charity partner for ASB Christchurch Marathon and funds raised will enable us to extend our support to planting groups in the Canterbury region.”
Race day for the 2021 ASB Christchurch Marathon is Sunday 11th April. Late entries can be made on Saturday at the Christchurch Town Hall. Full Info at www.christchurchmarathon.co.nz