Vir­tual marathon on again Step­ping stone for China link

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - TONY RAGGATT tony. raggatt@ news. com. au

WHEN hun­dreds of run­ners thun­der past John Hub­bard’s home on Rowes Bay Es­planade next Sun­day, he’ll have cham­pagne in hand to toast them.

In a 14- year tra­di­tion, Mr Hub­bard and his fam­ily host a py­jama party and cham­pagne break­fast each year to watch the Townsville Run­ning Fes­ti­val.

What started as just the fam­ily out on the front lawn will see about 60 guests all turn out in py­ja­mas and colour­ful cos­tumes to wave ban­ners and cheer.

This year a brass band will even play as part of the event.

Mr Hub­bard said they put on a big break­fast with ba­con, eggs, beans, sausages, toma­toes, toast and the works.

“The fact that we see ev­ery­one train­ing – they put so much ef­fort into it – so I think it’s only fair that we put in ap­pre­ci­a­tion for them,” he said.

“We love every­thing about run­ning that isn’t run- ning – eat­ing carbs, comfy shoes and cheer­ing.” The event is so well known to reg­u­lar run­ners that the home has been dubbed The Party House.

“They clap and cheer us as much as we clap and cheer them,” he said.

“We’re pretty close to the start so as they ap­proach they can smell the ba­con and hear our cheers.

“We do get a lit­tle bit of friendly abuse from run­ners who would rather be do­ing our marathon.”

The Townsville Run­ning Fes­ti­val will take place next Sun­day. VIC­TO­RIA NU­GENT EVENTS guru and Townsville coun­cil­lor Margie Ry­der was not quite sure if the per­son call­ing from China was for real.

They wanted to fea­ture the Townsville Run­ning Fes­ti­val as a vir­tual marathon with the multi- plat­form ex­er­cise app Codoon.

It turned out that per­son was for real and what fol­lowed was around 150,000 Chi­nese peo­ple last year run­ning the marathon, many of them on tread­mills in their homes.

Now for this year’s event next w week­end a Chi­nese tour whole­saler will visit Townsville.

It is hoped the fes­ti­val and other events such as the Townsville Triathlon Fes­ti­val and Mag­netic Is­land’s Des­ti­na­tion Ad­ven­ture can be sold as tour pack­ages to the Chi­nese mar­ket.

“We now see this as a great op­por­tu­nity for Townsville,” Cr Ry­der said.

“It is not the an­swer to mass par­tic­i­pa­tion num­bers but small op­por­tu­ni­ties like this grow into big things. From lit­tle things big things grow.”

Cruise op­er­a­tor SeaLink has sup­ported the visit, while an­other run­ning fes­ti­val spon­sor, ac­com­mo­da­tion op­er­a­tor City Oa­sis Inn, will host the whole­saler Rick Li from Chongqing in south­west China.

Mr Li works with the or­gan­is­ers of the Sydney and Gold Coast mara- thons bring­ing more than 200 peo­ple to com­pete at those events.

Townsville En­ter­prise tourism and events di­rec­tor Brid­get Woods said the Chi­nese mar­ket was in­creas­ingly look­ing for au­then­tic Aus­tralian ex­pe­ri­ences and Townsville was per­fectly placed to meet this de­mand.

She said the visit here by a whole­saler was a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity not just for the fes­ti­val but the whole re­gion.

“We do need to do it slowly to make sure the tourism op­er­a­tors and hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try can han­dle this mar­ket,” she said.

City Oa­sis op­er­a­tor Bren­dan Carter said run­ners had come to the city from Townsville’s Ja­panese sis­ter city Iwaki to com­pete in the run­ning fes­ti­val for some time and this lat­est ini­tia­tive was also promis­ing.

“The run­ning fes­ti­val is a great lo­cally man­aged and lo­cally funded event,” Mr Carter said. “It’s good for ex­po­sure of the re­gion.”

Mean­while the Chi­nese run­ning en­thu­si­asts are no doubt pre­par­ing for next week’s Townsville marathon and run­ning fes­ti­val. So far more than 100,000 have reg­is­tered to take part.

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