Virtual marathon on again Stepping stone for China link
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.