Home Australia ‘Big risk’ pays off as inaugural Ballarat Marathon draws thousands of runners

‘Big risk’ pays off as inaugural Ballarat Marathon draws thousands of runners

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Runners smile as they run in a group down a busy street.

Thousands of people have pulled on their running shoes in search of a runner’s high for the inaugural Ballarat Marathon in regional Victoria.

With almost half of the participants coming from more than 100 kilometers away from Ballarat, including overseas, the event has been heralded as a success.

There were 4,700 final entries during the two-day event that toured the rural streets of Melbourne’s northwest.

The Ballarat Marathon featured races of 1 mile (1.6 km), 5 km, 10 km, half marathon (21.1 km) and full marathon (42.2 km), as well as a wheelchair 10 km.

Of the total registrations, 3,000 were for the half or full marathon on Sunday.

Thousands of runners took part in the Ballarat Half and Full Marathon.(ABC Ballarat: Laura Mayers)

A crisp autumn morning in Ballarat was not enough to deter the thousands of runners and hundreds of cheering spectators.

A total of 27 teams participated in fundraising for 201 charities, raising more than $100,000, exceeding their goal of $90,000.

The ‘big risk’ is worth it

Event director Adam McNicol said the idea for the marathon came about when he and a partner were running in the city three years ago and wondered if they could run a marathon.

He said it seemed ambitious, since big marathon events were usually held in capital cities, but the idea seems to have paid off.

“I think we’re going to have one of the most beautiful marathon courses on offer in Australia,” Mr McNicol said.

“I think that’s key to why the response has been so good.”

A group of people behind a starting line.

Runners taking part in the Ballarat Half and Full Marathon take their places.(ABC Ballarat: Laura Mayers)

McNicol admitted that building the event from scratch was a “big risk” but was delighted with the result.

“We know that much of the accommodation in Ballarat is almost booked up,” he said.

“(We have) people coming from all the capitals, including New Zealand, Singapore, some from Europe and a couple from North America.

“The response from businesses has been really positive.”

The popularity of running increases

Race director, Olympian and legacy marathon runner Steve Moneghetti was at the starting line Sunday morning to see off the runners.

Moneghetti said the resurgence of racing clubs and informal racing had “absolutely” contributed to the good number of entries.

“You used to say cycling was the new golf, now we say recreational running is the new cycling,” he said.

“People come in droves and enjoy it a lot.

“It’s not just the social aspect, but also the mental aspect.”

An older man in a high-visibility t-shirt running with a group of competitors down a Ballarat street.

David McPhail of Rural Australians for Refugees takes part in the Ballarat Marathon.(ABC Ballarat: Laura Mayers)

Those sentiments were echoed by Ballarat local Gareth Prosser, who joined the 10km run on Sunday morning.

“The sport of running, non-competitive… I enjoy the cathartic nature of it,” Prosser said.

“You’re distracting yourself… (you) listen to yourself. Sounds like a good ‘me’ time before I start my day.”

The regular runner said the number of participants who signed up over the two days was “something amazing”.

“10 kilometers is about my normal running distance,” he said.

“I was thinking I could have run the half marathon… but I couldn’t get myself together for this one.”

“(The full marathon) is a long way. Halfway to Melbourne!”

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