News & Updates

22 September 2021 • General

Athletics builds momentum across the country

Sir Graeme Douglas 2020. (Photo Credit: Alisha Lovrich)

With much of the country at an Alert Level 2 the athletics action is starting to gather momentum, providing a welcome degree of normality to our sport.

Last weekend witnessed regional road championship events in Taranaki, Southland, Wellington and Hawkes Bay/Gisborne while the 60th anniversary edition of the Governors Bay to Lyttelton 10km race also took place in Christchurch.

For the Taranaki Road Championships event organiser Karen Gillum-Green was delighted to see event go ahead at the third time of asking after two previous Covid-related postponements.

Attracting 87 athletes to the race and operating under strict Covid protocols, the race staged in the New Plymouth suburb of Fitzroy provided a much-needed return to racing in the region.

“It was hugely important to run the event for the mental wellbeing of our athletes,” she says. “We were really lucky to be able to put the event on after two postponements, which enabled the competitors to go for the title, a placing or a good time.”

Down to the bottom of the South Island and prominent Invercargill-based coach Lance Smith was delighted to observe that the Southland Road Championships went ahead after an earlier postponement.

Run on a stunning lakeside course in Te Anau, Lance, the inaugural winner of the Arthur Eustace Coaching Award, says the staging of the event acted as a timely boost to the local running community.

“It was pretty well essential (it was organised) because of the number of events that had been cancelled following the level four restrictions,” explains Lance. “We had to give our athletes something (to aim for) at the end of the (winter) season and the event was well received by the athletes.”

Canterbury successfully staged the Governors Bay to Lyttelton 10km race last weekend – an event which attracted more than 170 runners. Traditionally the race is run as an handicap event with the result that many participants finish at a very similar time.

However, this year in order to keep within Level 2 guidelines the fastest runners set off first with the slower runners starting later to limit the close proximity of participants.

Athletics Canterbury General Manager Ian Thomas said he was delighted with the turnout for an event which served a vital purpose for local runners.

“It gave them that sense of normality and sense of achievement,” he says. “To be able to race again gives each athlete the chance so see how they are tracking in terms of their fitness.”

This weekend the action will continue up and down the country including on Saturday the Manawatu and Wanganui Road Championships held in Beaconsfield.

Event co-ordinator from host club Feilding Moa Harriers Rob Dabb says the event is expected to attract between 100 and 150 people. In order to meet Covid protocols the younger age groups will be finished racing by 12.30pm with the older age groups starting some 40 minutes later.

Operating compulsory registration for all entries, Rob admits staging the championship serves several purposes.

“It is vital that events are ongoing,” he explains. “People are people, we are not machines, we thrive on each other’s contact. Many people will be looking forward to seeing one another and also having the opportunity to put together a decent run as well.”

On Friday (September 24) the Otago Spring 3000m Challenge will offer an early season opportunity for athletes to hit the track at the Caledonian Ground in Dunedin.

The open event in collaboration between Athletics Otago and the University of Otago is organised to encourage university students to compete.

Karen Palmer of Athletics Otago is confident the track competition will meet the needs of athletes in the region.

“Because of the Covid restrictions we have people champing at the bit for competition,” adds Karen. “People are keen for a taste of normal life after and it is really important we get that underway.”