News & Updates

4 November 2021 • General

New mile events provide welcome edition to the athletics calendar

A strong collaborative approach adopted by the Manawatu Triathlon Club and the P Norty Distance Project has helped spawn two of the most exciting new races on the athletics calendar – the P Norty Distance Project Invitational Mile and Manawatu Mile.

Set to take place in Palmerston North on December 18 as part of the Manawatu Tri Festival social media has been abuzz with excitement for the event which offers the recreational runner the appetising prospect of running a road mile and has also attracted stellar elite field in the Invitational Mile events led by Olympic middle-distance runner Sam Tanner.

The event to be staged on a likely out-and-back course on Centennial Drive in the city centre – should prove appealing to both competitors and spectators, but perhaps the most noteworthy factor to the exciting initiative has been the collaboration shown between the sports of triathlon and athletics.

Mark Evans as President of Feilding Moa Harriers and Vice President of the Manawatu Triathlon Club straddles both sports and he was keen to add a running event as part of the festival.

But what was the reasoning behind selecting a road mile?

“We were aware of the Queen St Mile which had previously taken place in Auckland and I recently watched a cool street mile which took place in Christchurch a few years ago with lots of twists and turns and an exciting finish. This acted as the inspiration.

“Running a mile on the track can be a bit boring, so that is why we thought of the idea of putting it out on the road.

“We try and encourage all the younger triathletes at the club to be able to run a fast 1500m, so we saw the mile as an ideal distance for them to target. Meanwhile, the mile is also a distance that is achievable for everyone.”

While the Manawatu Triathlon Club are the primary organisers of the mile races the P Norty Distance Project have played a key role in putting together the talented men’s and women’s elite fields for the invitational mile including Harry Dixon – a sub-30-minute 10,000m runner and Massey University veterinary student.

Drawing up a list of names for the event he has received massive support with the men’s field not only boasting Sam Tanner but also reigning national 800m and 1500m champions James Preston and Julian Oakley. The women’s event is similarly impressive featuring national cross country champion Kerry White, former national 5000m champion Laura Nagel and 2021 New Zealand 1500m silver medallist Suzannah Lynch.

“I’ve been amazed and surprised by the quality of the men’s and women’s invitational miles,” adds Harry. “We put together a list of names, sent out the invites and we are really lucky so many responded with a yes. There is a certain novelty element to an invitational event. The quality of the event is really cool, and we are really excited.”

With cash prizes on offer of $500 for the winner, $300 for second and $100 for third, the monetary incentive has not harmed its appeal while organisers are also considering a prize for the first athlete to reach the halfway marker in both the men’s and women’s invitational miles.

Behind the scenes they are also exploring the possibility of the race appearing on Sky Sport Next but whatever happens organisers insist putting on fresh races in the current Covid environment is vital to maintain a strong profile for the sport.

“We would like the general community excited about the event,” adds Harry. “Hopefully, a road mile is a lot more accessible for the mass participation runner than a track meet or a cross country, so we are hoping for good numbers.”

Mark insists the mile events serve as a healthy reminder that the sport is active and relevant.

“If you stop giving people goals or opportunities people will stop doing athletics,” he says. “If there is nothing to train for people will turn away from the sport. The Manawatu Mile and P Norty Mile provide those competitive opportunities.

For more on the P Norty Invitational Mile and how to Enter the Manawatu Mile go here.