Gold Coast Airport Marathon a magnet for S'pore runners

Gold Coast Airport Marathon a magnet for S'pore runners
Aerial view of particapants taking part in the 2010 Gold Coast Airport Marathon in Queensland, Australia.
PHOTO: Tourism Queensland

After more than 10 half-marathons, Andrew Tan decided at the end of last year that he was finally ready to take on the full 42.195km.

But rather than running his maiden marathon at home, in a familiar environment, the 44-year-old safety specialist decided to test himself overseas - where he would not know what landmarks and route to expect, but at the same time, race on a course that remained manageable.

Yesterday, he completed the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM), clocking 4hr 29min.

The race turned out to be easier than he had anticipated.

"A friend ran here before and had good reviews," said Tan.

"You don't know what's coming ahead on the route. You just run. But there's very little gradient, and it doesn't look so scary."

He was among 340 other Singaporeans who also took part in the two-day affair, competing across events that included the half-marathon and 10km race.

The Republic is the fourth-largest foreign contingent this year at the GCAM, after Japan, New Zealand and Taiwan. It is a slight dip from the record 358 last year, likely owing to the Osim Sundown Marathon that also took place over the same weekend.

Still, the International Association of Athletics Federations-certified Gold Label marathon, promoted by Tourism and Events Queensland, is believed to remain the most popular overseas race for Singapore's running enthusiasts.

Some make the trip arrangements themselves, while others engage agencies such as Scenic Travel for a customised tour package to enjoy a hassle-free trip to Australia.

Participants spend about $1,500, which includes flights, accommodation, transport and race entry.

Even for Lim Han Chee, who has made the annual "pilgrimage" here without fail for seven years, every race is a different experience.

He has clocked personal bests on five of his seven visits - including 3hr 36min yesterday, despite the chilly conditions turning into one of the hotter GCAMs in recent years by 10am with few clouds overhead to shield the sun's scorching rays.

Said the 47-year-old civil servant, who has checked marathon majors such as the London, New York, Berlin and Tokyo races off his bucket list: "The route here is excellent. Big city marathons have a lot of twists and turns, which slow you down. Here, it's straightforward and you get a spectacular ocean view too."

With no shortage of running events in Singapore to choose from, it is unique and comfortable experiences like this that have lured many runners overseas.

Said Loke Hon Wah, a 39-year-old civil servant who ran his first half-marathon yesterday: "The cool weather (15-20 deg C) makes a big difference. The crowd, the support, and the cheer party along the way is something you can't get in Singapore."

Tan Bee Peng had locals cheering her along the way. The 41-year-old administration manager told The Straits Times: "They called out my name, 'Peng! Peng!' even though they can't really pronounce it."

Added Adrian Ooi, a 35-year-old doctor who made the trip Down Under without going through an agency: "It's a very well-organised race and all the way you don't feel that it's too crowded. People get to enjoy the race at their own pace."

With the city undergoing a transformation ahead of its hosting of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, organisers are looking to continue attracting foreign runners, growing the event from the current 28,000 to around 35,000.

Cameron Hart, GCAM chief executive, told this paper: "There are so many marathons around the world and in our region - which one do you choose?

"Runners look for personal bests too if they're going to travel... (the GCAM) is flat and fast."

Said Lim, who has already put next year's race on his to-do list: "The Gold Coast isn't just a surfers' paradise. It's also a paradise for runners."

In the elite runner field, two-time Singapore Marathon winner (2010, 2014) Kenneth Mungara of Kenya won the men's marathon in 2:08:42. The 41-year-old's time is a new Australian all comers' and course record, and also shaves 2sec off his Masters 40+ world record.

Japan's Risa Takenaka took the women's event in 2:28:25.

This article was first published on July 6, 2015.
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