2015 Marathon Calendar

While the half marathon grabs all the attention with skyrocketing participation numbers, its growth hasn’t been at the expense of 42.2. Yes, fewer people run marathons than halfs – it’s twice as far, duh! – but the ranks of marathoners continue to tick up, too. The marathon has become more about the engagement and the experience than the performance. Innovations include social-media shout-outs, photos and videos; VIP packages; and unique tech T-shirts and medals. To find the best of the new, we looked at Australian and New Zealand marathons that debuted since 2010 (excluding first-year marathons, because even the best organisers need time to iron out glitches) with at least 50 finishers. We aimed for geographical diversity and pored over runners’ reviews. These seven rose to the top. Now go run a new 42.2!


Big Easy Marathon

Where: Wanaka, New Zealand
When: 24 January
What: Billed as New Zealand’s “highest mountain marathon”, runners start 1500 metres above the South Island’s Cardrona Valley. Views of Mt Aspiring and the Southern Alps are a dizzying snowy backdrop. With a lazy start at 11am, and a generous cut-off time of 11pm, that’s heaps of time for first-time mountain marathoners.
Route: Starting at Bob Lee Hut at Snow Farm – a cross-country ski field in winter – marathoners follow a mountain bike route that rises gently for 9km to the top of Mt Pisa. After that, it’s 21km of “downs” to Luggate township. After 2km of farm tracks, it’s a mostly flat 10km along Clutha River Track to finish at Albert Town Tavern, where free beers will be flowing.
Also: 100K, 12K.


Orange Colour City Marathon

Where: Orange, New South Wales
When: 1 March
What: Are oranges grown in Orange? No, but the city’s parks erupt with vibrant colours during each of the region’s four distinct seasons. In autumn, glorious street trees turn magenta and citrine (and, yes, orange!) as leaves prepare to fall. On a brisk March morning, runners descend on this regional hub to run a gentle, undulating marathon.
Route: Starting at Bloomfield hospital and golf course, marathoners explore rural roads around Orange. At the eight-kilometre mark, runners turn into Bargwanna Road, passing a local reserve. After two kilometres, you’ll veer into Forest Road, with views of surrounding orchards and farms, and Mt Canobolas brooding on the horizon. At the 28km turnaround point at Spring Hill village’s public school, marathoners backtrack along the paved course. A tree-lined path leads to the finish line, where a festive atmosphere awaits.
Also: Half marathon, 10K, 5K, 2K.


Roller Coaster Run

Where: Mt Dandenong, Victoria
When: 21 March
What: If you’re hoping that the name “Roller Coaster Run” has nothing to do with its course; wishful thinking. The race is as it sounds: Wild, twisted and jam-packed with ups and downs. It’s also fun – thanks to upbeat volunteers dressed as red-nosed clowns.
Route: Starting at Sky High – a lookout, restaurant and function centre near the summit of Mt Dandenong, which rises 35 kilometres east of Melbourne – the race is a 21.5-kilometre loop that encompasses Dandenong Ranges National Park (marathoners do two loops, total 43km). With roughly 9 ups and 13 downs, it’s no surprise that the course elevation profile – which you can view online – looks just like an amusement park roller coaster.
Also: Half marathon (21.5km).


Marmot T42

Where: Central Plateau, New Zealand
When: 2 May
What: In a landscape dominated by active volcanoes ¬– Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe – the stunning valleys, rivers and mountains of the Tongariro area hosts one of five kiwi sanctuaries in New Zealand. The native bush is home to rare species, such as wetland orchids, blue ducks and short-tailed bats. Up here on the North Island’s Central Plateau, natural beauty extends for kilometres. This undulating – but on the whole, descending – marathon explores this magical place.
Route: Kicking off with a 2.2km loop of private farmland in, marathoners join the “42 Traverse Track”, a one-way multi-use track that undulates through Tongariro Forest Conservation Area, crossing a number of valleys and ridges. The compact clay and gravelled 4WD track is a historic logging road with a handful of river crossings. At the 39-kilometre mark, runners turn onto singletrack before finishing in Owhango township.
Also: 24km adventure run, 11km and 6.5km trail run or walk, 48km mountain bike.


Australian Outback Marathon

Where: Yulara, Northern Territory
When: 25 July
What: What can be more iconic than Australia’s “Red Centre”? Fear not; this marathon isn’t all deep, ochre sand. In fact, it’s a mixture of bush roads, fire trails, packed earth, sand and a couple of tiny stretches of sealed road.
Route: Starting about 4km into the desert, with the sun rising over world-famous Uluru (or “Ayer’s Rock”), marathoners set off in a south-westerly direction before swinging north. With views of Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) – large, blobby rock formations – participants run in a clock-wise direction, through desert tracks and graded red roads, reaching Jem’s Dune at almost exactly halfway. Looping over another small dune, runners regain the course at the 26km mark, backtracking to the finish.
Also: Half marathon, 11K, 6K.


Busselton Marathon

Where: Busselton, Western Australia
When: 10 October
What: This year, Busselton Marathon is an afternoon race so that runners and their families eschew a mad, morning rush to travel to the coastal city – famous for its outrageously long jetty jutting into the Indian Ocean – 220km south-west of Western Australia’s capital, Perth. Nestled on the southern end of gently curving Geographe Bay, at this time of year, this idyllic region boasts comfortable temperatures between 18-22 degrees Celsius.
Route: From the heart of cheery Busselton, the marathon is four laps following the foreshore past the heritage-listed jetty – the longest timber-piled in the Southern Hemisphere – taking in postcard-perfect ocean views of Geographe Bay.
Also: Half marathon, 10K, 5K


CANEGROWERS Great Barrier Reef Marathon

Where: Port Douglas, Queensland
When: 1 November
What: Just an hour’s drive north of Cairns, Port Douglas boasts a world-class beach – a minute’s walk from the town’s main street – where your race begins. Here, you’ll be running between not one, but two world heritage–listed Australian icons: the Great Barrier Reef and Queensland’s Daintree Rainforest.
Route: Settle into your pace along the flat, long expanse of palm-fringed Four Mile Beach. Just after the four-kilometre mark, marathoners veer inland into Mowbray Valley, surrounded by Daintree Rainforest. After crossing Crocodile Creek and Spring Creek, you’ll take on Bump Track at the 18-kilometre mark, climbing two kilometres over 380 metres. The undulating return journey using gravel roads, boardwalk bridges and compact beach sand finishes straight down Port Douglas Esplanade.
Also: 74K, half marathon, 10K, 5K, 2.5K.

For more details and more races, purchase a copy of Runner’s World January 2015.


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