Race Report: Queenstown International Marathon

Queenstown International Marathon

Queenstown, New Zealand

By Lisa Nolan

Browsing through Facebook eight weeks ago, I noticed a competition on the Air New Zealand page to win a trip for two to the Queenstown Marathon – all expenses paid including flights, accommodation and dinner at one of Queenstown’s top restaurants, Rata. I entered, not expecting to hear anything back. But a week later, I found out I’d won!

Two weeks earlier, I’d raced my first marathon in Sydney and absolutely loved it! I was instantly hooked on longer distance running. Unfortunately though, I was unable to celebrate the achievement for long because my mum was diagnosed with Lung Cancer on the trip home – I was devastated. I’d just spent most of 2015 racing a host of fun-runs to raise money for Motor Neurone disease in memory of my Dad, who I’d lost the year before. But I was still excited to have the opportunity to run another marathon, especially in such a stunning location.


I flew back to my hometown of Nelson, New Zealand to be with my mum during her cancer surgery and I’m happy to say that it was a total success. While I was there, I trained on the hills around her home, and thank goodness I did because Queenstown is not flat …


The day before the race day, myself and my husband flew to Queenstown from Sydney. (Although he’s not a regular runner, he decided to run the half-marathon too and loved it.)

Upon arrival, we were treated like royalty with Koru lounge access, premium seating and our Hotel St Mortiz was amazing. For the race participants, they offered a race pack with trail mix, alongside yoga sessions, massages and ice baths.

Race Day

Queenstown was absolutely humming – the race vibe was awesome with over 9,000 visitors flocking to the area for the run – the place was bursting at its seams.

We started at the stunning Millbrook Resort, Arrowtown surrounded by massive mountains and pumped up runners at 8:45am. I found myself surrounded by a huge group of fellow Aussies, including another lady from RMA [Running Mums Australia Running Group].

Once out of the resort, we headed onto sealed roads and after a short climb, were onto trails and a good couple of kms downhill, before running into the beautiful historic gold mining town of Arrowtown. It’s such a picture perfect place – there was a band playing and lots of people came out to cheer us as we ran through.

For the first 18kms of the course, I was running strong and looking at a 4-hour finish. The course is undulating and we were constantly running up and down hill. And when we hit Lake Hayes and the first very steep hill, I tried so hard to run up it and got most of the way before admitting defeat and finding myself walking. I started to feel a bit tired and had to break up my running with very short walk breaks.

But I decided not to let it upset me. I remembered why I was there and how blessed I was to be running in such a breathtaking place – I was going to enjoy every minute of it.

I made sure I thanked every single volunteer for giving up their Saturday for us and chatted to the friendly locals, who lived out in the middle of some of the most breathtaking rugged country I’ve ever seen.  It was even enjoyable to have the company of a little Jack Russel dog, who trotted along with us for about 5ks.

At the 33k mark came a monster of a hill – I nicknamed it ‘Heart attack Hill’ because at the top   I was struck with terrible cramp. A passing angel gave me a salt tablet and I was soon able to carry on thankfully mostly downhill from then on.

There was nothing quite like seeing the start of Lake Wakatipu as we were on the home straight. Hitting lake I was so excited, but we still had another 10km to go … the scenery took my breath away and the dirt trails were fantastic – wide enough for you to comfortably run two abreast sometimes three. Some were covered with was wooden boardwalks too and little bridges. The aid stations were fantastic, with plenty of water, powerade and sports jelly beans, which were great – I much prefer them to gels and best of all there were plenty of porta-loos too.

Finally hitting Queenstown was the most amazing feeling ever! At the finish line there was a DJ playing – I whooped and danced my way into the streets. Having our names on our bibs meant that there were hundreds of people calling our names and screaming. I truly felt like I’d won the race, even when I placed around 1,200th! At the finish line I met my husband Shane and fellow RMA runners Olivia and Michelle.

After note

The organisers did a fantastic job – everything went smoothly, from the number collection pre-race, to the shuttle buses ferrying runners out to the start line. This has probably been the hardest race I’ve ever ran, but it was also the most well organised. I highly recommend that everyone should put this on their running bucket list. I’m already trying to see how I can make my way back there next year.


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