The 51st edition of the historic Rotorua Marathon takes place on May 2. Here are ten reasons why you might be tempted to give the iconic race a crack.
1 Around the lake
One of the unique charms of the event is one lap of Lake Rotorua is almost exactly the full marathon distance (give or take a few hundred metres). No more. No less. Perfect. No runner understands the attraction of the race quite like Colin Smyth, who is bidding to complete his 50th Rotorua Marathon this year and he adds: “The main appeal of the marathon is it is just one lap of the lake. I’ve competed in marathons of two laps, five laps but it is just not the same.”
2 – Spectacular support
One factor which has contributed to the ongoing success of the race has been the way in which the Rotorua community has fully embraced the event. Three-time former winner and women’s course record holder Nyla Carroll was always hugely appreciative of the vociferous and enthusiastic crowd support she received during her eight previous appearances in the race.
“The crowd atmosphere is amazing,” she adds. “Lots of activities going on and there is always a very good vibe. The locals know the event is on and get out and support it. There are groups of people who every year haul their couches out to the side of the road and support the runners. It is fantastic.”
3 – Top quality organisation
The Rotorua Marathon has long been the standard-bearer for dozens of other sporting events across New Zealand because of its outstanding organisation. Led successfully by race director Dennis Kenny and his wife, Pam, for more than 30 years up until 1999 the pair still play an active role in terms of the event organisation.
Pam believes the root of the success of the event was formed by a “fabulous committee” which first came together in the mid-70s.
“This group of nine to 12 people each had their own responsibilities but you just knew the job would be done and everything would be right on the day,” she adds.
The baton has now been passed on to Athletics New Zealand and Rotorua company Event Promotions who have continued to deliver a high quality event each year.
4 – Legendary names
The roll call of past winners in the race reads like a who’s who of New Zealand distance running. On the men’s side past winners include Jack Foster, course record holder Paul Ballinger and Jonathan Wyatt. On the women’s side Nyla Carroll, Bernie Portenski and Jillian Costley are all ex-champions. If you plan to compete in the Rotorua Marathon you are following in the footsteps of Kiwi legends.
5 – I’m a survivor
All participants who have completed 15 Rotorua Marathons are acknowledged for their efforts by being invited to join The Survivors Club, which adds as an extra spur for participants to stack up multiple appearances in the iconic race. Formed in 1993 the club now has approximately 450 members. Its most prolific member Colin Smyth helps organise an annual dinner every year during the Rotorua Marathon weekend, which he describes as a great opportunity for members “to meet and gather” each year.
6 – The challenge
Even today with the abundance of physical and endurance races out there in a crowded market place the marathon still holds an intoxicating allure. For those keen on taking on the challenge, the Rotorua Marathon remains a stand out leader and with hilly sections between 17-20km and an energy-sapping 600-700m gradual incline at 24km - it is not a marathon for the faint-hearted, but the satisfaction from completing is something to truly treasure.
7 – Something for everyone
In recent times the Rotorua Marathon has become far more than simply a marathon. It has become a festival of running with races over a range of distance to suit all abilities. Besides competing over the full marathon distance there is the option to race the half-marathon, quarter-marathon and 5.5km events. On the Friday before the big day a Kids Mini-Marathon sponsored by ActivePost takes place, so there is no excuse not to be involved in this great annual running celebration.
8 – Tourist hot spot
For any potential participants there is the added attraction of complementing competing in the race by taking a break in a city. Known for its geothermal activity the city has a range of attractions to suit all ages.
As three-time former winner Nyla Carroll says: “The whole town gets behind the marathon and it feels special. There has always been a nice vibe in the city and plenty to do with its hot pools and good cafes.”
9 – You are not alone
The race is among the best participated marathons in New Zealand and attracts on average approximately 1500 marathon competitors each year. Unlike many smaller marathons this is a far more appealing prospect, according to three-time former winner and Rotorua regular Bernie Portenski.
“I’ve done a lot of marathons in New Zealand and often when you look behind you and in front of you and you can’t see anybody else running,” she explains. “Rotorua is different because you always have others running around you and with the support of the local people and this is important.”
10 – New Zealand's number one
The most historic marathon in New Zealand should be on every aspiring runner’s bucket list, according to Portenski.
“It is always the biggest marathon in New Zealand and because it was Rotorua, it was something I had to do annually,” explains Portenski, who has competed no less than 32 times in the event and claimed 11 podium finishes.
“This is the New York or Boston Marathon of New Zealand, so why wouldn't you do it?”
Enter The Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon