Running a marathon doesn’t seem like a relaxing vacation idea but it’s a different tale if have the beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast to spur you on. The Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) in Queensland, Australia offers runners a unique opportunity to soak in the beautiful sights and atmosphere of the iconic Gold Coast, as well as to push themselves competitively.
Now in its 33rd year, the GCAM has regularly drawn praise for its organisation, as well as for being a fast and flat course with extremely good weather for running — a winning formula that has seen many personal bests fall by the wayside. It is traditionally held in July when temperatures range from 10 to 20 degrees Celsius with low humidity and little or no wind. The course winds its way from Southport along the world-famous Gold Coast coastline to Burleigh Heads, passing through Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach before turning after the 15km mark. The route back to the finish line follows the coastline up along the famous Broadwater in the north (36km) before turning for the homeward journey.
The race itself isn’t the event’s only draw. The Gold Coast offers 70km of surf, sand and sun, as well as 100,000 hectares of world heritage-listed rainforest, with plenty of exciting activities to occupy you — and your family — before and after the race. Besides whale-watching, there are theme parks you can visit, winery tours, adventure trails and, not forgetting, the famous beaches for you to give yourself a well-deserved break. For local runners who have gotten bored of the same old routes and sights in Singapore, GCAM has become a popular event to reignite their passion and seek a fresh challenge.
Besides the Gold Coast’s relative proximity — an 8-hour flight away — and familiarity as a tourist destination, runners have been taking advantage of the specialised marathon training prepared by Team Fatbird. Operation Kookaburra is based on Team FatBird’s in-house fitness system and complemented with aspects of the Official Gold Coast Marathon Training Program. Led by experienced marathoners and running guides, participants will progressively level up over a span of 12 weeks to condition themselves for their challenge Down Under. First-time GCAM runners share their experience taking part in the run.
This regional manager has been a serious runner for the past three years. He counts three full marathons under his belt, including a 52km ultra trail race. The Gold Coast Airport Marathon is his first overseas marathon.
Your first impressions of GCAM?
The race was well organised, it didn’t felt congested and packed with runners unlike some races. I think it helped that the numbers were much smaller. I was particularly impressed with the pacers who conducted group briefings at various timing pens. I was lined up with the 4-hrs pacers, and they were professional in explaining the route, highlighting certain locations to look out for, etc.
How was the overall organisation?
The race pack collection was a breeze, the staff were helpful and it was well organised. The route was generally flat, except for a slight elevation at approximately 32km mark. The weather was ideal for marathon, the morning temperature was about 12-13 degrees, and peaked at approximately 18-20 degrees by noon. The crowd support was second to none, there are people cheering you on along most of the road, and residents set up support stations providing hydration, food and even wine!! I particularly enjoyed the weather and the carnival-like atmosphere, which made it different from the Singapore races.
How did you perform?
My objective was a sub-4hrs completion, I completed with an official net time of 4:05:33hrs. But overall I am quite pleased with the outcome. It was my first overseas race in cold climate, and most importantly I enjoyed the whole experience thoroughly.
Most memorable moment?
It was really fun going as a group. There were elite runners from Singapore such as Mok Ying Ren, Dr. Ben Tan and Singapore marathon record holder M. Rameshon was also there to support his runner Ashley Liew. There was a huge Team Fatbird turnout and the ever inspirational veteran like Mohan made the GCAM an enjoyable and memorable event.
Advice for first-timers
Check out the race expo and official event apparel such as event tees, caps and running shorts. But do look at the price tags. For sightseeing, do check out whale watching! Enjoy the race, don’t set high expectations, take it as a bonus if you do well. But if you don’t, the experience gained and friendship fostered is priceless.