Nestled on the north east coastline of Queensland, 1,350km north of Brisbane and 350km south of Cairns, the city of Townsville in August is a perfect running escape.
Long, flat promenades, lower than usual humidity and cool morning temperatures provide ideal running conditions. Liking the sound of what Townsville has to offer, I decided to hop on a flight and see what all the fuss is about, joining the 17th installment of the McDonalds Townsville Running Festival on Sunday 3rd August 2015.
Back in 1999, The first Townsville Running Festival had 26 finishers for the marathon, 58 finishers for the half marathon, and 31 finished the 10 Km. Over the years the festival has grown steadily both in event offering (there is now a 5km race) and attendance. 2015 attracted a record turnout of 3,264 participants, drawing runners from 17 countries including the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and more.
I opted for the 42.2km event which kicked off the running festival before first light at 5.30am. The half marathon followed about 2 hours later and the 10km classic before 9am.
Despite the early start, I was soon wide awake and taking in some amazing views. The pre-dawn start allowed us all to take in the breathtaking sunrise over Cleveland Bay as we raced along the award-winning pancake flat Strand Beach promenade. The course looped a number of times allowing runners to experience spectacular views of the Coral Sea, Magnetic Island and the Marina and unlike bigger city marathons, there was no congestion on course. A relatively small marathon field of just under 200 meant there was plenty of space to find your rhythm early on. Dotted along the route were friendly marshals and smiley volunteers with plenty of water and sports drink to keep us all hydrated. And despite the heat starting to dial up towards the final few kilometres, it was all worth it to cross the line and be presented with our exclusive Townsville marathon medal.
I finished in just under 4 hours, not a personal best but a course definitely capable of producing one. At the pointy end, a fantastic achievement with the first ever overall female winner. Sarah Crowley, crossing the line with a time of 2.52:59.
The McDonalds Townsville running festival is a cracking event that offers all the trimmings of bigger city events but with that country Australian friendly feel and a flat, fast course that will have your chasing down your race PB. Want to have first hand experience? Check out the next running festival in August 2016!