“Good Times” was aptly chosen as the theme to celebrate this year’s 40th anniversary celebrations of the Gold Coast Marathon (GCM). From its humble beginnings in 1979 as a local run, the GCM has cemented its international status as an IAAF Gold label event for the fifth year, and recorded more than 27,000 runners for this year’s edition.
Over 4,200 international runners from 52 countries took part across the 8 categories, led by the huge contingent from Japan. China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia recorded historical highs, with Singapore having the most participants among South East Asian nations.
This year’s edition also attracted top South East Asian runners including Singapore’s Soh Rui Yong and Agus Prayogo, first and second position winners in last year’s SEA Games. Both competed in the half marathon distance last weekend.
Singapore’s Ashley Liew and Evan Chee ran the marathon distance, while Lim Han Chee did the GCM for the tenth consecutive year and inducted himself in the famed 10 Year Club. Paralympian Dr. William Tan, became the first Singaporean wheelchair racer to take part in the Wheelchair Marathon category, and earned himself a third position in his category.
88-hour journey for the Gold Coast Marathon
I have read stories of running enthusiasts returning regularly to the GCM. Most often heard phrases include “It’s the nearest place to do your Personal Best, or PB timing”. And that the weather is good at end of June or early July, the location is easily accessible and you can sneak in some shopping and sightseeing on a short trip.
My journey for this 40th GCM edition – graciously hosted by Tourism and Events Queensland – started on Thursday night on a dedicated Scoot-GCM flight. Lots of fanfare began at the boarding gate with photos taken of the various groups from Singapore and Indonesia. The upbeat mood continued on the TR6 flight with stewardesses wearing GCM bandanas and serving drinks with GCM cups.
Upon arriving at Coolangatta airport on Friday morning, my group was brought to Pacific Fair for breakfast, then onwards to the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre to collect the race pack and attended the Elite Media Conference. Yuki Kawauchi, this year’s Boston Marathon winner, was the star at the conference, untiringly obliging to every photo request with him. The day ended at Miami Marketta, a hip and trendy outdoor dining joint with street food for locals, and still not much discovered by tourists.
Saturday began with a short trip to Sea World for a quick spin on a helicopter. I used to spend quite a bit of time at the Gold Coast when I did my studies for a year in Brisbane, and had spent lots of time on land and in the water, but it was a first to experience the sights from the air.
The itinerary then continued to a coffee appreciation session at Paradox Coffee Roasters before heading to Harbour Town Outlet Shopping Centre for the quintessentially mandatory Singaporean pastime. Early carbo loading dinner soon followed at Vapiano Gold Coast to retire and rest for the main event on Sunday.
No dramas for race morning on Sunday. After the marathon, we managed to squeeze in a quick hour-long ride on Paradise Jet Boating, before a celebratory dinner at Seascape Restaurant + Bar right on Surfers Paradise. We then retired for the night one final time at Watermark Hotel and Spa, before checking out in the wee hours of Monday morning to Coolangatta airport.
All in, the journey took about 88 hours in total, and checking all the “must do” items of shopping, sightseeing, eating and – oh yes! – running. If you are a working on a regular five-day work week, all you need is one day of leave to achieve all of the above.
The Gold Coast Marathon Experience
This GCM is my fourth major run in this year, following full distances in Hong Kong in January and Kuala Lumpur in April, and a bruising 100km Ultra Trail Australia last month. Far from finishing on the podium and typically barely meeting cut off times, I am happy to be on the start line for this year’s GCM. Truth be told, I had about a good month’s break recovering from the last race, fasting during Ramadhan, and then feasting over the festive Hari Raya Aidilfitri period.
The marathon course was relatively straight and flat. Temperature hovered around 15 deg C when race started at 7:20am and was in the region of 22 deg C when I completed my run at 4:38 hours later. While it was not my PB timing, it was indeed my best timing for the year, with the less than ideal condition I was in. For many others though, they did get their PBs, and a few also qualified for the Boston Marathon from this GCM.
The course was very much along the coastline, with hotels and residences on one side, and Surfers Paradise on the other. What stood out for me was that crowds were cheering probably for most parts of the course, and this moral support may also be a factor for runners to keep their motivation for good timings. Cheering from the community – not one managed by the event organiser – is perhaps what we lack in local races, with it typically being restricted only to the final 50 metres to the finish line.
Safety was top notch, with medical staff within visible sights everywhere, and food and drink stations were well placed, standard for an event worthy of an IAAF Gold label.
In the elite field, Kenyan runner Kenneth Mungara won his third Gold Coast Marathon, pipping Japan’s Kenta Murayama, who made a late surge, by just one second with a time of 2:09:49 hours! Jo Fukuda of Japan took third to complete the men’s podium. The women’s race was won by Ruth Chebitok – a first for a Kenyan – with a time of 2:24:49 hours. Australian Jessica Tengrove and Kenyan Agness Barsosio took the second and third spots respectively.
Tips for Gold Coast Marathon
- Do have two full nights’ stay prior to your run, so that you can acclimatise to the cooler and drier conditions.
- Gold Coast is two hours ahead of Singapore. The full marathon race starts at 7:20am, about 30 minutes after sunrise. Not much sleep pattern adjustment is required if you are using to running pre-dawn in Singapore.
- There is free train ride on race day for GCM participants. However, trains were full pre- and post-race. You may want to consider staying near to the start and finish line.
- Scoot flies directly from Singapore to Gold Coast. This is probably the best travel option if you intend to fly in, run, and fly out. However, flying into Brisbane is another option if you would like to have other travel plans pre- and post-GCM.
- Food options are aplenty if you are on religious or dietary restrictions; so no worries for that.
The Gold Coast Marathon deservedly had a rolling good times for its 40th anniversary celebration. The event is nearing its capacity, and it is not unthinkable that its future editions will be sold out sometime before race day or it will go via the ballot entry mode. And that Personal Best chatter; definitely not hearsay; it is true and doable!