There are a few places that you should put on your list of places to run. One of them is in the Whitsunday’s in the heart of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach.

I was approached early this year from the Whitsunday running club President, and parkrun Australia Founder, Tim Oberg to be an Ambassador for the 2017 event, the Airlie Beach Running Festival. It didn’t take me long to say yes I must say! Last year I was thankful to have travelled as Ambassador to Hamilton Island’s Active Women’s weekend, and the area had me hooked. Also insert a nice hot weekend in the middle of freezing Sydney winter and it was a no-brainer.

If you have been lucky enough to travel here you would know how your breath is taken away the moment you drive into town and catch a glimpse of the spectacular coastal view that awaits you.

Thankfully hubby was able to come with me to the weekend, however due to logistics we had to leave our family at home this time. I most definitely want to take them back to experience Airlie Beach for themselves.

When we arrived the temperature was a balmy 25 degrees and sunny. A welcome change from the 18 degrees and under freezing temperatures of Sydney. I wished that we were staying for the whole of winter! We disembarked the plane to a nice small terminal and grabbed our hire car. It was all seamless and quick and before we knew it we were on our way driving into Airlie Beach.

I was  not sure what to expect after the recent Cyclone Debbie that had ravaged the area earlier in the year. From the air coming into land we could see lots of trees that were down. As we drove into town there were a few trees down and even a sign that had been totally bent over from the force of the wind. Hard to believe what had been…..everything else looked great; a testament to the effort from local and government forces that had banded together for the cleanup.

view from the main beach

We drove into town and stopped at the end of the beach. The atmosphere was quiet and relaxed, and the view was amazing right away. Boats swaying in the gentle breeze, the sun high in the sky and people laying about clearly with nowhere to be and happily holidaying. We grabbed ourselves a bite to eat in a local cafe and then met Tim for a drink at the Anchor bar. The view from here was spectacular and well worth heading to if you are ever in town. There is even a pool there for families to enjoy free of charge!

We were staying at the Mantra Club Croc, which was a tidy, friendly hotel with modern comfortable facilities and great food. After heading off to see the sunset and out to our hosts for dinner we headed back to bed to prepare for the events of the next day.

We woke early to head to Airlie Beach parkrun. We were warmly welcomed and the atmosphere was friendly. The course was beautiful along the foreshore and the marina. We had a lot of fun and met some lovely RMA ladies and other parkrun members. Some were locals and some had come especially for the running festival.

view from the parkrun course

We then took a trip into town to the markets and then headed to the Cruise Whitsunday’s terminal to head out on our half day trip to Whitehaven Beach. This tour was amazing and gave us a glimpse of the spectacular gateway that Airlie Beach is to the islands of the Whitsunday’s. It was exciting to cruise past the islands and soak in the views on our way to Whitehaven. Once on the beach we relaxed, strolled and sat, soaking in our time together and the surrounds while hydrating and fuelling up for our race for the next day.

Once we arrived back from our tour we headed to the pasta party in the Mantra Club Croc hotel. They had a  few yummy pasta options and we filled ourselves up and promptly headed to bed ready to rise early for the race.

I woke at 5am as I had to be down at the race precinct to start the marathon. I was excited and nervous to head down to the race, but I was so thrilled to be given this opportunity. When I got there I straight away noticed a girl with her RMA buff around her wrist. I introduced myself, and felt immediately relaxed. Turns out it was Katie’s first marathon! Later I found out that she indeed did well and placed 2nd female! I met a few more RMA ladies before the start and I was thrilled when I squeezed the loud hooter to sound the start of the race. I knew just what it felt like to run my first marathon and it took me back to the nerves and excitement of that day all the while back in 2013 which is what sparked the beginning of RMA.

I headed back to the hotel to collect Mark and then down to the start of the half marathon where I met quite a lot of RMA ladies before the start. I was so happy that there was so many RMA’s that came to the event! They were local, from a few hours away like Townsville and Mackay and some from interstate too like Lee who I met at parkrun the day before. This pleased me so much as I love meeting other RMAs and getting to know their stories.

Soon enough it was our turn for the 10k race. After a photo before the start (how many races can you say do that?) we were off. I had planned to try my best for a PB. Given my PB half marathon two weeks before I thought I would give it a good crack. Well, I didn’t realise that the temperature would be an issue. I had been training in the freezing cold of Sydney for the last few months, and here I was in a hot 25 degree day and sunny. I only got to about 3k when I started to feel the effects of this, but I wasn’t keen on stopping for water at all as I really wanted to get under 50mins (47 something to be exact). Well, promptly the wheels started to fall off, and at about 5k I felt like my legs were made of lead. If it wasn’t for the amazing views I would have wanted to stop!

Not like me to give up however I told myself  just tick the legs over and over until the finish line, so that’s what I did, giving encouragement to everyone that I passed along the way. The great thing about the course is that it was an out and back. If you do the marathon you do the course four times, the half twice and us once, so it was amazing to be able to give everyone encouragement and support along the course, and a great course for spectating. The volunteer support was second to none, and the views were beautiful. We ran along the beach and foreshore, through the marina and up to the turn around point and back. I made sure I took in all I could see, even though I was trying hard to push myself to the end. I got to high five many runners and hubby and when I saw that finish arch I sprinted as fast as I could and made it in 48.59. Happy days. Not quite what I wanted but I was happy enough!

After the race I spent some time getting my breath back (lol) and then enjoyed cheering others along and across the line including hubby. I continued to meet more and more RMA’s during the morning that came up and chatted to me. This really was a highlight of the weekend.

Unfortunately we had to fly home at midday due to our kids going back to school so we hung around to see the kids race start (which was really cute, and so many kids took part which was great to see!) and then we headed back to the airport for our flight home.

If you are after a great destination race, put this on your list. Airlie Beach is the most beautiful place and there is so much to see. The race experience is what I would equate to a big enough event to be eventful, but with a wonderful community feel, supported by dedicated race organisers and volunteers which showcases a spectacular part of Australia.

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