Like mythological Icarus (though with hopefully not the same consequences!), many Tasmanian runners fly off into the sun each year to compete in the big-ticket Gold Coast Airport Marathon.

But, shhhhhhh … between you, me and the gatepost, if you want a flat, fast course with superb weather virtually guaranteed, but sans overwhelming field numbers at this point, why not keep going a little further North to the Sunshine Coast?

The Sunshine Coast Marathon and Community Running Festival, now in its sixth year, has been ‘growing like Topsy’ in both reputation and popularity, with more interstate and international runners than ever before.

It’s not hard to see why.

The event has been timed to make the most of the ideal Queensland winter running conditions – think blue skies, low humidity and mild temperatures.

The end of the line

Combined with a pretty much flat course and route changes this year that knock out a good number of the u-turns of the past, faster times are now almost guaranteed.

Event distances include the marathon, half marathon, 10kms, 5kms and the 2km.

Each road race follows the stunning coastline of Alexandra Headlands, with white sandy beaches and spectacular vantage points alongside the sparkling, blue ocean.

I registered to run the marathon on 20 August just past.

And, right from the ‘get go’, I was impressed.

It always gives me confidence when communication and logistics pre-event are done well.  And in this regard – as in all others – the Sunshine Coast organising team didn’t disappoint.

I was particularly bowled over by the great food and entertainment, and running related information and merchandise booths that made up the lively race precinct near the Alexandra Headlands Surf Club.

It was great to spend a good deal of time there on the Saturday prior to race day, soaking up the sun’s rays and the fabulous atmosphere with the thousands of other excited athletes.

It’s an early start on race morning, as both the marathon (and half) commence at 6.00am.

While surprisingly fresh (and rather breezy) during my brisk two kilometre ‘warm up’ walk to the race precinct, as the sun came up, it was clear to see that it was going to be another ‘corker’ of a day in paradise!

All events are held alongside the beautiful beaches of Mooloolaba and Maroochydoore, with fabulous views to occupy your mind surf side as you churn through the kilometres, and thousands of ‘brunching’ onlookers to cheer you on from the coffee tables of trendy cafes in pretty, laid back suburbs like Cotton Tree.

Rewards! Race ‘bling’ and finisher towel.

The half marathon is a one loop course, while marathon entrants like me complete a multi loop route (1 x 21km + 2 x 10.5kms).

If you do the marathon, you will get four of what the locals, somewhat dramatically, term ‘hill climbs’, but – trust me – coming from Tassie, they are more what we might call ‘slight inclines’.

The remainder of the course is, as promised, flat, fast and scenic, and very well set up for spectators and various entertainments to help put that extra pep in your step when you start to flag.

There are only two things I found a little dispiriting.

Having started at the same time as the half-marathoners and run alongside many of them for 21.1 kms, it’s hard to see them diverge and sprint off down their finishers’ chute, when I know I’m only half done!

It’s also challenging not to initially drop your bundle when, with more than 32 kms under my belt, the leading 10 k race entrants come galloping past on fresh legs so far removed from mine, which now seem to be wading through treacle!

However, as the next wave of 10 k runners comes past, I find I can actually use them to my advantage as I do my level best to keep up with their event pace, rather than my flagging marathon one.

It works! And I look to my GARMIN to find the numbers back where I want them to be.

The big cheering crowds and pumping music two kilometres from home, are just what I need and I manage to dig a smidgen deeper to find some added speed to the finish line.

It is here where I find the sweet things I’ve been craving all race-long – the traditional rib-crushing hug from my waiting husband and some luscious tropical fruit (definitely in that order of sweetness!)

On completion, you collect an impressive marathon medal and race goodies, including a finishers’ towel, which makes a nice change.

The sun has really shone for me in this event – in more ways than one.

Written by: Annie Robson

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