Combine a holiday with one of Australia's great distance races.
Australia has an ever-growing band of masochists if the recent surge in popularity for marathon running is anything to go by. There are races all over the country, which means competitors and their supporters have the chance to combine the competition with a bit of sightseeing. Often the routes themselves pass some great attractions, so why not pop back in afterwards?
The Six Foot Marathon
The Blue Mountains, NSW
Saturday March 8, 2008 and Saturday March 14, 2009
Australia's biggest off-road running race, this marathon pounds along the 45km Six Foot path from just outside Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves. It has been going since 1985 and offers quite a different challenge to the usual road marathons. Around 700 runners take it on every year.
Things to see:
The Jenolan Caves are the oldest open caves in the world, and contain some spectacular rock formations, stalagmites and stalactites. The sheer variety of caves on offer is part of the attraction.
Find out more: The Six Foot Marathon
and Jenola Caves
April 12-13, 2008
Established in 1976, this is the oldest city marathon in Australia (the absolute oldest is at Traralgon in Victoria). It's also more than just a marathon there are a variety of distance races held over the weekend, including a fun run, a 50km ultra-marathon and 5km and 10km jaunts.
Things to see:
The course largely follows the shore of Lake Burley Griffin. So why not take in the Captain Cook Memorial Jet firing water seemingly miles in the air, or hire out a boat and for a bit of a paddle on the water?
Find out more: Canberra Marathon
Great Ocean Road Marathon
Lorne to Apollo Bay, Victoria
Sunday May 18, 2008
One of the bigger events in the country, the Great Ocean Road Marathon follows one of Australia's classic drives. And, given that the road is closed off for the race, those drivers will just have to come another day. There are also 6.5km, 14km and 23km routes for those a little less enthralled with the idea of hard work.
Things to see: The Great Ocean Road is best known for its spectacular views of the coastline, but veer off it slightly and there is some of Australia's best bush. Take a walk through the Lorne-Angahook State Park, and you'll find waterfalls, wildlife and gum trees galore.
Find out more: Great Ocean Road Marathon
The Cadbury Marathon
Sunday January 6, 2008
Ah, the irony of a chocolate company sponsoring an event for the ridiculously fit. Still, for a marathon run in Tassie, this one's hard to beat. It starts at the Cadbury factory, then takes in the Derwent River, Claremont and Austin's Ferry. A half-marathon is one lap of the course, while those taking on the real deal have to run round twice.
Things to see: Seeing as it starts and finishes at the chocolate factory, it'd seem silly not to get the whole Willy Wonka experience (minus the child manslaughter) while there.
Find out more: Cadbury Marathon
The Gold Coast Marathon
Gold Coast, Queensland
July 6, 2008
If there is such a thing as a beginners' marathon, then the annual run on the Gold Coast is probably it. Billing itself as Australia's fastest, flattest marathon course, it has none of those pesky hills to murder the legs. Going from Southport to Broadbeach and back, the course is lined with entertainers pumping out music from around the world. It's part carnival, part hard slog, and attracted 16,172 runners from 27 countries in 2007.
Things to see: If there's one thing the Gold Coast isn't short of, it's tourist attractions. Visitors can take on anything from an Aquaduck tour through the streets and waterways to surfing on the Superbank and getting rollercoaster action at the theme parks.
Find out more: Gold Coast Marathon
Rottnest Island, WA
October 19, 2008
It's not by any stretch the biggest marathon in Australia (Rottnest is only small, after all competitors have to do laps), but the Rottnest Marathon is in one of the prettiest settings. That said, how much attention the racers are paying to the delightful scenery of Perth's favourite getaway is debatable. Still it's all good for the viewing public.
Things to see: Rottnest is great for wildlife, whether it's diving and snorkelling in the Indian Ocean or on land. It's the only place in the world where quokkas live in the wild, and they're utterly adorable.
Find out more: Rottnest Marathon
Of course, there are other marathons across the country that can be combined with an Australian holiday. All five major cities Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide have one, while some of the more out of the way events can be used as a convenient excuse to head out to a new area of the country. There are races in the Warrumbungles, NSW, Bunbury, WA and from Port Augusta to Quorn in SA as well as those in Townsville and Alice Springs.