It was a day of records at the 16th annual McDonald’s Townsville Running Festival. The record times for the Townsville Marathon and Female’s 10K Classic were smashed, the number of marathon runners and competitors from neighbouring towns was at a record high, many of the 2,303 runners who took part in the six events recorded a new personal best, and others set their own record for their first ever fun run.
The winner of the Townsville Marathon, Benjamin Ashkettle from Melbourne, pushed through the strong headwinds to set a new event record of 2:22:49. He was tailed by Dave Criniti (2:27:07) and Russell Dessaix-Chin (2:30:24); from Sydney and Wollongong respectively. Townsville Road Runners president Tony Gordon, who also ran the marathon and admitted he was on “struggle street” for a while; said he was thrilled that the festival had managed to attract such a high calibre of out-of-town runners. “We are rubbing shoulders with the best of them in the country,” Mr Gordon said. “It was the first time in the history of the marathon that we’ve had all first three runners cross the line within the 2 hour 30 mark.”
Local athlete Sam Stedman, who came first in his age category (30-39) in the Marathon, was also able to set a personal record of 2:43:28 — three minutes faster than his previous PB. He agreed with Tony, saying it was “amazing to have the top three lads here”, but it was also the support of the locals that made it.
“There were so many people cheering each other on,” Sam said, who actually — after finishing the marathon — ran back to Pallarenda to run with Outer Limits team’s Chosen One, Christy Guinea (Christy came over the line later in the morning, with lots of hugs and a few tears, after completing her first ever marathon). “Townsville is a unique place like that — we have a whole community of people who cheer and give it their all. Even people at the back end were still smiling and cheering others on.”
Townsville’s Victoria Beck was the women’s marathon winner at 2:55:23, followed by Melissa Criniti (3:09:17 – Melissa’s husband Dave also came second in the men’s marathon); and Colette Read from NZ (3:14:23). Victoria said she was feeling a bit of pressure coming into the race.
“I was just trying to come into it and run my own race,” she said. “I think it was pretty windy, it was a hard day, and I was a little worried I wouldn’t have enough energy, so it was a bit of a grovel home in the last 10km, but I’m glad I managed to hold on.”
Three runners were also inducted into the Townsville Marathon 10-Year Club today: Steve Titmus, Bernie Norris and Wayne Crase — all from Townsville.
Well done to everyone who took part today, including the 150 volunteers – it was a fantastic day with an amazing atmosphere!