It might be twelve months away, but the solar eclipse that is due to pass through our region on 14 November 2012 is already being touted as the biggest single attraction in Port Douglas' history.
Around 40,000 people from all over the world are expected to converge on the region to witness the cosmic phenomenon, injecting an estimated $40 million into the local economy.
And while many of us will be content to merely witness the 6.38am eclipse, for up to 3,000 others it will signal the start of the world's first Solar Eclipse Marathon.
Port Douglas will play host to the swarm of runners as they participate in "the most unique sporting event in history."
Runners will be taken on a challenging and scenic 42km Adventure Marathon course through sugar cane fields, old mining roads, and lush tropical areas.
Ironically, the idea for the race came about on a snowy afternoon in Denmark in February 2009 when Race Director, Rune Nortoft from Adventure Marathons, Albatross Travel was out for a run.
“Running is my creative thinking time and we’d just organised an eclipse-viewing tour to Shanghai and while I was trudging through the snow that day, it suddenly came to me,“ he said.
That was 2009 and the seeds of The Solar Eclipse Marathon were planted. Mr Nortoft and his colleague, Lars Fyh, discovered that the total solar eclipse in Australia in November 2012 would be the
perfect time for a marathon.
They contacted Travelling Fit, Albatross Travel’s partner in Australia, who in turn contacted Port Douglas Event Management (PDEM) and plans got underway.
Last Wednesday, PDEM's managing director, Sam Cullen, met with Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, during her visit to Cairns and State Member for Cook, Jason O'Brien, to discuss how best to use the
eclipse and marathon to attract visitors to the region.
Mr Cullen said it's a perfect opportunity to reverse some of the negative press the State has received regarding recent weather events.
"We wanted the Premier to look at the concept which would use a natural phenomenon to shine a positively light back on to the region versus the negative light which comes from the media who cover natural disasters.
"This is an opportunity really for major stakeholders to come together to bring about a massive injection of investment.
"We asked the Premier to help us achieve the media coverage that we believe is necessary to turn this event into something that is very beneficial to the region."
Mr Cullen said efforts will be made to bring network television shows such as Channel 7's Sunrise, and Channel 9's Today Show to the area in the lead up to the solar eclipse.
"We want to concentrate on securing that coverage and we've asked the Premier to assist," he said.
Mr Cullen said Premier Bligh recognised the opportunity the eclipse and the marathon presents, not just to Far North Queensland, but for the State, and has given an undertaking to investigate how the government can help.
The Solar Eclipse Marathon will see the return to Port Doulgas of Australian endurance runner, Steve Moneghett, who will be the event ambassador, a role he is also filling in this Saturday's Great Barrier Reef Marathon Festival.
“As a distance runner, I love the connection with nature when I run and what better way to enjoy this than to be able to do it in synch with the sun at a solar eclipse? Port Douglas is such a beautiful place to enjoy this experience,” he said.
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