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Tue 31 Mar

Friday 9 November 2012

Start line in sight after 3-year journey

350 international athletes are beginning to arrive in Port Douglas in what will quite likely be the most unique sporting event they will ever enter.

The Solar Eclipse Marathon will commence at the southern end of Four Mile Beach as the sun breaks the darkness of totality.

Lars Fyhr of Denmark-based Albatross Travel (the event owners), arrived in Port with his team on Wednesday after three years of planning and preparation.

"We're finally here. It has been three years of back and forth and thinking how we're going to do it. We're in the last ten days and we can actually get things done and see it happen," he said.

For most of the runners who are travelling from around the globe to participate in the race this will be their first experience of tropical Australia. So what have they been told to expect?

"They are expecting some fantastic scenery and they'll get that for sure, of course the heat and the humidity, but then also the relaxed Port Douglas atmosphere. They'll get that Australian vibe.

"They are expecting a fun race, hard of course due to the heat, but a well-organised race with a lot of cheering and support from the other eclipse viewers who will be in town, and in general a good holiday."

International runners from the United States, Denmark, Belgium, and Holland are well represented, as are a number of other countries, and they will enjoy a tour package allowing them to spend a week seeing the attractions of the region including, of course, the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest.

"It's enough time for them to get relaxed, get into this special Port Douglas vibe that I think is here where nothing is in a hurry - in a good way," Lars said. 

Pictured: Albatross Travel's Lars Fyhr is glad the marathon, three years in the planning, is finally upon us.

So who are these people who travel to remote places such as China, Greenland, Africa, and now emerging Myanmar to participate in Albartross Travel marathons?

"The runners are more mature, around 50 years old of average. The runners who run adventure marathons are mostly those who have done the city marathons and now they want something else," Lars said.

That "something else" will include the lung-bursting Bump Track - a seemingly endless incline within the Mowbray Valley that will surely test even the fittest of athletes.

Runners will gather on Four Mile Beach at Barrier Reef Park in a clearly marked area to view the eclipse before departing on their 42km challenge.

"We want to embrace the event (the eclipse) for everybody so we're not going to kick people off the beach if they're in the wrong section.

"But it will be very clearly marked where runners will start from and I think other eclipse viewers will probably not be interested in being among them in order to not be disturbed as we are running, more or less, as soon as the corona is broken," Lars said.

A word of warning goes out to unregistered runners who may be planning to join the race (known in the industry as 'Ghost Runners') - only those people with race numbers and solar eclipse marathon wrist bands will receive water at the stations dotted around the course. With another hot day in the tropics expected, it's worth taking into consideration.

"I don't mind if people are running along even though they are not registered. But the problem is if they start taking up supplies from the people who are registered and have paid for it.

"We're very much looking forward to the event. It has been a real pleasure for three years now working with everyone in Port Douglas and now we're finally at the doorstep."

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