Kathryn Lewis

Stromlo Running Festival break attendance record despite coronavirus capacity limits | The Canberra Times

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The Stromlo Running Festival has taken COVID-19 in its stride, almost doubling last year’s record attendance despite capacity limits and virus safety measures. The festival, reimagined for the COVID era, was granted an exemption by chief health officer Kerryn Coleman to allow up to 900 people each day of the weekend-long event. Race organiser Mel Bingley said the race had sold out for the second time in its 11-year history, reaching capacity of 1800 across Saturday and Sunday, up from the previous record attendance of 1000 people in 2019. “The race has a new momentum,” Ms Bingley said. After months without large gatherings nor a chance to tackle a long-distance track as a community, Ms Bingley said Canberrans had a clear appetite to get involved. “50 per cent of the participants were new to Stromlo, they’d never done it before, so that just shows there’s an interest there,” she said. The event was founded after the 2003 bushfires to celebrate Canberra’s strength and resilience, making it the perfect way to see out 2020. The event meant something more for first-time runners and cousins Tiffany, Naomi and Alana Mahon who spent three months training for the big race. “Dad really loved running and he passed away recently so we like to do things with him looking down on us,” Naomi said. “During COVID I was running on the treadmill at home and thinking, I’ve got to get up to 10 kilometres for this!” Alana said the community spirit boosted the experience and made achieving their 10km goal even more worthwhile. “It’s a challenge we set ourselves, the goal to get fitter and train for it and we all wanted to do it together and we all encouraged each other,” she said. Ms Bingley said the planning process was long and complex, but organisers were lucky to have time on their side to work with the ACT government to put a COVID-safe plan in place as restrictions eased. The usual one-day event was split over the weekend with the 30- and 50-kilometre runners bearing Saturday’s heat and the 10km event taking place on Sunday. Runners were physically distant at the starting line with groups of 100 kicking off every 20 to 30 minutes. Each person had their temperature checked, contact details taken and health screened before entry, with hand sanitiser and COVID marshals galore. Participant donations raised $5000 for the Indigenous Marathon Foundation, a charity which celebrates Indigenous achievement and leadership through running.

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