AUSTRALIA’S oldest marathon is poised to become an international extravaganza in its 49th edition next year.
The Traralgon Marathon and Running Festival’s growing international pull, which has attracted on average a few runners from abroad each year – including one from Cambodia this year – is set to benefit from Latrobe City Council’s Sister Cities Sports Exchange Program, adopted last month.
As part of the program, council will contribute $12,500 to help drive an exchange of runners with Takasago, Japan, where marathon running is a national sport, to participate in each location’s flagship 42 kilometre race next year.
This comes on the eve of the 48th Traralgon Marathon, which will take place on 21 June.
Latrobe City coordinator events and international relations Jason Membrey said the choice to include marathon running in the program came down to mutual interest.
“We were looking at synergies between both sister cities in terms of sports and with the Traralgon Marathon being the oldest marathon in Australia and Takasago having a marathon as well we saw it as an ideal opportunity to expose our international relations program to the broader community – to an open age (bracket),” Membrey said.
“They’re really keen to reciprocate the sports exchange program, and leverage off their marathon and community and participate in future marathons here in Australia as well.”
Traralgon Harriers president Will Hanrahan said the potential to host international visitors could elevate the event’s status on a global stage.
“We’re delighted about it, we think it would not only be great for our people to go to Japan and have that experience but it will also be wonderful to have them come over here,” Hanrahan said.
“Fantastic to add numbers to the event, but also it would give the event a lot more status and wider recognition, both in our local committee as well as broader; it’s potentially a really important growth opportunity.
“We’re absolutely delighted to know that council is really supporting this and there’s a genuine chance this will come to fruition.”
Hanrahan said with the 50th anniversary of the marathon coming up in 2017, it would be an opportunity to drum up international interest in attending.
Latrobe City mayor Dale Harriman said the exchange would also involve a tennis team heading to another of the region’s sister cities, Taizhou, China.
The sports exchange program operates on a rotation with Latrobe City’s music exchange program.
Council has staged discussions, including a preliminary meeting with Traralgon Harriers working toward recruitment processes, but the program will be open to any community member capable of running a half or full marathon.
The $12,500 committed to support the delivery of each program will be supplemented by seeking corporate sponsorship.
The 48th Traralgon Marathon and Running Festival will be staged on 21 June.