GOLD COAST • When Gold Coast Events Management chief executive Cameron Hart and his team took over the reins of organising the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM), the annual race had fewer than 7,000 participants in 2001.
Fifteen years on, that number has swelled to 26,500 - including 3,500 foreign runners from 59 countries - who signed up for the eight categories on offer this year.
While that figure still falls short of other popular regional races - such as the Tokyo Marathon's 36,000-strong field, or even the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore which attracted about 50,000 runners last year - Hart believes the GCAM is a well-delivered marathon.
He said: "We may not lure the numbers, but it doesn't mean we don't offer the technology or the attention to detail that makes runners pay attention to this race.
"The language services we provide for the athletes continue to make the race accessible for the Asian market. The live reporting and webcasts also allow supporters to track runners online."
Hart added the event will not seek higher participation at the expense of race quality. He said: "While we have seen some significant growth, the event will not compromise safety by exceeding course capacity."
The Gold Coast native added that the GCAM receiving the International Association of Athletics Federations Gold Label accreditation for the third year running is a seal of approval on its standards.
Hart said his organising team plan to continue attracting both elite and recreational runners.
Citing a A$22 million (S$22.2 million) economic impact on the city that is largely down to the presence of overseas runners, he said that tourism has benefited from the reputation of the race spreading among recreational runners.
But Hart also recognises that the race needs an elite field, saying: "When elite runners record back-to-back sub-2hr 10min times, it generates interest from the athletics media, which in turn attracts other recreational runners wanting their own personal bests."
Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and Malaysia, for example, each had a record number of entrants this year. Singapore had 400 runners - the fourth-most from overseas.
Runners in both the male and female categories stand to win A$20,000 in prizes, but Hart does not think that it is the main draw.
He said: "We have profited from our partnerships in promoting this as a race where you can record a fast time. It doesn't matter whether you're qualifying for the Olympics or trying for a PB."
Lok Jian Wen