by Peter Carruthers
GET your running shoes laced up and your Strava ap downloaded ahead of the kick off to the first major Whitsunday event since the arrival of Cyclone Debbie.
Without the post cyclone damage to contend with, the Airlie Beach Running Festival has always walked a tightrope between hosting a sustainable event and providing value to local and travelling athletes.
Race director Tim Oberg said with a little seed funding from last year's event, the committee has successfully found the right balance to ensure all stakeholders got the most from this year's event.
"We have had to market ourselves to bring people in so the town benefits but at the same time you have to keep the event so it is profitable and sustainable," he said.
This year the festival is officially affiliated with Athletics North Queensland and for the first time will offer a full marathon.
Back on board as naming rights sponsor for the fifth year is Cruise Whitsundays.
Attracting visitors to the Whitsundays by offering a discounted Whitehaven Beach cruise on Saturday, the running festival has created a real buzz in the Cruise Whitsundays office.
"They will get to see one of the icons of not just our region but of Australia and also get to support one of our partners and we are looking to work with Cruise Whitsundays as our event grows," Mr Oberg said.
Media Executive at Cruise Whitsundays, Alyce Carter, said the company would enter runners in the 5k team challenge and would also offer 10 volunteers to staff drink stations and be put to work as marshals.
"It has been fantastic for our staff and a real talking point in the office. And it has given them a reason to get together outside of work and train together," she said.
"We know runners in the 5k team challenge are getting dressed up and they are excited about the event. We really want to push that fit and positive aspect of the event at our work place."
Ms Carter saw the Airlie Beach Running Festival as real draw card for visitors to the region.
"If people want to come up and run in the festival, what a beautiful location to do it number one, but the second thing is they can get out on the water and experience what the Whitsundays has to offer," she said.
"They can do the run and also tailor their trip to take in Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef."
This year the start/finish line will overlook the idyllic Port of Airlie Marina and the event will include a pre-race pasta party and a post-race pool party.
For the first time the Heart of the Reef Marathon will be the host for the North Queensland Athletics Championships.
"They liked the idea of the championships being held in such a beautiful location and as a result of that we have been working with their team to get the course officially measured," Mr Oberg said.
Whoever takes the marathon title on Sunday will be the Athletics North Queensland Champion.
All events will start and finish at the Port of Airlie Marina. Online registrations close at 9pm on Friday.
Event start times
Heart of the Reef Marathon: 6am
Cruise Whitsundays Half Marathon: 7am
Mantra Club Croc 10km Fun Run: 7.30am
The Coffee Club 5km Fun Run: 8am
Turtle Club 1km Family Fun Walk: 9.30am
Whitsunday Times 2km Junior Dash: 10.30am