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Race previews Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival

07 April 2021, 7am

Runners got to experience ‘finish feeling’ despite cancellation of 2020 event

Virtues of the virtual

Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival
Sun 10 October 2021

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The Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival is an inclusive mass participation event offering a race distance for all ages and abilities.

Attracting tens of thousands of participants each year, raising millions of dollars for charity and showcasing the city of Melbourne, this premium festival has cemented its title as ‘Australia’s Largest Marathon’. Starting 42 years ago with 2500 runners the ‘People’s Marathon’ now welcomes over 35,000 participants.

Following record-breaking attendance at the 2019 event, with the Half Marathon and the 10km also sold out, there were high hopes for the 2020 event, but…

After months of continuously monitoring the COVID-19 situation and working closely with local, state, federal and health officials, we had to cancel the 2020 Festival. We were disappointed, but the circumstances and our duty to the health and safety of our participants, staff, volunteers, and the community made it impossible for us to deliver the event despite the generally very low levels of infection in Australia.

We instead created a Virtual Melbourne Marathon to help our runners maintain their goals, stay inspired and keep fit during this difficult time. It was an event held remotely that allowed individual runners the flexibility of participating in a distance of their own choosing between the 5-13 December. This was ‘Race Week’ during which participants could log distance and submit it towards their official race time for the 2020 Virtual Melbourne Marathon. There was also an integrated training element built into the app platform for participants leading up to ‘Race Week’, to maintain interest and commitment.

The event allowed our global community to celebrate resilience and a shared love of running. We had over 5500 committed participants in over 84 countries, each basking in the ‘finish feeling’ of completing the event and unlocking the augmented reality finisher medal to take a selfie with and share to the world. Participants also received the official 2020 finishers’ medal in the post.

The virtual event allowed us to open up to a new audience: 63% of registrations had never before participated in the Melbourne Marathon Festival. Participants were able to use the virtual event as a motivation to train and inspire personal achievement in the depths of a COVID-19 world. It also provided a means to stay connected.

After unprecedented challenges we are excited to plan for the return of our physical event in 2021. We look forward to again hearing the roar at the start line but it would be foolish to dismiss the advantages of virtually-based elements to which the situation in 2020 exposed us. Virtual events offer great opportunities where travel is restricted. Not to mention virtual training programs or activities that complement the physical event.

In preparing for the Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival 2021 on 10 October the health and safety of our participants, spectators, volunteers, partners and team members remains our top priority. We are continually monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will take the necessary steps to deliver a safe, rewarding and memorable event for all.

We look forward to welcoming new and past runners to the 2021 Nike Melbourne Marathon Festival.

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