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Stage set for Pursuit in Paradise

Saturday 18 March 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Running, Sports


Stage set for Pursuit in Paradise
Aitutaki youngster Enrique Joseph (pictured here after his 10km race last year with David Street, the 21km winner and country manager for major sponsor BSP) will be one of eight Aitutaki students lining up on the 10km course start line of the 2023 BSP Aitutaki Marathon event with the shorter course proving popular among the Aitutaki locals and youth. SUPPLIED/23031728

Numbers for next week’s BSP Aitutaki Marathon are small but international participants say the intimate event is exactly what has drawn them to run in paradise.

A total of 26 runners have signed up for the Aitutaki running event set to be held on Tuesday, March 21 with three race distances on offer in the short and sharp 10-kilometre race, 21km half marathon and main 42km full marathon. 

Twelve international and 14 local runners will line up for the fifth instalment of the BSP Aitutaki Marathon Pursuit in Paradise that is only able to run thanks to the generous support and sponsorship from Bank South Pacific.

International runners are travelling to the paradise event from Germany and America as well as returning Kiwi runners and Australian participants. 

With more flights scheduled for the coming year providing more access to the Cook Islands – inquiries to join the 2024 event are already rolling in as those that were unable to find their way to the islands this year are now locking in March 2024 for the next Aitutaki Marathon. 

And even though running enthusiast and previous winner of the 42km and 21km course BSP country manager David Street has not signed on to be at the start line in this year’s race – the bank is 100 per cent behind the event. Apart from the financial sponsorship support, BSP is gearing up the 30 plus Aitutaki volunteers, mainly high school students, with sun hats, water bottles and t-shirts as they man 10 water stations across the island and provide support for the 26 runners that will take on the three various course distances.

The organisers thank BSP for their generous support as well as the enthusiastic staff of the Aitutaki BSP branch that never fail to make visiting runners feel cared and supported with that super amazing Kia Orana spirit. 

This year will see a group of eight Aitutaki youth aged between 11 and 15-years old put to the test months of training when they line up for the speedy 10km course race.

This is a brilliant opportunity for the budding athletes to be part of a high calibre running event, in their own backyard, that will include again 10km specialist runner and current two-time winner of the course Rupeni Mataitoga from Rarotonga. Originally from Fiji, Mataitoga is always on the hunt to shave off more minutes and seconds of his finish times.

The 2022 winner of the main 42km race and local pilot Andrew Logan has signed up for the 10km as well which is sure to make the race a dynamic one.

In the half marathon – personal goals of setting faster times are on the minds of the competitors in this division while six hearty runners will tackle the main 42km race – which is not for the faint of heart.

Just one local based runner is on the start line of the main 42km race and happens to be the local based winner of the 2022 Round Rarotonga Road Race last year in September, Chris Stansel. Running couple Thomas and Jillian Mendoza just glad to be finally arriving in paradise after signing up for the event in 2019 but due to the 2020 pandemic have not been able to travel until this year.

Following the main marathon, on Thursday the highly popular Aitutaki airport runway fun run will take place. The event attracts the wider Aitutaki community to this unique event that raises funds for youth and sports on the island.

Once again meitaki maata to Bank South Pacific for the generous support and sponsorship and also to the Aitutaki community and students who will be out on the roads taking care of Aitutaki Marathon runners beating the pavement early Tuesday morning.  

  • Nuti Turama