Athletics: Aucklanders cry foul over Rotorua Marathon exclusion

Alice Mason wins the 2019 Rotoura Marathon
Alice Mason wins the 2019 Rotoura Marathon. Photo credit: Photosport

Aucklanders are pleading discrimination over Rotorua Marathon organisers' decision to proceed with the iconic distance-running event, despite COVID-19 alert level restrictions.

Entrants have been informed that the September 26 event over 42.195km will go ahead as planned, but without Auckland runners, who are permitted to travel around the country under Alert Level 2.5, but can't congregate in groups of more than 10.

The rest of the country is expected to drop to Level 1 next week, allowing them to move and gather without constraint. Even if Auckland drops to Level 2, its residents would be limited to 

"We are extremely disappointed that this is the case, but the safety and wellbeing of all participants remains our priority," organisers have posted on the Rotoura Marathon Facebook page. 

Auckland athletes have been offered a 50 percent refund or a fee transfer to next year's race, sheduled for May 1.

But the news hasn't gone down well among northerners already struggling with coronavirus restrictions applied by the Government, as it tries to control the current outbreak.

"I'm absolutely outraged, along with many other Auckland runners who have been training for months in preparation for this," personal trainer Brie Tevaga has told Newshub. "It's complete discrimination and bigotry."

"It creates a regional divide and is completely unethical by taking the full amount of money, even though the event is still going ahead.

"Surely there is a better solution, especially knowing that Aucklanders can still travel around the country, as per Government guidelines and even encouraging regional travel."

"Essentially, we can still travel to Rotorua and watch the races, stand on the sidelines - but can't compete?"

Other's have echoed Tevaga's concerns on Facebook.

"So much for the running 'community', if you are prepared to isolate and marginalise such a large number of members who have consistently supported the event and the town" says Karen McMillan. "An added kick in the guts to offer only a 50 percent refund too.

"Most people lose allegiance once they find they are such an easily detachable wing of any group or organisation. Don't expect them to return in a hurry."

Others have been more understanding.

"Disappointing, but I appreciate that this was a difficult decision for the organisers," posts Tony Coombe. "Run well all those still able to participate!"