For Joe Payton and his family, the Hawke’s Bay Marathon this year has a particularly special meaning.
Stride by stride, the Paytons will be running in one of Hawke’s Bay’s biggest sporting events since Cyclone Gabrielle, joining more than 4000 people as they compete this weekend.
Otis, who has Down Syndrome, will be running the 10km event with other family members and Joe will be running the full marathon, both raising funds for the Hawke’s Bay Rescue Helicopter Trust.
In 2019, the pair raised $14,000 for UpsideDowns Education Trust by trying to run the Hawke’s Bay Marathon in under three hours, and this year they hope to smash their target of $50,000 for the Rescue Helicopter Trust.
“We just made the decision to raise as much money as we could for them, given at the time of the cyclone they were pretty much working 24-hour shifts to try to get supplies [out] and help people out that were directly affected,” Payton said.
He uses running as a wellbeing aid and stress relief tool, and said it is great to be able to combine his personal satisfaction and drive for running with fundraising.
Payton said he was hoping he could beat his 2019 time of three hours and three seconds.
“There’s no doubt I’ll finish it, it’s cracking the three-hour barrier which is something I’ve been trying to tick off for the last four years.”
He said all of his preparation was starting to come together and he hadn’t missed a training session this year.
“If there’s ever a time to crack the three-hour barrier it will be this time.”
While Otis hadn’t done as much training as his dad, he’s definitely looking forward to having a crack at it, Payton said.
Individual fundraisers like the Paytons aren’t the only people doing the mileage for their favourite charities. There are also many other wider initiatives happening as part of the event.
“To support the ongoing recovery efforts of the region, Hawke’s Bay Marathon athletes and the Ironman Foundation donated over $18,000 to the Hawke’s Bay Disaster Relief Trust earlier this year,” race director Keegan McCauley said.
“There are 10 official charities on board for the 2023 Hawke’s Bay Marathon, with nearly 180 fundraisers donating to 60 charities overall. So far, Hawke’s Bay Marathon participants have raised nearly $25,000 to support charities in need.”
The event is also aimed at boosting visitor numbers and the region’s economy.
“With over two-thirds of athletes and their supporters travelling from outside the region, the event has a significant economic impact. Previous years have seen around $7 million pumped into the regional economy,” McCauley said.
This sentiment is shared by Napier City Business Inc general manager Pip Thompson.
“Everyone benefits, whether it be accommodation, hospitality, retail, or all of the above.”
Hawke’s Bay Tourism chief executive Hamish Saxton said the region was excited to welcome runners from all over for the weekend’s competition, and that it signalled the start of a string of events moving forward.
“The New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Hawke’s Bay Marathon signals the start of an incredible run of events, which continues through to Summer F.A.W.C! in March, and includes the Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival, Harvest Hawke’s Bay, Robbie Williams, the Art Deco Festival and so much more in between.”
The event was originally due to take place on May 20 but after evaluating the effects of Cyclone Gabrielle, organisers decided to postpone it till August to allow the region time to recover.
Runners will compete in either the NZ Sotheby’s International Realty Marathon, La Roche Posay Half Marathon, Havana Coffee 10km or the Kennedy Park Resort Kids Run.
Events will finish at Hawke’s Bay’s Elephant Hill Winery for a food and wine festival finale.
Mitchell Hageman joined Hawke’s Bay Today in late January. From his Napier base, he writes regularly on social issues, arts and culture, and the community. He has a particular love for stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.