Roger Childs looks back at the In the Footsteps of the Marines event. The event's future is in doubt unless a new group takes over the organising of it.
The idea for the In the Footsteps of the Marines originally came from Kāpiti US Marines trustee Anthony Dreaver.
The trust was organising a set of events in 2012 on the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Marines in New Zealand during World War II.
Leon Uris was one of those servicemen and in his book Battle Cry he recounted the experience of a tough route march he and his fellow Marines endured inland from the camps at Paekākāriki.
Anthony approached the Kāpiti Joggers and Walkers about organising an event in the hills behind Camp Mackay simulating the route march.
So on Sunday, June 10, 138 walkers and runners covered a 13.3km course on surfaces that ranged from sealed roads to clay tracks.
For only $20 competitors got a challenging and enjoyable event, the chance of spot prize, a finisher's certificate, a cup of hot soup, a banana and a roll.
A sprightly, elderly Marine from Green Bay Wisconsin, Claude Bohn, who had been here in 1943, fired the pistol to start the running race.
Andrew Reid's comments were typical of the feedback: "A great day out, lovely scenery and views, weather obliged on the day, and nice to see that the cattle had been cleared off Campbell's Mill Rd where they had been the previous week. Would I compete again next year? Too right I would. And I've even talked my wife into competing as a walker!"
A legend was born and the event was held every year up until 2019.
A 10 year concession was obtained from the Department of Conservation to use Whareroa Farm.
The biggest field was more than 200 and over the years a number of Marines from the US Embassy have taken part.
Each year the proceeds were donated to charities and local groups, with one organisation receiving up to $1000.
Major recipients have included Cancer Kids, Kāpiti Youth Support, Life Flight, SPCA, Youth Education Trust and Youth Quest Kāpiti.
Over the years the course has been adjusted as a result of slips in Waterfall Rd, track damage and flooding in Whareroa Farm.
In 2016 the route was changed from the farm to an all-road event three hours before the start!
Then in 2018 it was decided to cut out public roads altogether and have the entire event in Whareroa Farm and on Campbell's Mill Rd which proved popular.
Organising what became a last Sunday in May event was a major operation and the committee always started work in February.
On the day over 50 people were involved in course layout, registration, marshalling, manning drink stations, time keeping and recording, serving food, spot prize and certificate distribution, and bringing gear in off the course.
Many local organisations and firms have assisted with gear and volunteers including the Raumati Scouts, Raumati Beach School, the Whareroa Guardians, the Tramway Museum, PEL and the Kāpiti Running and Tri Club.
Unfortunately In the Footsteps of the Marines had to be cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic and this year the Kāpiti Joggers and Walkers have not been able to recruit enough keen committee members.
The group has put together a detailed manual on the running of the event, so if there is an organisation out there which would like to take it on, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.