In the face of a funding crisis, Lake Taupō Hospice has launched a Virtual Marathon event.

Perfect for alert level 2 or 3 conditions, chief executive officer Michele Thomas says lots of people have been working on their fitness over lockdown and she hopes the Virtual Marathon will appeal to all those who want to support hospice and have some fun at the same time.

The Virtual Marathon runs from April 30 to June 25, and can be done bit by bit. Participants can run or walk the event, and choose a distance of 5km, 10km, a full or half marathon.

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Having fun with her exercise in lockdown is ultra marathon runner and Ironman New Zealand run marshall director Leigh Austin.

Her day job at Traff1k Digital as head of talent keeps her desk bound, but when work finishes she runs out the door.

Having fun with her running during lockdown. Leigh Austin dressed up as a buzzy bee and ran 21km around Taupo streets on Easter Sunday.
Having fun with her running during lockdown. Leigh Austin dressed up as a buzzy bee and ran 21km around Taupo streets on Easter Sunday.

"I can't do nothing well. Staying fit during lockdown has been a huge mental challenge. I have been stuck inside all day by myself, when the day finishes I have got to get outside and do something," says Leigh.

Leigh says she will enter the Lake Taupō Hospice Virtual Marathon and says the longer the lockdown goes on, the harder it is to find the motivation to stay fit. She began training for the Taupō Ultramarathon in October.

"Initially the message was to stay home. So I stayed home and ran six kilometres around my section, 56 laps, just to see what it was like."

She said it was mentally difficult to run around her section.

"But people in lockdown overseas were doing marathons on their balconies. I take my hat off to them."

Wanting to have fun and loving a challenge, Leigh went on to do a 10km run around her garden, setting up an aid station in her garage.


"The neighbours talk to me. I think I am great source of entertainment to myself, and to my neighbours."

On Easter Sunday she ran 21km around the streets dressed as a buzzy bee. On Anzac Day Leigh pinned on some poppies and completed a 25.04km run around Crown Park, the distance reflecting the significant date.

Leigh said in these times of lockdown, she would encourage others to have a change of mindset of what is possible to achieve and to do something different.

Michele Thomas said Lake Taupō Hospice fundraises 70 per cent of its income and fundraising came to a standstill when New Zealand went into Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown.

"We are remodelling our budget. The Hospice Shop is the source of 45 per cent of our income and both shops are now shut," said Michele.

The shops reopened last week to receive donations on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays between 10am and 3pm for contactless donation drop-off.

Michele said hospice was completely committed to patients, offering a free nursing and care service to those needing palliative care and living in the Taupō district. At present, 89 patients are receiving community palliative care from nurses, and the support team was carrying out grief counselling over the phone.


"Nurses are still out on the road, they are frontline workers. They are essential workers," said Michele.

Michele said hospice was looking at what it can do to support its community and to support fundraising.

"It's hard to go out to our community to ask them to give what they don't have when we know this is a financial crisis and it's hitting all charities."

A new event scheduled for May, The Dining Club, had to be cancelled. The annual Creative Catwalk event has been cancelled due to the lack of lead-in time.

Entry to the virtual marathon is only $10 and once the distance is complete, you just need to get in touch with hospice to go in the draw for a special prize.

Michele said the virtual marathon is a little bit of fun and she hopes people will enter with all the other people in their bubble.


Enter the Virtual Marathon online at