"Marathon tourism", like upcoming New Caledonia event, increasingly popular.

It's a great way to celebrate running 42km –minutes after crossing the finish line in the New Caledonia Marathon, immersing an aching body into the crystal clear water of beautiful Anse Vata beach.

Cooling off in style at that beach was exactly what Christchurch runner Lisa Brignull did after competing in the event in the capital city Noumea for the first time last year.

"I just jumped straight in, still in my running gear," she says. "It was a nice end to the race, something a bit different."

Brignull (44) welcomes any opportunity to combine her passions for long distance running and travel; she has run over 120 marathons throughout New Zealand and around the world, including New York, London, Berlin, Rome, Cape Town and the Great Wall of China.


However, she hadn't considered doing the New Caledonia event until a second placing in the Wellington marathon led to an invitation to take part as a special guest.

"I was very lucky, I was treated so well. But it is a great event for everyone who takes part – very family-friendly, very well-run," says Brignull, a former travel agent who now works as a cycle safety instructor for Christchurch City Council. "They were so welcoming - at the prizegiving they gave everyone a photo of themselves crossing the finish line. "

While the New Caledonia Marathon is an Olympic-level qualifying international event, its 750 participants is a much smaller field than big city races, and far less overwhelming.

"Those big ones can be quite intimidating and it is very easy to get lost in the crowd when there are 24,000 other people around you running. This is a lot easier. It is also very spectator-friendly," adds Brignull, who was supported by her husband Lee.

The marathon is two laps of a scenic route that starts and finishes at the renowned Anse Vata beach and winds around some of Noumea's most spectacular bays. As well as the full marathon, there is also a half-marathon, a 10km race and a 2km event for children aged eight to 13.

It's a great course to run, and once the racing is done and dusted, there's the option of exploring the picturesque island, or simply relaxing in a stunning setting.

Baies de Noumea. Picture / Supplied
Baies de Noumea. Picture / Supplied

"It is a really lovely destination," says Brignull. "I love the mixture of the Melanesian and French cultures, and the food is fantastic."

Another bonus of the New Caledonia Marathon is that with Noumea is only a three-hour flight from Auckland, not far for Kiwis to travel.


Judy Wolff runs Marathon World Travel, a boutique agency specialising in taking runners to running events around the globe, and says her clients appreciate being able to take part in an international marathon so close to home. They don't have to worry about jet lag and adjusting to vastly different time zones and can fly to New Caledonia for a long weekend.

"Most people like to go for at least a week so they can stay on and enjoy everything New Caledonia has to offer. It's a fantastic place to recover from running a marathon."

This year's marathon is being held on August 25, giving New Zealand runners the chance to have a winter break at the same time.

"It's a nice reprieve from our weather at that time of the year and being semi-tropical, the temperatures are good but not too hot for us Kiwis," says Wolff.

People she has taken to New Caledonia for the marathon include a mixture of serious athletes training for bigger events (who like not having too far to go for an international race), to less experienced runners keen on participating in an overseas marathon and having a holiday at the same time.

"One of the best ways of discovering a city is to run around it," says Wolff, herself a marathon runner. "And with the New Caledonia Marathon, it's a very friendly event with a lovely atmosphere and you get the bonus of being in such a wonderful place."

For more information, visit: https://www.newcaledonia.travel/nz/travel-offers/new-caledonia-marathon-2019