New Zealand's biggest off-road marathon will refund all entries following a decision to cancel the event completely in the wake of the Covid-19 virus outbreak.

Great New Zealand Forest Marathon organisers said it made sense to cut their losses and made an early call to can the event, rather than postpone, with no definitive date on when the current lockdown might be lifted.

More than 3000 people were expected to have taken the starting line this year for the unique event, run through a seaside stretch of forest at Waitarere Beach, near Levin.

The event's marketing manager Cushla McColl said the event was simply too large to postpone, especially with uncertainty around when they would be able to reschedule.

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"It's just not possible to run it later in the year, to get the course set up and to get all the volunteers needed to run it," she said.

Waiterere Beach's Great Forest Run has been cancelled. Photo: Ian Porritt.
Waiterere Beach's Great Forest Run has been cancelled. Photo: Ian Porritt.

"It's really sad having to cancel...everybody's been training so hard, but it would have been silly to carry on."

"We'll look forward to next year now. It'll be bigger and better, for what will be the 25th running of the event."

In its early days, the event could lay claim to being the only completely off-road marathon in New Zealand, as course officials plotted a trek through trees of a forest that ran adjacent to Waitarere Beach.

Other off-road marathons had popped up in recent years, but the Waiterere Beach event could still claim to be the biggest, she said.

"We've had excellent feedback. People love it. They keep coming back," she said.

As an incorporated society, the committee had built up a contingency fund over the years and would call on those reserves to offset losses associated with the cancellation.

Great Forest Events publicity officer Emma Childs said the committee had no way of recovering the costs of advertising, merchandise and expenses associated with an online registration domain.

One positive was that the medals that had been ordered were not dated this year, so would be able to be used for the event next year, to be held again on the second Saturday in April.

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Meanwhile, while the virus may have scuttled the event, McColl said she was heartened by the people she saw out walking in their bubbles on the way to get her essential items.

"I've only been in town a couple of times and there are definitely a lot of people out walking," she said.

This year they had also engaged a fitness trainer Helen Brown six months ago to provide a weekly training guide that appeared in the local newspaper, Horowhenua Chronicle.

"That was so good. It really brought it to people's attention and we had so many people mention what a good idea that was," she said.