Former Commonwealth Games marathon medallist Sean Quilty believes the Wanganui VAL meeting next year could be three times as big as Saturday's first at Cooks Gardens.
Melbournite Quilty, second in the 1994 Commonwealth Games marathon and 34th in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics marathon, sums-up what professional handicap athletics can do he's still competing on an even keel with the younger athletes.
He says the reaction of his 40 fellow Victorian Athletics League competitors on Saturday night was that they should all come again and do their best to persuade others to travel as well.
"It's a great meet," Quilty said. "I'm sure that once we get back and spread the word, this will be three times as big next year.
"Running is a lot of these fellows' lives, so the opportunity to get away and run is not one you get all the time," Quilty said.
Neither Quilty, Wanganui Gift winner Daniel Steinhauser, nor Wanganui Women's Gift winner Emma Poynton had travelled through New Zealand before and neither had many of their team-mates.
Several indicated they would bring family members with them next year.
Quilty: "I've talked to all these guys, and they all want to come back.
"We've come over here this time not knowing really what was going on next year we will plan this trip a lot better.
"All these guys belong to stables back in Victoria, they're going to drag another half a dozen (from each stable) across next year.
"It's here for five years, everyone realises that, so once it gets going, it will just get bigger, bigger and bigger," Quilty said.
VAL president George Flack was happy enough with a low-key start:
"We wanted to see it happen and it has. Word will get around, and the word I get from the running fraternity both New Zealand and Australian is that they will be encouraging others to come next year."
Cooks organising committee spokesman Mark Stoneman says the experience has been a great boost and "now we know how to run it, and who can run in it, it will go well."
Stoneman said talk of having next year's meeting allied with the Mayoral Mile had some substance.
"We will have to investigate how that works, but anything we can get to benefit Wanganui has to be good for everyone."