It is fitting that the Pak'n Save Cooks Classic is brought to us by the Whanganui Sports Heritage Trust with the support of Athletics Whanganui, as the meeting is very much part of our sporting heritage.
The return of the New Zealand Mile Championships after 52 years brings this iconic event back to the track that has seen more sub 4 -minute miles than any other track in New Zealand with Sir Peter Snell's world record being the first of 65 sub-4s at the venue.
Russell Sears and the Sports Heritage Trust fought hard to get the event reinstated and have been rewarded by two outstanding fields in the men's and women's races at the Cooks Classic.
The only winner of the Women's Mile Championship, Heather Matthews (nee Thomson), won the race in 1969. A year later New Zealand went metric and the mile was replaced by the 1500 metres.
Matthews will be attending the event and will present her successors wth their medals 52 years after her victory – a long time between championships.
The Mile Championships and the other events that make up the Cooks Classic Oceania Permit Meeting will be previewed next week. With five days until the closure of entries, we have considerably more than last year with some mouthwatering fields to look forward to.
The Cooks Classic meet also has embraced and enhanced two great concepts, "The Fastest Kid on the Block" and the "Snell's Mile Challenge", which have been developed and built on.
The Mayoral Mile founded by Mayor Michael Laws in 2006 was a great concept which gave the people an opportunity to run or walk a mile on the track at the iconic Cooks Gardens.
The Mayoral Miles were successful and brought in hundreds of participants, most of whom returned in the evening to witness Nick Willis set the track record in defeating Australian Craig Mottram after an epic battle.
The Snell Challenge on Sunday, January 31 offers the opportunity to "come and run a mile at my place, the iconic Cooks Gardens Whanganui".
Age group events start at 9 am on the Sunday. All runners receive not only a time and certificate, but also a special commemorative medal and the chance to win a spot prize.
As the TV advert would say "but wait, there's more". All entered participants receive a pass for the Cooks Classic the previous evening and all finishers will become members of Snell's Mile Challenge Club. Details and entry on www.sporty.co.nz/sportsheritagetrust or manual forms at Pak'nSave at 167 Glasgow St.
The great concept of the Mayoral Mile has been given new life and is a big part of the Cooks Classic tradition.
The concept of the "Fastest Kid on the Block" started more than 20 years ago with races for children held in local parks with winners invited back to run on Cooks Gardens at the Classic competing to be "The Fastest Kid on the Block".
Over recent years, this concept has been enhanced and given new life under the direction of Jodie Brunger from Sport Whanganui. Preliminaries for the Bayleys Whanganui-sponsored event still take part in local parks but in November and December, when leading athletes are invited to run for their district teams mid-programme at the Cooks Classic.
The districts are Eastern, Aramoho, Western, Springvale, Castlecliff, Taumarunui, Ruapehu/Ohakune and an Invitation team. The athletes, dressed in their district colours, race in six graded races and this is always a popular series of events on Cooks Gardens.
Winners also are given a free membership to the Athletic Club. The value of this was evident early this month when Cruz Malo, whose introduction to the sport and the club was at the Fastest Kid last year, went on to take the 100m-200m double at the recent Colgate Games. Cruz returns at the Cooks Classic in this year's edition of the "Fastest Kid on the Block". We are grateful for the additional support from Cookie Time, Mt View Screen Printing and Sport Whanganui.
The Snell Challenge gives the community an opportunity to participate and by participating they gain free entry to the Classic the previous evening.
The run also provides preparation for the Masters' Games a week later.
The two great concepts have become an integral and valued part of the Cooks Classic.