Passion behind the festival run
WENDY Downes, OAM has a passion for sport and more specifically these days a passion for running.
She is the driving force behind the upcoming Airlie Beach Running Festival and does it because she loves the sport.
Ms Downes' said behind-the-scenes work for the festival was her way of giving back to a sport that over the years had given her so much.
"That's what I do and that is what I love. I get so much satisfaction out of seeing a successful event and happy participants," she said.
In 2012 Ms Downes was one of the founding members of the Whitsunday Running Club.
During one of those early meetings it was decided the Whitsundays needed a half marathon and the Airlie Beach Running Festival was born.
Now in its fourth year the festival has grown hugely since its inaugural year.
Ms Downes attributed the success of the event to local people getting bitten by the competitive running "bug".
"A lot of people just run... but get a bit bored of doing the same thing and they also are spurred along by other people saying 'why don't you, why don't you'," she said.
"Once they get into a club situation or an event situation they realise the benefit of being with like-minded people.
"It spurs you on and gives you excitement and gives you more energy. You are not thinking about yourself, you are thinking about everybody else.
"It's about being out there with other people, being part of the community and enjoying the atmosphere."
Ms Downes said the running festival provided the perfect means to get out and do something healthy and fun.
This year - if early registrations are anything to go by - local people are doing just that.
"We know there are an awful lot of people out there from our local region... who probably have not done a competition like this before," Ms Downes said.
This Saturday and Sunday, those newcomers will join veterans of the sport to take in the beautiful surrounds of Airlie Beach in five different events.
Every skill level will be catered for, from the serious athlete to those just starting out and kids who want to get involved.
There is a half marathon, 10km and 5km fun runs, a 5km business team challenge and a 2km kids' fun run.
Ms Downes said wet weather was forecast for the weekend but the festival would go ahead regardless.
Entries are up on last year and another record was expected to be broken, she said.
"There are some very serious athletes that have already registered in the half marathon, including Steve Jackson and our very own Justin Knight-Gray," she said.
"I am very excited about this year's event. We add to our experience every year and we hope all competitors will be happy."
Visit http://www.runairlie.com.au for more information and to register.