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Athletics - 04. June 2009.

National marathon championships to call Melbourne home

The Melbourne Marathon will double as the Australian marathon championships in 2009, the first time in 28 years the southern city has played host to the national titles.

In a deal struck between Athletics Australia and St George Melbourne Marathon event organisers, the city streets of the Victorian capital will be home to the national marathon championships for the next two years.

Not since 1981, when local runner Garry Bentley (2:16.58) and ACT athlete Rosemary Longstaff (2:46.48) took out the Australian titles has Melbourne hosted the national marathon championships.

The announcement is set to shore up a quality field of Australia’s top distance runners vying for national honours at this year’s October 11 event and again in 2010.

Athletics Australia CEO Danny Corcoran said the return of the Australian marathon championships to Victoria after 28 years in Queensland and New South Wales reflected the huge growth in the profile of the Melbourne event.

“The Melbourne Marathon is a fantastic event and is fast becoming one of the highlights of the city’s sporting and events calendars,” he said.

“The outstanding level of participation in the run year after year shows distance running is alive and well in Melbourne and we look forward to showcasing the terrific Melbourne Marathon course to Australia’s elite distance runners.”

The move to Melbourne marks the first time the national championships will be contested over the Melbourne Marathon course that sees runners cross the line on the hallow turf of the MCG.

“As an icon of sport in Australia the Melbourne Cricket Ground is a fitting finish line for the nation’s new marathon champions to be crowned,” Corcoran said.

Also announced at today's launch was the inauguration of the Kerryn McCann Memorial Trophy, to be awarded to the first female across the line over the gruelling marathon distance.

The trophy will honour Olympic, Commonwealth and world championship marathon representative Kerryn McCann, who lost her battle with breast cancer late last year.

Speaking at today's launch, marathon legend Robert de Castella said McCann's fighting spirit would prove an inspiration to all runners in the 2009 event.

"The most significant thing about this year will be the memory of the great Kerryn McCann, whose win in the 2006 Commonwealth Games marathon will go down as one of the all-time greatest moments in Australian sport," he said.

"If anyone ever needed inspiration, either to make it to the start or to slug it out all the way to the finish, then Kerryn's great run, fighting spirit and example to us all will be it."  
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