The concept for a fun run in Wangaratta was born in the minds of Sharon and Justin Scholz shortly after they started running for fitness in 2007. With fun runs in many of the surrounding towns and cities it seemed reasonable that Wangaratta should also be able to support and event of this type.
Through their desire to lose weight and gain fitness, Justin and Sharon lost about 30kg in body weight between them through 2007 and 2008. They entered many local fun runs and larger city runs including the well-renowned Run 4 The Kids. They also entered and completed the Melbourne Marathon in 2007 in a time of 3:38.
The Scholz’s looked to run further rather than faster and each started to complete longer distances in ultra-marathon events (any event longer than a standard 42.2km marathon). Sharon in particular excelled in the sport and quickly achieved selection as a National 24 Hour team member, thanks initially to achieving a distance beyond 184km in 24 hours at the 2008 Coburg event.
Sharon and Justin had a desire to share their commitment and passion for running with the local community and in 2010 set about planning the inaugural Wangaratta Fun Run. It was in 2010 that Sharon also achieved the global accolade of being declared the International Female Ultra Athlete of the Year, as adjudicated by the International Governing Body – The International Association of Ultramarathons.
With no idea about how an event may unfold, the Scholz’s planned and delivered the inaugural Wangaratta Fun Run. The event started and finished at Bachelors Green and included a 5km and 10km run, plus a 1km run for kids. The course followed the One Mile Creek fitness path from Bachelors Green to Waldara Drive and back.
In total there were 178 finishers from that first event, an outcome not expected by Justin and Sharon.
The event again took place starting and finishing at Bachelors Green. In this second year a 2km option for Primary Aged Children was added and a competition for a school prize was also included.
A website was established with a rudimentary on-line entry form, but timing remained a manual process.
Finisher numbers tripled and with 478 finishers it was clear that the manual timing system wouldn’t be appropriate in future years if the event continued to grow, nor would Bachelors Green be able to manage the increasing event logistics needs.
The event was essentially rebuilt from the ground up ahead of 2013. This saw the event move from Bachelors Green to the Wangaratta Showgrounds, the addition of a marathon and half marathon and the inclusion of chip timing.
Customised medals were also produced and provided to all finishers in all events.
A committee was formed to assist with the event, the website was rebuilt and a much improved online entry system was created.
Fortunately the massive work undertaken to develop the event was not wasted. Entry numbers again tripled and with 1500 finishers across all events it was clear that the Wangaratta event was becoming increasingly important to the local and regional community and well received from a State and National perspective.
Entries and finishers continued to grow in 2014 with nearly 2200 people crossing the finish line. Entries built in part due to the strengthening of “Community teams” and the provision of a winners perpetual trophy.
In 2015 the event continued to see entry number and finisher number growth. Final finisher numbers of nearly 2400 were pleasing considering that a new and very large fun run was conducted in Albury Wodonga on the same day as the Wangaratta event. It is thought that this event may have meant the loss of up to 400 entries from the Albury Wodonga community. A clash has been avoided in 2016 and each group is working closely together to ensure no future clashes exist.
2015 saw more than 75% growth in marathon numbers which was especially pleasing. The event also underwent a further restructure with control handed back to Justin & Sharon Scholz and their company Wangaratta Fitness Fun Addicts. As a side interest for Justin and Sharon they remain committed to keep entry fees as low as possible while delivering all the benefits of much larger and more expensive events.
With the event continuing to grow, the 10km, 5km and 2km courses again changed for 2016. Though many entrants are enjoying the subtle changes to courses each year it is hoped that “settlement” will eventually occur.
For 2017, the Marathon, HM, 10km and 5km courses changed again due to new road works being undertaken at the Western end of Cambridge Drive. This will reduce the road surfaces required for the event which improves safety, reduces disruption to local residents and simplifies traffic management requirements.
For the first time in the history of the event, no course will undergo significant change in 2018. Feedback from 2017 was tremendously positive and courses will remain the same. A change will be made in the 2km event with two waves instead of three (Racers and Chasers), which allows the 5km presentations to be undertaken before the 2km event commence.
Since the inception of the event, the Wangaratta Marathon and Fun Runs has donated over $50,000 in proceeds to local and regional groups and charities. Whilst the specific focus of the event is “more people moving more often” as opposed to raising funds, it is pleasing that surplus proceeds have been available for distribution. The Scholz’s remain committed to this approach.