Judkins should heed advice over endurance race

Rather than spit the dummy and attack his critics, Speights Coast to Coast multisport race director Robin Judkins should listen.

Defending champion Richard Ussher was critical this week about the state of the iconic race. He suggested it was maybe time for Judkins, its founder, to step aside and let new people run the event, to inject fresh enthusiasm and ideas into a race now in its 31st year.

Ussher's comments were not personal and he stressed that without Judkins' massive input over the years and being his idea in the first place, the race would never have happened. Nobody disputes that view.

Ussher felt Judkins perhaps was not as enthusiastic about the event as he once was and that he had taken his eye off the ball and needed to inject fresh ideas to reinvigorate the race.

Not so long ago there was a substantial waiting list to even enter the race but last year just 522 took part. Even though that number is up by more than 100 this year, Ussher's points are valid.

Any event which costs more than $1000 to enter and has a second prize of just $1400 has to be good, has to be the best to attract people and, as Ussher noted, entering an ironman is cheaper. And, he added: "You get a much more professionally run event."

Judkins came out swinging at Ussher's remarks in the stuff.co.nz article by Greg Ford on Tuesday, saying, "How could he do this to me the week before the race?"

Judkins vowed to have words with the five-times champion and so he should but the first words should be: "Thanks, Richard. Thanks for giving me the wake-up call I needed to get this event back to where it once was."

Bad news spreads faster than good news and, with Ussher's wife Elina also the women's champion, Judkins should heed their advice if he wants this fantastic race to survive and grow.

A classic example of an event in Marlborough needing a major overhaul was last year's Marlborough Sportsperon of the Year Awards dinner.

I was personally embarrassed as a sports reporter. It was poorly organised, at the wrong venue, was tired and in need of a major overhaul. It did not do justice to the sportspeople being recognised, nor the supporters attending and it missed a major opportunity to salute our greatest sporting champion, Joseph Sullivan, in the manner in which winning an Olympic gold medal demands.

Thankfully, that situation is being addressed and we look forward to some major changes in the format for next year - and so there must be, because people are paying $60 for a ticket and they quite rightly demand value for money.

The Wairau Rowing Club's recent Gold, Silver, Bronze fundraising night at Grovetown, with special guests, Olympic medal winners, Sullivan, Sarah Walker and Simon van Velthooven, was a good example of how to run a similar event professionally. It proved a huge success, attracting a full house, provided quality food and drink and made the club a significant amount of money.

We live in a competitive world and many events have fallen by the wayside because their organisers have not been up to the task and adapted with the times. It is no longer acceptable simply to stage an event. Organisers must have a point of difference, price it right, have a significant prize pool and must run it professionally.

We are fortunate in Marlborough to have several major events which are certainly well run, and have bucked trends elsewhere in the country and grown.

The Forrest GrapeRide and Marlborough Marathon, both organised and run by Top of the South Events (Pete Halligan and Duncan MacKenzie) are brilliant success stories and each year attract full fields.

That is because they are continually tweaked and, even though the basics of those events stay the same, there are always innovations to keep people interested and coming back. An added category, slight change of course, basically listening to athletes' feedback and acting on it, is the key. The same can be said of the Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon.

All of these events attract most of their competitors from outside Marlborough, which is great for the local economy.