Thanks to Chris Hope, the brainchild behind these two amazing websites, runners around Australia and New Zealand can save time trawling multiple websites and ensure a much smoother process in mapping out their racing schedule.
Established in 2010 & 2012, the New Zealand and Australian Running Calendar websites provide the most comprehensive and up to date list of running events in NZ & Australia.
In 2016, it also expanded to include a variety of other events, including triathlons, swimming and biking events.
We sat down with Chris to learn more about his websites and how he keeps a vital resource in the running community ticking over.
Q: Briefly describe your connection with running. Were you a runner? If so, do you still run?
We ran at various events as a family when I was a kid in the '80s, but through my teen years and as an early adult I played soccer. I was working at a company in 2003 who paid for anyone to run the Auckland Marathon events that year. I figured I should be able to run 10km and it's not every day you get to run over Auckland's Harbour Bridge, so I ran that. The following year I decided to step up and do the half marathon. From there it went to marathons, then trail running and ultra marathons. Somewhere along the way I gave up playing soccer, because running had become more important and I was worried about injuring myself on the field. I still run, and most recently ran a trail half marathon last weekend.
In my early days of running, there were no comprehensive websites of running events. There were a couple around but then, as now, most event listing websites only add events when race directors submit them. If race directors don't think to submit their event or don't know about your particular website, then it's not going to have many races listed. So I figured I needed to set one up myself and pro-actively keep it up to date by constantly looking out for events and monitoring event websites. The New Zealand website was launched in 2010 and the Australian one in 2012.
Q: Describe your "a-ha" moment at which point you knew your venture might actually become a success.
The "a-ha" moment actually came a couple of years before I finally got it off the ground. It was while out having a lunch time run that I realised I could combine being a website programmer with my love of running to create a useful resource for both myself and for other people to use. It was actually a website that I wanted to use myself, and it's become my passion to have every possible event listed.
Q: How do you manage updating the website and all the race information?
It takes time - a lot of time. I mine my own database and use both automation and manual checking to look for changes and announcements on event websites. I belong to a bazillion event mailing lists and also trawl through Facebook looking for updates.
Q: What's next for www.runningcalendar.com.au ? Are there any expansion plans in the works that you can share with the readers?
I don't have any plans at the moment to change anything on the website, but sometimes I get ideas about how something can work better and just get on and do it. Some things are pretty minor and most people probably wouldn't notice, but some things are major like the complete website redesign I did a year ago.
Q: How do you balance work and family demands?
The beauty of what is effectively a data entry job combined with a bit of programming is that it can be done any time from just about anywhere. I mostly work from home and can fit work around things I need to do with my kids. Normally it's all done from my home office, but I've worked on the website while sitting at a train station, on a bus, in a plane and even at my younger son's Taekwondo last night!
Q: What is still your biggest challenge within the business?
The biggest challenge is having enough time to do everything. I'm fairly pedantic about making sure everything is as accurate as it can be, so it can easily be a full time job keeping on top of all the events. I have to balance the work I do on the website with the occasional programming job so I have enough money to pay the household bills, and that often leads to a backlog of updates that takes time to clear.
Q: How have you seen running events evolve over the years? Have you noticed any particular trends?
Road running has always been popular and most of the well established events keep going year after year. The biggest change I've seen is the rise of trail running events, ultra marathons and obstacle course racing, and the establishment of the "themed" events (colour runs etc). All in all there are more events, more choices for participants, and more competition for race directors to get your dollar.
Q: Do you have a favourite event, or must do 'event' that you could recommend ?
I've yet to run at any events in Australia, and there are so many to choose from! If I were to do a trail ultra then there's so much choice, but I'd be just as likely to go for a really big mass-participation event like one of the big marathons. Here in New Zealand, my favourite would probably be the Tarawera Ultramarathon.
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