Inspired by the 1974 Commonwealth Games Marathon, the Christchurch Marathon, established in 1981, had been a highlight on the South Island calendar for more than 30 years. However, when a devastating earthquake struck the city in 2011, the marathon was a part of city life that seemed lost for good.
In order to get the popular event back on its feet, organizers called on local firm Outback Communications to ensure the experience and equipment was available to keep communications for the sprawling event coming through loud and clear.
As communications provider, the challenges for Outback director, Corey Weir, was to ensure communications between marshals, race control, and the assorted lead/following vehicles employed around the course, as well as providing radios that were interoperable with St John Emergency Services’ private network, in the event of an emergency.
The streets of Christchurch also provided a challenge, as the four-year post-quake streets still had plenty of congestion points, diversions, and difficult surfaces. In order to provide the robust network the event would need, Outback Communications rented Tait Communications products.
The network allowed marshals and race controller, Dave Watson, to remain linked and in communication range of each other at the start and finish line, while the interoperable Tait radios could tune into the St Johns Emergency network. The excellent battery life of the portables along with the headsets that they were equipped with proved invaluable in delivering clearer voice communications.
This was also the first time organizers tagged some runners and key mobile marshals with Crosswire GPS tags. The personal tracking system gave organizers a clear picture of how the race was progressing, and allowed spectators to log in and see where specific runners were positioned in the race.
Locals and runners welcomed the marathon’s return to the central city, with a surge in numbers and huge support from spectator crowds around the accessible course. A key part of the marathon’s successful re-birth was the smooth operation and the “runner friendly” approach of management and volunteers involved in operating the big event.
Watson said of Outback Communications, “We have found every year the communications gets better and better.”
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