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Fitness fans want more from the Gold Coast

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

The blazing sun, stifling humidity and crack of dawn start did little to deter thousands of competitors eager to take on one of Queensland's most popular sporting events.

They converged on the Gold Coast in their activewear, checking bikes and smothering themselves in sunscreen while talking about the Luke Harrop memorial triathlon. People from around the world come to participate in the race, named after Gold Coast triathlete Luke Harrop, who was killed in a road accident while training in 2002.

"There's a great atmosphere at this event and everyone is so supportive of each other," one woman said as she headed to the start line.

She travelled from Western Australia with friends to take part and is one of a growing number of visitors heading to the sunshine state for a "fit-cation".

Instead of hitting the clubs and theme parks, these travellers are taking part in marathons, triathlons and getting active in all the right ways on their Gold Coast breaks.

The lure for many of those taking part in the Luke Harrop triathlon lies not in winning but in the challenge of beating personal bests, trying something new and taking part in a community event.

"It's mind blowing to see so many people come out here to support the race and it means a lot to my family," Luke's sister Loretta Harrop said of the event.

An Olympic silver medallist in the triathlon, Loretta said her brother would have been proud to see how the event had grown. Now retired from competing professionally, she said it was going to be exciting to have the Commonwealth Games triathletes compete on the same course in April. Her hope is that it encourages more people to get interested in the sport.

But even for people who may not want to commit to the intensity of a triathlon or marathon, there are plenty of other sports to get the heart rate going.

Stand-up paddle boarding, or SUPing, has exploded in popularity in the last decade and while it looks serene, the whole body gets a workout.

One of its biggest devotees is Gold coast native Karla Gilbert, a multiple ironwoman champion and Order of Australia medal holder.

After retiring from competition in 2003, she took up SUPing and has already won four Australian titles and contested two international championships.

"There is no excuse not to live fit when you live on the Gold Coast," she said. One of her favourite spots for a paddle is Tallebudgera Creek. The tropical bushland, native wildlife and calm water make it seems isolated, instead of a short drive from Surfers Paradise. The former ironwoman paddles every morning and explains SUPing is great exercise because having to balance on the board and paddle works out the core, legs and arms.

"It's easy once you get the hang of it."

The best part is that anyone can do it, no matter your fitness level.

For those on a fitcation it's not just about fitness but also food. With this in mind, the Gold Coast offers dozens of cafes, pop-ups and markets for those who want to eat well.

Vegan hotspot Greenhouse Canteen and Bar dishes out wholesome, plant-only meals across the Gold Coast, at Coolangatta and in Miami. Started by two sisters, Natalie and Charlie Evans, dishes include tasty vegan and gluten free tacos, jackfruit enchilada and homemade crackers with dairy-free cheeses.

If vegan is a step too far, there's the industrial Miami Marketta food-stalls. Set up in an old warehouse 20 minutes from Surfers Paradise, there are dozens of food stalls offering cuisines from around the world along with an eclectic mix of artists. There's Hawaiian poke bowls, Japanese Okonomiyaki, Brazilian fish stew and more. For those needing a break from healthy offerings or wanting a treat, there are doughnut ice-cream sandwiches, gelato and loaded waffles to try.

The food options are plentiful and mean anyone can stay relatively guilt-free while training.

*Gold Coast Marathon - June 30 to July 1, 2018
This event takes advantage of ideal winter running conditions with low humidity and mild temperatures, and takes in the scenic beaches and Broadwater

*Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival - April 13-15
An outback triathlon where people can compete in team or single events

*Velothon Sunshine Coast - July 12-15, 2018
Three-day cycling event along the Sunshine Coast, in which participants can do a day leg or all three days

*McDonalds Townsville Running Festival - August 5, 2018
A regional marathon experience in the tropical North Queensland town of Townsville

The writer travelled as a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland.

Source: AAP