By PHILIP CHANDLER
He’s possibly New Zealand’s unluckiest sports event organiser — and you can’t even blame Covid.
Queenstowner Evan McWhirter, who’s again organising tomorrow’s Routeburn Classic run over the stunning Routeburn Track, has had to cancel the event’s past three editions.
In 2018, the event, first run in 2001, was canned due to heavy snow.
In 2019, forecasted heavy rain was to blame, and an attempt to run the event the day after was aborted, too.
Last year, three days after entries opened, rain destroyed part of the track.
If that hadn’t happened, Covid restrictions would have killed the event anyway.
As for tomorrow, with possibly iffy weather on the way, McWhirter says ‘‘you just play the hand you’re dealt’’.
‘‘That’s the events game.’’
Already, numbers have been affected, as is happening with most events, due to uncertainties caused by fluctuating Covid alert levels, as occurred soon after entries opened.
Whereas the Classic’s always had a full field — latterly, 350 runners — this time there’ll be about 260.
That includes, though, about 10 Aussies utilising the new trans-Tasman bubble.
While most runners will overnight in Te Anau tonight before getting to the Divide start-line, there are about 70 who’ll chopper in from Queenstown.
About 20 will also fly back from the finish-line.
It’s easier when helicopters aren’t being so fully utilised, McWhirter says.
As for who’ll win, he thinks former record-holder, Queenstowner Hywel Dinnick, has a good chance.
Another past winner, Dunedin’s Grant Guise, should also be in the running.
The men’s record for the 32km run is a lightning-fast 2hr 37min 51sec set by Queenstowner Jack Beaumont, when he was only 19, the last time the Classic ran, in 2017.
The women’s record’s still held by Queenstowner Sarah Douglas, who ran 3:16.48sec in 2014.
She expects to be on the start-line again despite competing in the NZ mountain running champs last weekend.