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8 June, 2021

Mackay Marina run attracts big stars

THE MACKAY Marina Run attracted many people to the sugar city, especially two former Olympic marathon runners.

Benita Willis (left) and Michael Shelley (right)

Four-time Olympic marathon runner and current event ambassador, Benita Willis, grew up in Mackay.

“I love coming back here. I grew up in Mackay and sort of where I started all my sports and running,” Ms Willis said.

“I just started running on the beach with my dad. Races like this weren’t around, so yeah, it’s great coming back every year.

“I lived overseas for 15 years, competing as a professional athlete. It’s really cool when you come back to your hometown and there’s big races like this.’”

Ms Willis explained how motivating the Mackay Marina Run was to encourage people to do their best.

“I’ve been running since I was about six or seven. I didn’t train very hard when I was a kid: I just loved getting out there and running on the beach,” she smiled.

“I ended up winning a world title when I was 24: a long time ago. All those memories of my childhood growing upp and then competing in the world stage, I cherish.

“I like helping others now and encouraging other people.”

Currently, she runs a coaching business that trans people to run.

She explained that she came up with some of her clients to participate in the Mackay Marina Run.

Former Olympic marathon runner, and now event ambassador Michael Shelly, had a smile on his dial when he was running in the 8km division.

“This is my first year in the Mackay Marina Run as an ambassador. I’m really looking forward to…being a part of the community and encouraging people along the way,” Mr Shelley said.

“Chrissy got in contact with me and see if I wanted to come up and be a part of it. I’ve never been to Mackay before, so it’s a great opportunity to come and visit a lovely part of Queensland.”

Mr Shelley said he’s been running competitively since he was in high school.

“Through that period, I’ve been running for twenty odd years. I just enjoy getting out there…I enjoy the fresh air and meeting great people,” he said.

“There’s a lot of positives to running and being fit and active: one thing I really enjoy doing.”

Mr Shelley made the most of his time up here in the Mackay region, as he enjoyed a visit to Finch Hatton and had a famous pinnacle pie.

“I got to go out to Finch Gorge on Saturday, so I enjoyed a little bit of the Mackay region,” he said.

“It’s a really nice town (Mackay): I really enjoyed being here.”

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