If the 2017 World Masters Games in Auckland whet your appetite for more competition – or just more watching – there are five events in Auckland and beyond that are close on the calendar. All come with the usual New Zealand bonus of beautiful surroundings.
There's only one week left until registrations close on Friday, 3 March, so - if you're thinking about it, here are some good reasons to get you over the line.
World Masters Games 2017 (WMG2017) will see some 25,000 participants taking part in 28 sports across 48 venues in Auckland and the Waikato from 21 – 30 April. Athletes will swoop in from 93 countries with large contingents from Australia, Canada, UK, USA, Sweden, Finland, Japan, Germany, South Africa and Brazil, outnumbered the 8000 New Zealanders who've also registered.
For those who want to extend themselves and their New Zealand stay, here are five classic New Zealand sporting events with amazing backdrops, before and after 2017 World Masters Games – guaranteed to please both athletes and supporters.
Tour of New Zealand
1-8 April, 2017
The simple but inspired idea behind the Tour of New Zealand eight-day cycling event is to run two simultaneous races from opposite ends of the country – which meet in the middle at Parliament Buildings in Wellington and are followed by partying. Not that there isn't a bit along the way. As competitive or as congenial as you like, the biennial Tour of New Zealand (now in its fourth edition) has attracted rave reviews since the beginning.
Riders in the South Island race cycle past dramatic mountain ranges, beside deep blue lakes and over high-country passes. The North Island route from Cape Reinga takes in ancient kauri forests, the Lord of the Rings-style grandeur of the Central Plateau and the picturesque Whanganui River region.
Tour of New Zealand isn't a hard-core race, although it can be if you want it to be. It accommodates both fun and serious riders in 100km daily stages that leave plenty of time for sight-seeing and socialising. Enthusiastic repeaters call Tour of New Zealand one of the best multi-day cycle events in the world – a pedalling fiesta through glorious landscapes where lifelong connections and friendships are made.
King of the Bays
Auckland – 8 April, 2017
Golden sands and gentle waters make Auckland's northern beaches extremely popular – but on Saturday 8 April 2017 they will be the preserve of competitors in four ocean swim events. The annual King of the Bays races include a 200m course for 7 to 12-year-olds, 500m and 1000m races and the premier 2.8km open-water swim along the coast from Milford to Takapuna. Part of the New Zealand Ocean Swim Series and designed as a fun event for all ages and abilities, King of the Bays is watched over by a large safety contingent of life guards from Surf Life Saving New Zealand. And, if just want to watch from the shore, Takapuna Beach is the place for a picnic and an ice-cream.
Oceania Orienteering Championships
Auckland – 14-17 April, 2017
Middle-earth (Rotorua) – 19-20 April, 2017
The fascinating sport of orienteering, which originated as a military training exercise in 19th-century Scandinavia, offers physical and mental challenges for participants and adventures in diverse settings. Coinciding with the Orienteering Championships being held in the World Masters Games 2017 are the Oceania Orienteering Championships in the Auckland region during Easter (14-17 April 2017).
With venues ranging from grassy campuses to rolling pine forests, there will be plenty of scenery thrown in. Of special note are two Middle Earth orienteering events in Rotorua on 19 and 20 April, an excellent reason to visit New Zealand's world-famous thermal region and the Redwoods Forest of Pete's Dragon fame - just 225km southeast of Auckland.
Hanmer Four Square Half-Marathon, 10km & 5km
North Canterbury - 6 May, 2017
Popular with runners and walkers for 20 years, this annual race event (6 May 2017) takes competitors through Hanmer Forest and the amazing subalpine scenery around the spa town of Hanmer Springs and its famous thermal pools. And there's a big bonus: the 2.5-hour drive northwest from Christchurch to Hanmer passes the cellar doors and restaurants of the Waipara Valley wine region (tarry a while), before threading through jaw-dropping forest and river-gorge landscapes. It is one of New Zealand's great short road trips.
Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay International Marathon
Napier – 13 May, 2017
After the inaugural Hawke's Bay International Marathon in 2016, hundreds of competitors stayed on to enjoy the region's world-class restaurants and cellar doors – which is certain to happen again after race day on 13 May 2017. A "running festival" incorporating 42km, 21km, 10km and 3km kids run options, the Hawke's Bay International Marathon showcases the beauties of the region's coastline, riversides, vineyards and olive groves with a flat, easy-running course that finishes in the vineyards of Sileni Estates Winery.
And when you're done, there's a ton of attractions in the region including Māori culture, eco tours, one of the world's largest collections of Art Deco architecture and 71 wineries and cellar doors producing some of New Zealand's best red wines and chardonnays.
About World Masters Games 2017
The World Masters Games is the largest multi-sport event in the world. In terms of athlete numbers, it is bigger in scale than even the Olympics.
The Games are regarded as the largest event New Zealand will host in at least the next decade.
Auckland will host the event from 21 to 30 April 2017 during which time 25,000 athletes will compete in 28 sports across 48 competition venues.
Participants at WMG2017 will range from masters sporting greats, former Olympic and Commonwealth Games medal winners, to amateur athletes and teams who compete in the event for fun, for their lifelong love of sport, and to experience new countries and cultures.
There is no need to qualify or be selected to compete in the World Masters Games. Anybody over the minimum age of their chosen sport can take part. Entry ages vary by sport but generally start at 30 - 35 years. The Games also feature 11 para-sports which are open to anyone over the minimum age who meet the disability classification requirements.