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What's behind the rise of the Nugget multisport festival
30 May 2016

This year, the recent Nugget Waihi Multisport festival attracted  almost 1,000 participants. That’s a lot of people at a multisport event and it is also  a lot more than the 300 who took part in its first year back in 2011. It’s a runaway success which begs the question of why it is that this event is prospering, while others struggle.


While there is no single answer to the question, a good part of it lies in the realisation by organisers that the right mix of ingredients is required to capture and retain the attention of participants. One of those ingredients is undoubtedly passion, which radiates from the organising team and the broader community. The others are a focus on the participant experience, from a range of ‘achievable’ courses, to professional organisation which includes promotion, through to race day itself.


The small town of Waihi is like many other rural settlements. Local people make things happen. Without financial reward, it is clear that passion drives the hard work which the organising team puts into hosting a world-class event. They do it for the community and the rewards are substantial: this year, $10,000 was raised for the Sport’n’Action Trust, towards a new sports facility in Waihi. While it was the entries that raised the cash, indirectly it is the result of the energy and vision of people who think nothing of giving up their time for the benefit of the community.


The Nugget Festival has broad appeal: it offers several events, from the headline multisport race which covers 78 kilometres including road cycling, kayaking, running and mountain biking. There is a duathlon, and three running races over 5, 10 and 15 kilometres. Something for everyone means an inclusive atmosphere which brings in the friends and families.


That reflects another winner for Waihi. Events have to appeal to their audiences; the broader the audience, the better the numbers.


Location, too, matters. Every year, the Nugget’s winning athletes all say the same thing: the course is stunning. Most acknowledge the pohutukawa-clad coastal run, which goes from Waihi Beach to Ngati Tangata road via Homunga and Orokawa Bays, as the jewel in the crown.

That’s matched by a beautiful harbour kayak, starting and finishing at the stunning Anzac Bay; plus the historic mining sites on the mountain bike leg. It’s an outstanding, aesthetically-pleasing course. To cap things off the event finishes on the edge of the massive Martha pit mine – probably the most unique finish line of any multisport event.


Then there is the question of ‘achievability’, something the Nugget organisers have pondered in the course design. At 78km, the multisport event is short compared to the Coast to Coast (248km) or the Motu Challenge (178km). The Half Nugget duathlon consists of a 10km run and a 27km mountain bike. The events are achievable by the weekend warrior and those looking to keep moderately fit. For the runners and walkers, all three options are eminently within reach.


These ingredients combine to deliver a great product which is clearly in demand from the New Zealand sporting public. And when the participants arrive on race day, they expect – and get – an event which is professionally run.

The credit for that largely goes to main event organiser Mark Samson, who has always had an eye on the long term, with systems in place to ensure the Nugget is sustainable into the future. His vision is matched by his attention to detail and, of course, people skills.


One of the first things he did was to get outside help, pulling in Mike van der Boom from event management company Cheeky Rooster. “Mike has been involved in multisport for over 15 years and has run the Motu Challenge in Opotiki for the last three years. I got him involved to make sure we had the right setup with regards to safety, event organisation and delivering what the athletes wanted,” Samson said.


The Nugget, which was originally part of the Australian Anaconda race series has undergone a major transformation through careful planning by the organising team. The original course included an ocean kayak, something which was quickly dropped in favour of a more achievable, less daunting course.

Since then the event has gained a reputation for being well organised, fun and scenic.


With a proven formula which has past competitors coming back for more, and a rapid spread by word of mouth, the next question facing the organising committee now is, “How big can this event get?” The answer isn’t set in stone, but what the committee does know for sure is that delivering an experience which athletes value is the best way to keep the Nugget firmly on the calendar.


If you want to get involved with the event or participate visit www.thenugget.co.nz for more information.

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