WHEN Binesh Prasad and wife Nadia step out in this year’s ASICS Half Marathon it will be the continuation of a love affair that traces back decades.
They will be among over 3,500 international competitors from over 50 countries taking part in the Gold Coast Marathon on 6-7 July, but for these two Olympic marathoners the 21.1km beachside course is a road back to their heartland.
Now based in Boulder, Colorado, Binesh, 56, and Nadia, 51, have only recently returned to running and the Gold Coast event is a celebration of being ‘back where we belong’.
“This sport has given me everything,” Binesh said.
“My wife, my career, the beautiful region where we live and the fabulous inn that we operated up until recently, it all evolved through the sport of running.
“In 1982 I competed in the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane (in the 1500m and the 5000m) and I was invited to have lunch with the Queen. There were just six of us and I was sitting across the table from her – just a metre away.
“That day I knew just how much could be achieved through the sport that I loved – running.”
Born and raised in Fiji, Binesh’s passion for and success in running took him to two Commonwealth Games and two Olympics – Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992. At both Olympics he competed in the 10,000m and the marathon.
“That was a golden period for athletics in the Pacific,” he recalls.
“Countries such as Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia and Fiji were at their peak – the sport was so popular then.”
And Binesh certainly made his mark. In fact, he still holds both the Fiji marathon (2:23:33) and half marathon (1:07:57) national records. During this time he met another rising distance running star – Nadia Bernard, who was born in France, but had been living in New Caledonia since she was three and a half.
When they met at an international track meet in New Caledonia he was 22 and she was 18, the language barrier was no hurdle.
“She spoke French and I spoke English, but we did have a common denominator – running,” Binesh said.
“Soon after I went to live in the United States and for three years we would write to each other. Nadia would have to use a French/English dictionary to translate my letters.”
But love found a way. Nadia also moved to the USA and the couple were married and had four children. She also went on to a distinguished athletics career, winning the Los Angeles Marathon in 1995 and representing France in the marathon at the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games.
By 1996, Binesh had retired from running and he turned an interest and expertise in massage into a fulltime career, with many of the world’s best athletes coming under his care.
However, his blossoming business resulted in an end to all forms of running for almost 20 years. It was only a running club reunion in Suva in 2017, which led him back to his passion.
He and Nadia now run most days and have both participated in 5km and 10km events in Boulder.
Their ASICS Half Marathon entry came via a planned trip here to attend a wedding.
“I have only been to the Gold Coast once before and that was just to go to the beach,” he said.
“But I am very familiar with the Gold Coast Marathon and am really looking forward to the event.
“I am not in the best shape I could be for the half marathon, but I definitely want this to be the first of many times I will be taking part.
“I am back in love with running and Nadia and I plan to do a lot of travelling in our retirement and to plan running events within our travel.
“The half marathon is a very ideal distance; you are not running too fast. But it is also a distance that is a challenge. When you have finished a marathon or a half marathon, you feel it. There is a memory that sits with you for a while. And also you see the countryside in a different way.”
The Gold Coast Marathon is also host for the IAAF Oceania Area Marathon Championships. This year the new International Association of Athletes Federations (IAAF) world rankings system has made these championships more valuable than ever for athletes trying to maximise their world rankings, especially with events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games just over the horizon.
Athletes selected by Fiji Athletics to compete in the Oceania Area Marathon and Half Marathon Championships are Kennol Narayan (marathon) and Rajeshwar Prasad (half marathon).
“The better the performances at the elite level the better the health outcomes at the grassroots level,” Binesh said.
“The goal is to promote running as part of a healthier lifestyle for everyone.”
The Gold Coast Marathon is the first in Australia to hold an IAAF Road Race Gold Label and is expecting over 28,000 participants in eight races over two days, 6-7 July.
The event will feature the Gold Coast Marathon, Wheelchair Marathon, ASICS Half Marathon, Wheelchair 15km, Southern Cross University 10km Run, Gold Coast Airport Fun Run, Garmin 4km Junior Dash and Garmin 2km Junior Dash.