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Wide Open NZ Title Race In Christchurch

Wide Open NZ Title Race In Christchurch

This weekend’s Christchurch Airport Marathon also plays host to the New Zealand half marathon championship, and with the defending champion absent this year, the men’s national title race is wide open.

On a new course back in the inner-city, the 36th edition of the annual Queen’s Birthday Weekend event will include what is shaping up as the best half marathon on New Zealand shores for several seasons.

Callan Moody, the 2014 and 2015 half marathon winner, is missing in action overseas this year. But his clubmate, flat-mate and training partner, Daniel Balchin, is keen to keep the title local. But he won’t have it easy.

Balchin and Aucklander Aaron Pulford are co-favourites for what would be their first national half marathon titles. Both men are aged 25, both have best times of 1hr 05min, and last year they finished fourth and fifth. Just 23 seconds separated them in 2015, so a tight tussle is expected. But both will also need to watch for another 25-year-old on the rise.

A year ago Oska Inkster-Baynes moved from Wanaka to Christchurch and marked the occasion with a win in the Christchurch Airport Marathon’s 10k event. A month later he took out the Wellington Half Marathon and this winter the 25-year-old has been the dominant distance runner on the Canterbury scene and will also be keen to claim his first national title.

Keeping these contenders honest will be former national champions and newly-turned 40 year olds, Mark Bailey and Jason Cameron. Cameron, a former Cantab living now in central North Island, won this race way back in 1995, while Christchurch-based Bailey claimed top honours in 2005. Their battle for veteran honours is much anticipated and could see them upset more than a few of the favourites.

Similarly, marathon specialist Tony Payne will keep everyone honest. The 27-year-old Aucklander has previously finished third over the full marathon in Christchurch and will be stepping down in distance for his first national half marathon race.

Stepping up to his first ever half marathon is Dunedin’s Oli Chignell. The 18-year-old is the reigning national secondary school road champion and is keen to see how he rates against the big boys over 21k.

But every one of the contenders and pretenders above will keeping an eye on another teenager in Rotorua’s Michael Voss. A year ago the then 18-year-old finished 11th here. But a year older, wiser and stronger he recently won the Rotorua half marathon and improved his best time to 1hr 06min to line up in Christchurch as the third fastest runner in the field.

The Christchurch Airport Marathon is renowned as the fastest road race in New Zealand and race director, Chris Cox, says this year will be no different.

“We work hard to get the best runners together every year,” says Cox. “Our new course back in the central city is definitely as fast as anything we’ve had in the past and with such high quality fields we won’t have to wait long for them to prove it.”

Starting at 8:00am on Sunday, the new-look Christchurch Airport Marathon will start and finish in Cathedral Square and take in Hagley Park and both sides of the Avon River.

More than 4500 runners and walkers are expected for the 2016 event. As well as the feature full marathon and half marathon distances, there is a 10k option and the Kids’ Mara’Fun over either 1k or 2k or 3k.

For more information and online entry, visit: www.christchurchmarathon.co.nz.


© Scoop Media

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