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Englishman Takes on Record Field

Englishman Takes on Record Field

If Matt Smith is prone to the ironic, he’ll no doubt smile to himself when he lines up for the SBS Marathon Event this weekend. The 34-year-old banker has come along way in an impressive running career. All the way from England in fact, but on Sunday he lines up as favourite for a race in the world’s most English city outside of England.

Smith is favourite for the SBS Half Marathon race, and for the first time in Christchurch’s premier running event he will go head to head with the region’s other running rock star, Phil Costley.

Smith and Costley have never faced each other in the SBS-sponsored event. Costley, who has won more than 30 New Zealand titles, has three previous wins, two in the full marathon distance and one in the half marathon. Smith’s only outing came last year just a few months after arriving in the country when he managed to shrug off a lack of training to finish a close fifth in the half marathon.

Smith’s favouritism comes on the back of good recent form and a win in last October’s Auckland Marathon. But Costley has more experience on the Christchurch course and his best half marathon time of 62min 41secs when winning the 2001 SBS event in a national record is a few ticks faster than Smith.

Both men, however, will need to be wary of some strong challengers. Dunedin’s Luke Hurring is one of the country’s rising stars and has claimed silver and bronze medals at national championships in the past 12 months. Christchurch’s Matt Ingram will be looking to improve on his close fourth place last year, but the man to watch could be Kim Hogarth, who has just moved back to Christchurch after three years on an American university track and field scholarship.

Hogarth is a steeplechase specialist on the track, where he qualified for the Beijing Olympics but was not selected due to injury. But he has also won a national half marathon title and renowned for his consistency. If the two favourites falter it is Hogarth who is best qualified to nab a surprise win.

In contrast to the men’s half marathon field, the woman’s is expected to be one-way traffic with Beijing Olympian Nina Rillstone (Wanaka) being a class above anyone in New Zealand at the moment. The last time Rillstone ran in the SBS Marathon Event she set a New Zealand half marathon record of 70min 49secs and organisers are hoping she might reduce that further this weekend.

It is a measure of Rillstone’s class that she is the clear favourite ahead of a classy collection of women for the half marathon. Contenders include former SBS full and half marathon winner, Shireen Crumpton (Dun), who is on the comeback trail following the birth of her first child last year. But rather than chasing Rillstone, the Dunedin nurse is more likely to be watching behind her for the likes of former world orienteering champion Hanny Allston (Australia), New Zealand steeplechase champion Fiona Crombie (ChCh) and former SBS Half Marathon placegetters Lara Phillips and Melanie Burke (Akld).

The men’s full marathon this year is all about fast first-timers. Australian David Ruschena is clear favourite, but will be pushed hard by defending champion Craig Kirkwood, Christchurch’s own Rowan Hooper and Tauranga’s Mark McKeown. Ruschena is the reigning Australian half marathon champion but the SBS Marathon will be his first time over the 42.2k distance.

The woman’s SBS Marathon is without a clear favourite, although after a string of minor medals at major marathons Auckland’s Lesley Turner-Hall will be looking to take the top step of the podium. She’ll be pushed hard by New Plymouth’s Tania Smellie, who will be keen to atone for a disastrous s 2007 race when she was forced to withdraw at half way with an injury.

More than 4500 entrants from 12 countries will line up outside the Christchurch Town Hall on Sunday, making it the biggest SBS Marathon since the event was established in 1977. Entries are still open from the Christchurch Convention Centre on Kilmore Street on Friday and Saturday. Racing starts on Sunday from 9:00am.


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