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Redemption Running Rife In Christchurch Next Week

Redemption Running Rife In Christchurch Next Week

Redemption is the strongest theme among contenders for next week’s Christchurch Airport Marathon.

Timaru’s Sam Wreford is the top dog among Kiwi marathoners of late. In the last two years the 31 year old has won New Zealand’s major three – Christchurch, Rotorua and Auckland - and has a best of 2:16.35 from the 2012 Invercargill Marathon. He lines up as the odds-on favourite for next week’s Christchurch Airport Marathon where he’ll be keen to redeem a frustrating start to 2014 while watching for a field stacked with up and comers looking for a breakthrough win.

Chief among these is Australian Nathan Hartigan. The 29 year old was fourth in the Christchurch Airport Half Marathon last year, recording 66min 15secs. This is 26 seconds faster than Wreford’s best, which he recorded just last week when winning the Huntly Half Marathon.

Hartigan, who hails from Australia’s distance-running stronghold of Ballarat, Victoria, is less experienced that Wreford over the full 42.2k marathon distance. He debuted last year with a promising 2hrs 20min at the Melbourne Marathon and headed to Japan’s prestigious Beppu Marathon earlier this year hoping for a breakthrough race, but clocked a disappointing 2hrs 22min 10secs. So he comes to Christchurch still searching for that breakthrough.

Aucklanders Stephen Lett and Tony Payne are also looking for a breakthrough in Christchurch. Lett was second in the New Zealand Marathon Championship last year in Wellington and like Hartigan the 30 year old physiotherapist is hoping to go under 2hrs 20min for the first time. Payne, on the other hand, will also have some redemption in mind.

Just a few weeks ago the 25 year old was leading the Rotorua Marathon and looking likely to win the 50th anniversary event when a hamstring strain reduced him to a hobble and eventual third place. The Auckland solicitor was fourth in the Christchurch Airport Marathon in 2012, behind Wreford’s 2:17 victory that year, so knows the course and will be keen to make up for the missed opportunity at Rotorua.

Wreford, himself, is keen to make up for a frustrating past 12 months. Last year he failed to defend his 2012 Christchurch Airport Marathon title when a virus forced him to withdraw at halfway. He made up for that by winning the Auckland Marathon last November, but picked up an injury at the same time that ruined his next four months.

The 31 year old has been back training for five months now and last week’s win at the Huntly Half Marathon illustrated that his form is as good, if not better, than ever. Wreford, himself, has indicated that he’ll be looking for a personal best time, which stands at 2hrs 16min 35secs. That might see Tom Birnie’s 1985 race record of 2hrs 15min under threat.

Redemption continues to be the dominant theme among contender for the woman race. Last year Texas-based Aucklander, Liza Hunter-Galvan, won a record fourth Christchurch Airport Marathon. But just a few weeks ago she failed to defend her Rotorua Marathon title after a chest infection left her lack lustre on race day.

Hunter-Galvan has been to two Olympics, but is best known for a positive drug test in 2009 for the performance enhancing substance, EPO. After serving a two year suspension the 44 year old’s first race back was a win in the 2011 Christchurch Airport Marathon. She won the next two as well, which added to a win back in 1999, means she’ll be motivated this year by the potential for a fifth win.

The defending champion, however, will need to be on top form. She faces last year’s runner-up, Victoria Beck, who actually led the race for all but the last 10k. Beck, based now in Australia, thinks she’s in better shape this year and her best time of 2hrs 43min is faster than any of Hunter-Galvan’s four wins in the Christchurch Airport Marathon.

Both women, however, will be wary of Auckland’s Kelly Parlane. The 28 year old was third in the Christchurch Airport Marathon back in 2009 and has been third at last year’s Auckland Marathon and third again in January’s national 10,000m championships. Her best time of 2hrs 53min, set last April in Japan’s Nagano Women’s Marathon, is the slowest of the three contenders. But Parlane herself thinks she’s in shape to go close to 2hrs 40min, which would probably be fast enough to win.

Scheduled for Sunday 2nd June, organisers are expecting 4500 entries for the 2014 Christchurch Airport Marathon, which race director Chris Cox says is a pleasing continuation of the event’s own earthquake recovery.

“In 2010 we had a record entry of 5800 participants,” says Cox. “But the earthquakes cut entries almost in half. So to be closing in on 5000 again is really heartening.”

With a full marathon, half marathon, 10k and Kids’ Mara’Fun, Cox says “This really is an event with something for everyone”.

“This year,” he says, “participants will have the unique experience in the final few kilometers running through the Christchurch Airport airfield.”

Entries for the 2014 Christchurch Airport Marathon Event are still open. Race day is Sunday 1st June. For details visit: www.christchurchmarathon.co.nz.

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