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All Aspirations Take On Christchurch’s Marathon

All Age, Ability & Aspirations Taking On Christchurch’s Marathon

A Guinness world record attempt, water carriers, City Councilors and a handful of 80-year olds are among a colourful cast of 4000-plus characters lining up for Sunday’s ASB Christchurch Marathon.

The annual Queen’s Birthday Weekend event continues to recover following the Canterbury earthquakes. In 2010 on the old Christchurch Town Hall base, the event attracted close to 6000 participants. This year’s event is expected to reach more than 4000 and entries are still being taken until Saturday.

The iconic route central city route from Cathedral Square, around Hagley Park and the Avon River is one of New Zealand’s most scenic and supportive courses.

“This course is very iconically Christchurch,” says race director, Chris Cox. “We see people cheering runners from their front gates and at intersections and we get bands coming out and playing music for the participants along the way.

“Entrants love the atmosphere we create around their personal challenge.”

Personal challenges are a common theme. Christchurch runners John Dillon and Chad Gillespie are lining up for their 45th marathons, with both aiming to tick off five more in the next couple of years to finish 50 by their 50th birthdays.

They have a way to go, however, to catch up with 58-year-old Manawatu runner, Patricia Stichbury, who will line up for her 150th marathon. Incredibly, Australian Stephen Lewis has also run 150 marathons at age 58 and returns to Christchurch because, “I ran my fastest time here in 1982.”

Christchurch personal trainer Blair Williamson is hoping to “run and rubic” faster than anyone, ever. He is aiming to set a new Guinness world record for solving the most Rubik’s cube puzzles while running a marathon.

The 26-year-old needs to beat American Shane White’s record of solving 175 Rubik’s cubes during the 2012 Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah Marathon in the U.S.A. The record holder must also run the distance in under five hours, but as a sub-four hour marathoner Williamson has that aspect covered and hopes to solve more than 200 puzzles along the way.

Running your first marathon doesn’t get much more personal. But not many take it on for the first time at age 77. Christchurch retiree, John Gordon, is. The former cyclist simply wants to see if he can run the classic 42.2k faster than it took him to ride the 100k Le Race cycling event.

The eldest entrant, for the fourth consecutive year, is 86-year-old Red Maddock from Christchurch. The life member of New Brighton Olympic Harrier Club says he finally had to quit running in 2014 but still enters the 10km walk with his daughter Tessa every year as a personal challenge.

Among others refusing to act their age are Ferdinand and Maryse Gunther-Rigaud, who at 80 years old are headed over from French Polynesia to run the half marathon.

At the other end of the age spectrum, Christchurch 9-year-old, Millie Long, is walking the half marathon with her mother, Julie. Rolleston’s Liam Dunn will turn 13 the day before tackling the half marathon run.

The event attracts large entries from local schools and corporates, with new sponsor ASB aiming to see at least 50 staff on the start line.

ASB general manager branch banking, Grant Gilbert, says ASB is delighted to be the new sponsor of the iconic South Island event.

“This is one of the South Island’s largest running festivals and we’re proud to be involved in and support the local running community,” Mr Gilbert says.

“We look forward to standing at the start line of New Zealand’s fastest road race alongside enthusiastic runners and walkers from around the country,” Mr Gilbert says.

With entries from as far afield as United Arab Emirates, Ireland, UK, Japan, Germany, France, India, Singapore, Hong King, China, French Polynesia, USA, Canada, and Australia, the ASB Christchurch Marathon continues to be popular with the travelling marathoner. Outside Canterbury, the biggest representations come from Dunedin, Invercargill, Marlborough, Nelson, Wellington and Auckland. Outside of New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom lead the way.

It is a Japanese runner, however, who promises to lead the way in 2017. Japan’s Hirotaka Tanimoto won this race in 2015, but was forced to withdraw just two kilometres into the 2016 race due to a long-standing injury. Living now in Wellington he recovered from the injury to finish fifth in the ASB Auckland Marathon and hopes to be in top shape again for Christchurch where he will face Irish-born Aucklander Ciaran Faherty, who finished second in 2016.

The women’s full marathon will be a wide-open affair, perhaps led by top local triathlete Julia Grant. Triathletes may steal the show in 2017, with local Olympian Andrea Hewitt facing defending champion Olivia Burne from Auckland and three-time runner up, Jess Ruth from Tauranga, in the women’s half marathon.

The men’s half marathon also features a handful of previous place getters, including 2016 runner-up Aaron Pulford of Auckland and local hope Daniel Balchin. But former full marathon winner, Sam Wreford (Timaru), and sub-four minute miler, Hayden McLaren, are expected to upset proceedings.

While the fleet of foot are racing for line honours, the rest of the field will be running in support of the Port Hills regeneration programme. New sponsor, ASB, will donate 25cents for every kilometer run by every participant in this year’s event, and hope to raise more than $20,000 toward the fire regeneration.

The 37th ASB Christchurch Marathon is scheduled for Sunday 4th June. Late entries can be made on Saturday 3rd June at Cathedral Square. For information visit: www.christchurchmarathon.co.nz.


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