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Auckland Marathon Attracts Top Kiwi Road Running Talent

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Race records may well be under threat when strong fields line up in the ASB Auckland Marathon events this Sunday, with a host of New Zealand’s leading athletes heading to the City of Sails to take it to the streets, with many motivated by the challenges of a COVID affected year.

In excess of 13,000 will ‘run it their way’ when lining up in the five races on offer on Sunday morning, with hundreds of them doing so to support the Charity Superstar Programme, with six official charities set to benefit to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but a select few will be battling it out for line honours.

Daniel Jones (Wellington) appreciates the global impact of COVID-19 better than most, the 2018 runner-up has largely turned his back multi-sport to focus on marathon running with a view to one day representing New Zealand on the international stage. That focus saw him head to Kenya earlier in 2020 for what was meant to be a three-week training camp, but international lockdowns and border restrictions stranded Jones in Kenya for close to five months.

“I am going into this race to win, and I think I am in good enough nick to get a decent time in doing so. I quite like getting a feel for what the front pack is doing and then make a decision a quarter or halfway in, depending on how I am feeling,” said Jones.

“I went over to Kenya in March and got stuck there. I was supposed to be there for five weeks on a training camp and then race in Europe but because of COVID I stayed in Kenya and got basically five months over there, which turned into a decent training camp with consistent training and no bad injuries.

“My plan was to go to Valencia in December, but with COVID kicking back up in Europe I just want to race while I am in decent shape. Even without a specific marathon block I have good training in me so why not race in Auckland and give it a good go. This will be my first big race back.”

Michael Voss (Rotorua) returns after his runner-up finish last year when beaten by classy Australian Isaias Beyn. The 23-year-old showed his versatility when winning the 50km race at the Tarawera Ultra in February just prior to lockdown this year.

Fabe Downs (Auckland) may well be the leading local hope, the 2019 NZ Sotheby’s International Realty Queenstown Marathon winner has a personal best of 2:23 and was first over the line in the 2020 Round the Bays event completed just prior to the first lockdown in March.

Hirotaka Tanimoto (Japan) is a regular in Auckland and will provided an international element to the men’s race, the Wellington based athlete was third here in 2016 and won the Wellington Marathon in 2019.

Alice Mason (Tauranga) is the clear favourite in the women’s marathon, especially with news that leading triathlete Hannah Wells will step down to the Barfoot & Thompson Half on Sunday. The current three-time New Zealand Marathon title holder is relishing the chance to race in Auckland given what the world is currently going through.

“This year was turned upside down like most people. I had prepared really well to race a marathon in Korea in March which was cancelled a few weeks before the event. Instead I refocused my running goals and tried to maintain my fitness while there were no races on the horizon,” said Mason.

“I was lucky to keep busy with my work as a doctor and have some local adventures with my partner instead of being able to go overseas. All of this makes it very exciting to have Auckland marathon taking place and reinforces how lucky we are in New Zealand.”

In Wells absence, Mason can expect her main rivals to include 2017 winner Hannah Oldroyd (Great Britain) and New Zealand Trail Running champion Mel Aitken (Wellington).

Tokyo bound Olympian Camille Buscomb headlines a strong group of elite athletes taking on the Barfoot & Thompson Half Marathon. Buscomb has qualified in both the 5000 and 10,000 metre track events in Tokyo but has had those plans turned upside down.

“Basically 2020 has been completely the opposite to what I had planned for this year. I had every day planned out leading into Tokyo, with most of my preparation and racing planned for overseas. Seven months on from when I should have left to start that preparation, I am still home in New Zealand and have no plans to fly abroad anytime soon,” said Buscomb.

“I have been really happy with how the year has gone for me being back home though. Training has been good; I have moved back to live with my parents and have been enjoying the time in New Zealand with family and friends. I am excited to head back overseas next year and continue my buildup for Tokyo!”

Buscomb says the opportunity to compete in Auckland is just the tonic after such a disrupted 2020.

“I really wanted to continue to race where I could this year. Training and racing is my whole life right now, and without racing I am just not complete. A few other races I had scheduled have also been canceled due to COVID and lockdowns so for the half to go ahead is a real positive right now. I think we all want to see positive things happen and I feel this is really one of them for me this year.”

Buscomb will likely be in one of the most intriguing battles of the day, with 2019 ASB Marathon winner and decorated triathlete Hannah Wells (Tauranga) and two-time Barfoot & Thompson Half Marathon winner and 2019 National Road Race champion Olivia Burne (Auckland) challenging for line honours in what promises to be a fast race as three of New Zealand’s elite distance runners push each other to the limit.

The men’s field for the Barfoot & Thompson Half includes leading New Zealand IRONMAN athlete Braden Currie, as he like so many others goes searching for racing opportunities in a hugely restricted 2020.

“It’s been a tough year but there are always silver linings. I couldn’t be more stoked to be a Kiwi right now. I consider it the best place in the world to be. I also feel like I have been given a window of opportunity to let my body recover from many hard years of racing and no real break over that time. My training has still been consistent with a big focus on cycle volume, but I haven’t been pushing the intensities too much as I’ve learnt how important it is to periodize my year well and peak when I need to.”

Currie will have his work cut out with 2019 runner-up Cameron Graves (Auckland) and Christopher Dryden (Christchurch) amongst the likely pacesetters. Graves finished just 2 seconds behind Oli Chignell’s race record breaking performance last year while Dryden was fourth and brings a personal best of 1:07 to Auckland.

ELITES TO WATCH

ASB AUCKLAND MARATHON 
Men
Daniel Jones, 30, Wellington

Spent five months training in Kenya this year after being stranded on what was meant to be a 5-week training camp due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. A personal best of 2:16, second here in 2018

Michael Voss, 23, Rotorua

Runner up last year when posting his PB of 2:22, Voss will be keen to go one better. Third at Rotorua Marathon in 2019 and also took out the 50km event at the Tarawera Ultramarathon race in February 2020.

Hirotaka Tanimoto, 35, Japan

The Wellington domiciled Japan representative, Hiro is a regular competitor on the New Zealand marathon circuit. Won the 2019 Wellington Marathon and knows this course, including his 2016 ASB Auckland Marathon 3rd place finish.

Fabe Downs, 34, Auckland

Fabe won Round the Bays in 2020 and has a PB of 2:23. Winner of the NZ Sotheby’s International Realty Queenstown Marathon in 2019.

Women
Alice Mason, 33, Tauranga

A 3-time NZ Marathon champion (last three years running), a first timer in Auckland, Alice will go in as warm favourite with the move of 2019 winner Hannah Wells to the Barfoot & Thompson Half Marathon. The Tauranga athlete is looking to represent New Zealand at a future point, potentially at the Commonwealth or Olympic Games. Now being coached by Craig Kirkwood.

Hannah Oldroyd,33, GBR - Christchurch,

Hannah has a personal best of 2:44 at the Amsterdam Marathon in 2019. Formerly from England, the Christchurch based athlete won the Christchurch Marathon in 2017 in 2:55 in near freezing conditions and took out the ASB Auckland title in 2017. Represented GB in 50km event in 2019

Mel Aitken, 43, Wellington

Mel is the current NZ Trail Running champion and was second here last year. Third at the 2019 World XTERRA Trail running championship in Hawaii. PB of 2:47


BARFOOT & THOMPSON HALF-MARATHON
Men
Cameron Graves, 28, Auckland
Graves is the 2019 NZ Cross Country Champion and 2020 10,000m NZ champion. In great shape to have a crack at the race record and win after finishing second to Oli Chignell by just 2 seconds last year.

Braden Currie, 34, Wanaka
With no international triathlon racing, Currie is heading north to get a racing fix and you know will be competitive and will hang with the ‘track’ runners for as long as he can. How strong will Currie be without a swim and bike to lead into a half-marathon?

Christopher Dryden, 21, Christchurch
Fourth last year in a fast race, Dryden as a PB of 1:07 and will surely contend for a spot on the podium. NZ Junior representative in 2018.


Women
Hannah Wells, 30, Tauranga
These days making her mark in long distance triathlon racing, Wells won the ASB Marathon in 2019 and has stepped down to the Barfoot & Thompson Half only in recent weeks. Short of racing and in what looms as one of the strongest fields in years, her toughness will be required here.

Olivia Burne,29, Auckland
Two-time winner in 2016 and 2017 and 2019 National Road Race champion, Burne has been busy of late, including an overall win at the Waiheke to Wharf event this year.

Camille Buscomb, 30, Cambridge
A two-time former winner in 2014 and 15, Buscomb has had a hugely disrupted year with the Tokyo Olympics postponed, aiming to finish the year on a high as she contemplates the 5000 and 10,000m double at Tokyo 2021.

ASB Auckland Marathon
Sunday November 1st 2020
Featuring:

  • Barfoot & Thompson Kids 2km
  • NZ Avocado 5km
  • John West Traverse 11km
  • Barfoot & Thompson Half Marathon
  • ASB Marathon

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