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Red Stag Rotorua Marathon All Set For Historic Championship Programme

The New Zealand Road Mile Championships and the inaugural New Zealand 5km Road Championships will feature as part of a bumper weekend of action at the 60th anniversary edition of the 2024 Red Stag Rotorua Marathon on Friday-Saturday 3-4 May.

The second ever national road mile event takes place as part of the Novotel Lakefront Mile on Friday 3 May with some high-class racing anticipated as premier domestic middle-distance clash over the classic distance.

Twelve months ago, witnessed some cracking action around the streets of Rotorua as Brigid Dennehy took out her maiden national title over the road mile distance with a clever piece of tactical racing. The 29-year-old Irish-born North Harbour Bays athlete is back to defend her title bolstered by a PB-laden track campaign highlighted by claiming the national 5000m title in Wellington.

Brigid Dennehy (Photo supplied)

Dennehy will, however, face the toughest of competition in the shape of reigning national mile track champion Rebecca Aitkenhead (Hill City), who claimed a silver medal behind Dennehy at the 2023 Road Mile Championships last year.

Also entered in a quality senior women’s race are 2023 national track mile silver medallist Holly Manning (North Harbour Bays) and 2023 New Zealand 10,000m champion Katherine Camp (Te Awamutu).

The senior men’s road mile features Ben Wall (Feilding Moa) – a 4:03 performer at her best – Jared Monk of Whippets and Noah Macdermid (Palmerston North).

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A highly competitive men’s U20 race looks set to be dominated by a powerful quartet of Athletics Tauranga athletes led by national U20 track mile silver medallist Elliott Pugh and his team-mate George Wyllie, who won a New Zealand U20 road mile silver medal 12 months ago. Also entered are New Zealand U20 track mile bronze medallist Callum Murray and the talented U16 national 1500m champion Sam Ruthe.

In the women’s U20 road mile, local athlete Poppy Martin (Lake City) will seek a successful defence of her national road mile title up against New Zealand U20 track mile gold medallist Charo Heijnen (Athletics Tauranga). Mile titles will also be on the line in masters +35 and +50 divisions.

The inaugural New Zealand 5km Road Championships will feature as part of the innovative Runway 5, which takes place under lights on the runway at Rotorua Airport on Saturday evening.

The senior women’s event will see a re-match between defending Runway 5 champion Aitkenhead, who recorded a 5000m track best of 15:47.82 in Melbourne earlier this year, and Dennehy, the reigning national 5000m track gold medallist.

Masters athlete Lisa Cross (TTT Runners), who set a national W40 masters record when posting a 5000m PB of 16:14.85 in Wellington in March when winning a national silver in Wellington in March, is also sure to be a major threat. Katherine Camp and Holly Manning also toe the line.

Dennehy, who is preparing for her marathon debut in Gold Coast in July and has just completed the highest volume week of her career racking up 145km, said: “I had a fun weekend with a big group from North Harbour Bays at the Rotorua Marathon last year and entering both the road mile and Runway 5 again will a good opportunity to compete in two national championships in two days.

“Last year it was a huge shock to win my first national title and I think I benefited from quite a slow, tactical course to win the road mile title last year. But I know this year they’ve changed the mile course to be a lot quicker, and it will a real test against some quality girls.

“I ran a 5km PB at nationals, so I hope to be close to that again. I’m looking to be competitive and I hope to win a podium place this weekend.”

New Zealand 5000m champion William Little leads the entries in the senior men’s 5km road event bolstered by enjoying his best ever campaign. The 24-year-old of the Whippets Project has enjoyed a breakout season and last month also competed for New Zealand at the 2024 World Cross Country Championships where he placed 64th in the senior men’s race.

Using the 5km road championships as good preparation for the Oceania Championships in Fiji in June, Auckland-based Little said: “I’m excited to be running in Rotorua and I’m really happy Athletics NZ are organising such an innovative event. It is exactly what the sport needs and I’m happy to travel down to support it. The goal is to win that 5km title and add it to my track crown over the same distance.”

Among his main rivals include, two-time national 5000m silver medallist Eric Speakman (Napier) - a 13:22.08 performer at his best. Jared Monk, Benjamin Wall and Noah McDermid are also entered.

The men’s U20 race pits national 5000m U20 silver and bronze medallists, Elliott Pugh up against Az Cabusao (Te Puke) with Callum Murray also entered. Charo Heijnen leads the entries in the women’s U20 race.

There are also titles on the line for the men’s and women’s U18 and U16 age groups as well as masters +40, +45,+50, +55, +60 and +65 divisions.


Friday 3 May

NZ Road Mile Championships

Men – 8pm

Women – 8.10pm

Saturday 4 May

NZ 5km Road Championships

Men – 7.30pm

Women – 7.35pm

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