With more than 4000 participants for the past three years, the Armstrong Motor Group Wellington Marathon has been New Zealand’s fastest growing marathon event. But the favourites for this year’s racing are all fully grown.
Organisers expect close to 4500 starters for Sunday’s Armstrong Motor Group Wellington Marathon. But despite large growth in younger participants, the racing up front is expected to be dominated by veterans of the sport.
In the half marathon Wellington’s Sarah Christie and Christchurch’s Tracy Crossley, both 39, will go head to head. Christie is a former winner of this event, while Crossley is a top performer on the South Island scene who just two weeks ago placed second in the full marathon in Christchurch’s SBS Marathon.
Christie and Crossley, however, will need to watch for the youngsters. Upper Hutt’s 26 year old Sarah Gardener claimed third in last year’s half marathon and will be looking to go better than the 1hr 23min it took her. After a second place in the full marathon last year Wellington’s Ingrid Cree, 28, is stepping down in distance to the half marathon.
Another runner stepping down in distance is 2010 full marathon winner Daniel Clendon, who will be looking to claim the half marathon title. But the 34 year old Wellingtonian faces two top runners with enviable experience.
Christchurch’s Kerry Faass returns to Wellington looking to shake the bridesmaid tag. The 45 year old former junior star came back to the sport five years ago and has notched up an enviable record as a veteran, winning the 40-plus half marathon category in this event for the last two years. But after finishing third overall last year and second the year before he has his sights set on completing the podium set with the number one spot.
Clendon and Faass will need to watch out for Wellington’s newest standout. Canadian mountain runner James Richardson has been turning heads since moving to Wellington last summer. The Canadian representative finished a solid 10th at the SBS Half Marathon in Christchurch two weeks ago, but will be looking to find his fastest feet in his new home town this weekend.
Others moving down in distance this year include local standouts Tim Hodge and Gabrielle O’Rourke, both former placegetters in the half marathon, who will start as favourites for the 10 kilometre event this weekend.
One athlete who is going long this year, however, is full marathon favourite Glyn Hadley. The 31 year old Christchurch runner was seventh in last year’s half marathon, but returns to the Capital hoping to clip some time off his marathon best of 2hrs 32min. He’ll face Napier veteran Ross McIntyre, who also has a 2hrs 32min personal best time.
Favourite for the women’s full marathon is Ingrid Frost from Auckland, who will be hoping to shed previous second, third and seventh placings for a win in Wellington.
Runners and walkers from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA, UK and Japan will line up at Westpac Stadium on Sunday. But few will be more deserved than Christchurch’s Irena Szalkowlski-Hayes. The 55 year old has been training for the Armstrong Motor Group Wellington Marathon for several months, but race week has gone anything but to plan. On Monday she had to flee her work place when debris started falling around her ears during Monday’s earthquake after-shocks in Christchurch.Then travelling home later that day she found herself driving into a sink hole in the road. Another member of the public pulled her out of her car, which she left where it was and walked several kilometres home. On Sunday she hopes to put all this behind her to finish the classic 42.2k marathon.
Sunday’s Armstrong Motor Group Wellington Marathon kicks off at 6:30am with the Full Marathon Walk. The Full Marathon Run at 7:30pm, the Half Marathon Run and Walk 9:00am, the 10K Run and Walk at 9:15am, and the Kid’s Magic Mile at 9:25am. Late entries will be taken at Armstrong Mitsubishi on Cambridge Terrace on Friday and Saturday. For more information see http://www.wellingtonmarathon.co.nz.