Record Running In Wellington This Weekend

Postby Melissa_Theuriau on Fri 20/Jun/14 12:42pm

With the biggest ever field and the national half marathon title up for grabs, record racing will be the order of the day at this weekend’s Armstrong Motor Group Wellington Marathon.

More than 5000 runners and walkers from 17 countries and all ends of New Zealand will line up at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on Sunday for the 29th Armstrong Motor Group Marathon Event.

Established in 1986 by the Wellington Marathon Clinic, for more than 20 years this race was a popular but modest mid-winter event attracting less than 1000 entrants. But in 2003 a shift to Westpac Stadium and a scenic and fast waterfront route has seen the event grow by more some 500 percent.

Even the 17 countries represented is a record, with runners coming from Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines, South Africa Scotland, Singapore, Ireland, USA, Kuala Lumpur and even Guatemala and Alaska. But the event this year revolves around Kiwis as they race for the New Zealand Half Marathon Championship.

Locals Looking for National Title
Favourites for Half Marathon title include Wellingtonians Tim Hodge and Rowan Hooper, who have often made up the minor medals in national events but will be hoping to turn their local advantage into gold.

Hodge won the half marathon here last year in 69min 42secs, but will need to run close to his best of 67min 40secs to take this year’s national championship race. Hooper has run that fast before, but has struggled to return to top form following Achilles tendon surgery three years ago.

Both men will need to be at their best too. Auckland’s Jonathan Jackson has a similar best time to the Wellingtonians, while Wellington’s Dan Wallis is certainly capable of winning if his return from injury continues. Christchurch’s Daniel Balchin has yet to clock a classy half marathon performance, but has been successful over shorter distances. But if results over 10k are any guide, the form runner might be Auckland’s Matt Harris, who won the 10k distance at the Christchurch Airport Marathon event three weeks ago.

Age Shall Not Weary Them
With more than 20 years between the youngest and eldest contenders, the women’s national title race will be nothing if not interesting.

At age 51, Kati Kati’s Sally Gibbs will be looking to do the double after winning the national marathon title in Rotorua seven weeks ago. Chasing her will be Wellington’s own Gabrielle O’Rourke, who won two national half marathon titles in the late 1990s and at age 47 hasn’t slowed much since.

The fastest ladies lining up, however, are Auckland policewoman-come-jockey-come-runner, Lisa Robertson, and Wellington’s Katie Kemp. Both have best times around 1hr 14min, while Gibbs best is 1hr 17min. But the 51 year beat them beat Robertson, Kemp and O’Rourke at the Rotorua Marathon, so there will much interest in her attempting the double in Wellington.

World Record Attempt
Auckland’s Gavin Stevens will be watching the weather closely this week. The forecast thus far of a cool crisp and windless day promises fast times, which is exactly what Stevens is looking for.

Three weeks ago in Christchurch he missed the world marathon record for 58 year olds by just 80 seconds. Renowned for his fast recovery, the former Olympic cyclist signed up for the full 42.2k again and Wellington’s scenic course from Westpac Stadium around the waterfront and back is as flat and fast as it is spectacular.

Steven has to run 2hrs 35min to claim the world 58 year old record. But that probably won’t be fast enough to win as Wellington’s own Daniel Clendon takes another shot at top honours at the Armstrong Motor Group Wellington Marathon.

Clendon finished fourth last year, second in 2013 and fifth at the Rotorua Marathon. With a best time of 2hrs 31min he is definitely the favourite to give himself the ultimate gift for his birthday the day before.

Organisers are expecting a record 5200 runners to line up at Westpac Stadium on Sunday. Along with the feature Armstrong Motor Group Marathon and Shoe Clinic Half Marathon, the event also includes the adidas 10k and the Classic Hits Kids’ Magic Mile.

Among the thousands will be Napier runner Warren Bernard. The 32 year old is including the Armstrong Motor Group Wellington Marathon in his bid to finish 20 marathons in 20 months, with this weekend being number nine.

At the other end of the scale more than 200 intermediate school boys from Scots College middle school will be participating in the 10k to raise funds for Blind Foundation guide dog training.

The New Zealand Heart Foundation is the official charity of the Armstrong Motor Group Wellington Marathon event, which hopes to raise more than $10,000 for with the foundation.

Sunday’s Armstrong Motor Group Wellington Marathon kicks off at 6:30am with the Full Marathon Walk. The Full Marathon Run starts at 7:30pm. The Half Marathon Run and Walk start at 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 Motor Group on Barker Street on Friday and Saturday. For more information see www.wellingtonmarathon.co.nz.
Melissa_Theuriau
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