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RUNNING

Christchurch's Marathon Expecting Record Field
Tuesday 12 May 2009, 5:27AM
By Michael Jacques
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CHRISTCHURCH

With record entries and the country’s best runners, Christchurch’s SBS Marathon is shaping up bigger and better than ever.

Three weeks out from the annual Queens Birthday weekend event and Christchurch’s SBS Marathon Event is looking at record entries. In 2008 the annual Queens birthday weekend event enjoyed a record field of 4601 participants, but compared to this time last year entries thus far are pointing to yet another record turn out.

This is a continuation of the rise of the event that was inspired by the record shattering 1974 Commonwealth Games Marathon. “We’re very excited about the level of interest so far,” says race director Chris Cox.

“The SBS Marathon Event has always been the South Island’s biggest marathon event and New Zealand’s fastest road race, but this indicates that we’re on the right track to achieve our goal of being New Zealand’s number one marathon event in every way.”

Race day for 2009 is Sunday May 31, and entries thus far indicate a field of more than 5000 entries. Cox attributes the continual growth of what has become a truly international event to the involvement of principle sponsor SBS Bank: “SBS have offered unprecedented resources that have enabled us to take the event to the next level,” says Cox.

This year’s SBS Marathon Event continues taking distance running to a new level in New Zealand. In the last decade Cox and his team have worked hard to put on the best race in the country. They have been rewarded with three New Zealand records and every year New Zealand’s top 10 half and full marathon times are dominated by performances from the Christchurch event. For the last three years former Olympic cyclist turned marathon runner, Gavin Stevens, has run the fastest marathon in the world for a 50 year old at the SBS Marathon.

With a $40,000 prize pool the SBS Christchurch Marathon is once again New Zealand’s richest road race. As the only running event in New Zealand offering an elite athlete assistance program it has once again attracted the best field of the year. The racing up front will feature no less than 15 New Zealand reps and national medalists, but the highlight is the appearance of New Zealand’s number one marathon runner, Michael Aish and a fleet of Australian Olympians.

Aish, whose best time of 2hrs 13min 20secs is faster than the SBS Marathon course record, is making a rare marathon appearance on home soil and those in the know are pointing toward a New Zealand record attempt. Past SBS Marathon winners such as Matt Dravitzki and Rowan Hooper are keen to get in on Aish’s act, as is last year’s runner up Paul Martinico of Australia and former Kiwi Commonwealth Games marathoner Craig Kirkwood.

The women’s marathon is wide open with 15 females with best times under the magic three hour mark that decrees top class female marathon running. This includes top Australians Michelle Bleakley, Leisa Smith and Sandra Prosenica, who won the Christchurch race last year. But they face 2007 champion Sarah Chisnall from Invercargill, who has the fastest marathon time.

Aussies are also expected to shine in the SBS Half Marathon race, with Australian Half Marathon champion Shane Nankervis and Aussie reps Scott Westcott and Andrew Letherby expected to push Christchurch’s Matt Smith (2008 winner) and New Plymouth’s Dale Warrander (2004, 2006). In the women’s half marathon Dunedin’s Shireen Crumpton, a past winner of both the half and full marathon in Christchurch, will face Australian Olympian Lisa Weightman and former American marathon champion Nicole Aish.

“We make a big effort to get the best runners at the SBS Marathon Event,” says Cox. “Having them here adds prestige and international attention to the amazing community occasion this event has become.”

First and foremost the SBS Marathon Event is a community event that stops the city for a day as residents assemble outside their front gates to cheer the throngs making their way along the picturesque Avon River and Hagley Park course. Organisationally the event utilises approximately 300 volunteer from various clubs and community groups, all of whom receive donations for their services.

“The community involvement is also seen in the race itself,” says Cox. “Four years ago we introduced the Kid’s Mara’Fun, which has been a huge success with several hundred primary school children. Two years ago we introduced a half marathon especially for walkers that was very well received. We just felt the event should reflect the community, so that mean including kids and people who enjoy walking for recreation and health.”

Indeed, the SBS Marathon Event provides something for everyone. Along with the classic 42.2k marathon this festival of fitness includes a half marathon run and walk, a 10k run and walk and the Kid’s Mara’Fun. As well as the $40,000 prize pool there are more than 600 spot prizes to be drawn.

Entries for the 2009 SBS Marathon are still open. For further details see: www.sbsmarathon.co.nz






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