Lisa Hunter-Galvan returns home to NZ this weekend, chasing a record third consecutive win at the Christchurch Airport Marathon.
At 8:30am on Sunday almost 5000 runners from 13 countries will get underway in the 32nd Christchurch Airport Marathon.
One of the visitors is Kiwi born but American based, Liza Hunter-Galvan, who returns for the third year in a row for what she hopes will be her fourth win in the South Island’s premier marathon event.
In 2011 the former Olympian controversially chose the Christchurch Marathon as her first major race following a two year drug suspension. But she shrugged off media attention to win in 2011 and 2012, and also won the 2012 Rotorua Marathon for good measure.
If the 43 year old can win in 2013 she will be the first person to have won the prestigious Christchurch race on three consecutive occasions. But actually, it would be Hunter-Galvan’s fourth win in the Christchurch event because it was also the site of her first ever marathon victory way back in 1999.
The Auckland-born marathon specialist has lived in San Antonio, Texas for more than 20 years. Coached by the late Arthur Lydiard as a school girl, she then left New Zealand for an American university track and field scholarship. She has lived there ever since, married an American, and despite a near fatal car accident that almost killed one of her five children, she went on to wear the silver fern at both the Athens and Beijing Olympics and clock a best time of 2hrs 29min to be among New Zealand’s 10 fastest female marathoners. But in 2009 a positive test for the blood boosting drug EPO cast doubt over everything she had done.
Despite the controversy, Hunter-Galvan’s wins in Christchurch re-affirmed her love for running. Rather than chasing international championships, she prefers to enjoy her running and fit one or two goals a year around her family. Making Christchurch one of those goals also aligns nicely with the opportunity to visit her parents north of Auckland, but the defending champion won’t have it easy in the Garden City.
Dunedin’s Victoria Beck is one of New Zealand’s most underrated distance runners. The 30 year old Dunedinite clocked 2hrs 43min at the Southland Marathon in 2010, which despite being slower than Hunter-Galvan’s best is actually two minutes faster than the defending champions has run to win the Christchurch Airport Marathon in the last two years.
Beck also comes into Christchurch with recent form. She won the famous Kepler Challenge mountain run last December and just a month ago won the Routeburn Run. She has form over the shorter distances too, winning the Southland Half Marathon last year in 1hr 19min and finishing fourth in the Christchurch Airport Half Marathon in 1hr 17min.
The men’s marathon has also been reduced to a two-horse race with the withdrawal of three-time half marathon winner, Dale Warrander. This makes things less stressful for defending champion Sam Wreford. The 30 year old Timaru runner won the Rotorua Marathon three weeks ago, so he has to juggle his recovery from that race while watching for wily veteran Phil Costley (Nelson) who like Hunter-Galvin will be looking for his third win at the Christchurch Airport Marathon.
Race Director Chris Cox is pleased with a strong entry just three years after the Christchurch earthquakes. “The community has always supported this event,” he says. “It is one of the country’s premier marathons, but the people who make it the event that it is are the thousands of average runners and walkers in the middle of the pack.”
Among those in the middle of the pack will be Auckland’s Gary Regtien, who was once one of New Zealand’s most celebrated ultra-marathoners and at 77 will be the eldest starter in the Christchurch Airport Marathon. The youngest is 17 year old Mitch Green from Christchurch.
Entries for the 2013 Christchurch Airport Marathon Event are still open. As well as the classic 42.2k distance, options include a Half Marathon, 10k and the Kids’ 3k Mara’Fun. Racing gets underway at 8:30am on Sunday 2nd June. For details visit: www.christchurchmarathon.co.nz.