Gold Coast based Dale Warrander will be aiming for his fourth New Zealand marathon title around Lake Rotorua on Saturday.
The 37 year old fitness trainer won his first title in 2004 when the championship was decided on the Rotorua race. His other two titles were in the Auckland marathon in 2006 and last year.
Warrander will have a double incentive to win in the Lion Foundation sponsored race as he is aiming to go one better than the legendary Jack Foster.
Last year Warrander chalked up his fourth victory at Rotorua to equal the number Foster recorded in the 1970’s. A win would give him the outright honours of the most wins in the iconic event.
Warrander’s record to date is; 1996 2h 21m 47s, 2004 2h 23m 40s, 2005 2h 22m 38s and last year 2h 26m 54s.
“I’m really looking forward to competing this year. This is the fifth time I’ve run at Rotorua and I really want that fifth win this year. I’m not getting any younger and I know there will be some other runners after my blood, but I hope I’m good enough to hold out any challenges,” said Warrander.
He has not raced since winning the Auckland marathon in October where he ran 2h 19m 22s in beating Sam Wreford by 35 seconds.
“Training up until four weeks ago was steady but then a minor injury scare to the right shin put me back one week. But since then training has been absolutely fantastic,” said Warrander. “I have put some really good sessions together and I feel confident about my current fitness level based on the last three weeks,” he added.
Twice winner at Rotorua, Scott Winton (36) looms as the strongest challenge to Warrander. Winton won in 2006 in 2h 25m 34s and in the dramatic finish in 2009 when just caught a stumbling Steven O’Callaghan on the finishing line in 2h 27m 14s.
Since he won the Auckland Round the Bays 8.4km run last month Winton has extended his training increasing his mileage in preparation for the marathon.
“I’ve had some encouraging tempo runs in the last few weeks. It’s always hard to know exactly where you are at with a marathon but I’m feeling strong,” said Winton.
The dark horse of the field could well be Luke Hurring of Christchurch. The 26 year old finished second to Nick Willis in the recent New Zealand 5000m track championship and in the Christchurch marathon last June was second to Matt Smith in 2h 25m 6s. Also entered from Canterbury is Andrew Davidson, the New Zealand cross country champion in 2009.
The Macdonald twins from Tauranga Iain and Kyle have entered along with Dougal Thorburn of Dunedin, and 2003 winner Todd Stevens of Wellington.
Johanna Ottosson of Rotorua will be defending her women’s title and keen to win the national women’s title. Ottosson won last year in 2h 50m 19s and went on run 2h 52m 33s on the Gold Coast in July and 2h 45m 32s in Sacramento in December. Ottosson is looking forward to winning for the second year and is keen to take out her first national title.
“I’m as prepared as you can be. I will settle into the marathon over the first few kilometres and find a comfortable pace and go from there,” she said.
Entered fresh from her New Zealand mountain running title success is Ruby Muir from Whitianga.
It will be the 19 year old’s first official marathon and despite completing numerous long distance training and trail races has not trained specifically for Rotorua.
“When I’m out on the trail races people are curious about what sort of time I could run for a marathon, so there is only one way to find out and that is to run one,” said Muir.
Muir warmed up for Rotorua by taking part in an 80km social run around Mt Ruapehu last weekend.
Former national women’s cross country champion Maria Akesson of Kerikeri is entered along with Lesley Turner Hall of Auckland, who was second in 2007 and third last year, Sarah Devoy and Debbie Fillery of Auckland fifth in 2009.
Bernadine Portenski will be aiming to add the W60 record to the W40, W45, W50 and W55 age group records that she already holds. The 61 year old, last year ran 3h 24m 42s, four minutes slower than the W60 record of 3h 20m 51s set by Betty Cornwell in 1990.
Gavin Stevens, who turned 55 in February, has entered and will have his eye on the M55 record of 2h 39m 59s set by Max Dravitzki in 2000. Last year Stevens finished fifth in 2h 37m 1s.