Battle to podium in weekend marathon
Last year’s Queenstown Marathon winner, Mel Aitken, is looking to defend her title but will do so in the face of fierce opposition in the country’s largest marathon event this weekend.
Thousands of runners are descending on the resort for the Air New Zealand Queenstown International Marathon, half marathon, 10km run and 2.2km kids’ run.
Aitken, the West Coast Police Area Commander, broke through last year for a first victory after a number of close misses and feels in great form ahead of Saturday.
‘‘I’m in much better form than I was last year. I’ve had an interesting season, injury set me back a bit with stress fractures in my foot, but in saying that I’ve also posted a personal best marathon time on the Gold Coast in July, so I think I am going into this year’s event a lot stronger than I was last year.’’
Strong competition is expected from Hannah Oldroyd, who won the recent ASB Auckland Marathon.
‘‘My approach will be the same as usual, I will set off at my own pace and see how the race unfolds, The legs are fine, this will actually be my tenth event since Auckland.
‘‘The big goal will be to get there early enough to enjoy a Guinness before the race, and then a few more afterwards!’’
Elina Ussher will be an interesting one to watch. The multi-sport star is using the event as part of her preparation for another tilt at the Coast to Coast next February, but will be giving it her best shot on Saturday.
‘‘I have done a few marathons as part of adventure or multisport races, but running one as a standalone marathon is quite exciting and new for me.’’
Husband Richard knows the terrain well after finishing second in the men’s race last year, and will this year be riding the lead mountain bike at the head of the women’s NZ Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon field.
In the men’s race Sam Wreford, of Timaru, has the form deserving of a race favourite.
This is his first attempt at the Queenstown Marathon but he has previously won Invercargill, Christchurch (twice), Rotorua and Auckland Marathons and this year added the Air New Zealand Hawke’s Bay Marathon to his CV. He holds course records for Dunedin and the Legend marathons.
Mel Aitken winning the 2016 Queenstown Marathon.