Bat­tle to podium in week­end marathon

Central Otago Mirror - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - STAFF RE­PORTER

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.

SUP­PLIED

Mel Aitken win­ning the 2016 Queen­stown Marathon.

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