Sunday 03 November 2024

Elite Road Runners Gear Up For Auckland Marathon Title Shot

26 October 2023
Elite Road Runners Gear Up For Auckland Marathon Title Shot

Returning to the streets of Tāmaki Makaurau this Sunday, the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Marathon will feature an impressive lineup of elite road racing talent set to battle it out for the 2023 titles.

For the first time since 2019 there will be a new Auckland Marathon men’s champion. With Daniel Jones, winner of the last three races in a row, absent for this year’s event as he takes time to recover from an exhausting 100-mile mountain race, the 2023 Auckland Marathon title is up for grabs.

Leading the charge in the men’s field is Otago’s Daniel Balchin. The 33-year-old finished second at the Auckland Marathon last year and will be hoping he’s the man to etch a different name into the event’s illustrious history books.

“There’s little bit of unfinished business this time around as I placed runner up last year. Keen to have another go at placing one better,” said Balchin. “This event is one of the major events of its kind in New Zealand and it would be nice to have an Auckland Marathon title to my name.

“A successful race for me is executing a good race and running to what I think is my potential on the day. Hopefully coming away with a time I’m proud of,” he said. “I’m most looking forward to running on the roads in the centre of the city, crossing the Harbour Bridge, enjoying the great atmosphere and support out there on the course.”

Auckland-based Luke Cotter is another strong contender for this year’s title, having placed third in 2022. The British doctor only made the move to New Zealand last October, just a couple of weeks before his podium finish at the Auckland Marathon.

Cotter will be hoping his time spent training on the streets of Auckland for the past year will stand him in good stead come Sunday.

Another athlete to keep an eye out for in the men’s marathon field is Harry Dixon.

The Palmerston North runner will step up to the marathon distance for the first time at this year’s Auckland Marathon. With a win at the Hawke’s Bay Half Marathon already under his belt this year, Dixon will be hoping his marathon debut is a success.

“I've had a really solid buildup. I started working with a new coach, Matt Baxter, about two months ago and feel that I've responded really well to his training. I've struggled with a lot of injuries over the past few years, so it's been nice to get a good consistent block of training in and hopefully get back to competing at a good level,” said Dixon.

“This will be my first marathon, and Auckland seemed like the ideal place since it always attracts a strong field,” he said. “I want to be competitive, enjoy the race and learn a lot. To win would be amazing and would give me a lot of confidence to continue in the marathon going forward.”

Whilst there will be a new Auckland Marathon men’s champion crowned this weekend, the women’s race could see a familiar face take the tape with the 2020 Auckland Marathon champion Alice Mason back on the start line this year.

Mason welcomed her son into the world last year and has since been juggling marathon training around life as a mum. In that context, her fourth Rotorua Marathon victory earlier this year is especially impressive.

“Training has been good, I’m getting fitter and faster all the time since having my little boy 15 months ago. Definitely more ups and downs these days since becoming a mum but the general trend in training is up which is ideal. My favourite sessions have been our family track sessions where dog and baby hoon around with dad while I run laps,” said Mason.

“My main goal this year is definitely to get out there and have fun and hopefully run a consistent race pace wise. I feel like success is a bit different these days, I'd say I've already succeeded just by managing to consistently fit in training around my little one without getting injured.

“It would be pretty special to come back and win this race again but as a mum this time. It's pretty cool to see that many of the other elite ladies racing are also mums, so it’s a really cool example to other runners that your career doesn't have to end if you have a baby,” she said.

Fellow title contenders Jessica Willis, from Brisbane in Australia, and New Plymouth’s Emily Roughan are also mums to young children.

Queenslander Willis makes the journey across the ditch to compete in her first Auckland Marathon. At 39-year-old, Willis is having a personal best season so far – first setting a new PB in finishing second at the Runaway Noosa Marathon in May and then breaking that further with her ninth place finish at the Melbourne Marathon two weeks ago.

Roughan is another making her Auckland Marathon debut. The 29-year-old is a versatile runner, having placed well in track, road, and trail races. Earlier this year she represented New Zealand at the World Athletics Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia.

There is also plenty of talent lining up in the Garmin Half Marathon elite races.

The women’s field consists of two former Auckland Half Marathon winners in Lisa Cross (2019, 2012), also a two-time Auckland Marathon winner (2021, 2011), and Katrina Andrew (2021). Hoping to elevate herself further up the podium this year is Karen Donaldson-Barron, who has two third place finishes to her name – most recently in 2022.

Favourite to take out the men’s half marathon title is Julian Oakley. The Tauranga athlete will be aiming to go back-to-back at the Auckland Half Marathon having claimed victory last year. Triathlete and Auckland local Jack Moody will be hoping to secure one of the few half marathon titles that has eluded him to date, while Jacob Priddey will look to build on his fourth place finish last year.

The Auckland Marathon starts at 6:00am on Sunday 29 October, with the Wheelchair Marathon five minutes earlier. The Auckland Half Marathon begins at 6:50am.

Both the marathon and half marathon courses celebrate all that is great about New Zealand’s biggest city, guiding runners from Devonport, across the iconic Harbour Bridge, through the CBD, and and for those in marathon, an out and back along the waterfront on Tamaki Drive.

In addition to the Barfoot & Thompson Marathon and Garmin Half Marathon, there is also the One New Zealand 11km Traverse from 8:50am, 5km from 11am, and Barfoot & Thompson Kids Marathon (2.2km) from 10:30am.

All athletes will complete their journey in Victoria Park, the Auckland Marathon’s vibrant finish line in the heart of the city.

- Event media accreditation can be accessed here

For more information and last-minute entries visit the Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Marathon website:

Sun, 03 Nov 2024