NEW MEN'S MARATHON WINNER LIKELY
Trying to pick a winner for the men’s race at the ASB Auckland Marathon this Sunday is a tricky task only a few days out from the iconic race that will take runners from Devonport, across the Harbour Bridge to the finish line at Victoria Park Market.
What is likely however, is that the men’s race will see a new winner, with plenty of the 2017 contenders boasting a third-place finish in the past, all will be looking to make their mark with a victory at the iconic running event that dates back to 1936 (with just 16 brave runners), and has regularly crossed the Harbour Bridge since the turn of the century.
35-year-old Blair McWhirter will be amongst the contenders, the Christchurch athlete has not raced a marathon in New Zealand since 2012 but has a third placing in Auckland (2011) on the CV, so knows the course well.
“I am looking for a podium placing on the back of a solid performance back on home soil. I ran London this year (2:22) and was top ten in the recent New Zealand 10k road champs so have reasonable form. My aim is to perform consistently in New Zealand and push below the 2:20 mark in the marathon.”
24-year-old Josh Maisey is an Aucklander now living in Melbourne, but is returning home after spending three weeks training at altitude in Arizona to take on an event where he placed third back in 2015. That dedication and his recent good form suggests he might well be the one to watch in this event, with a win at the Rotorua Half already under his belt.
“It should be a tough race, the ASB Auckland Marathon always is, there are a few great runners entered but I am looking to run a PB if the conditions are right and ultimately shooting for the podium if everything goes to plan. I won the Rotorua Half earlier this year and most recently paced a group through the half distance at the Melbourne Marathon in 1:09 which was a great workout.”
Travelling a little further than most is 36-year-old Lloyd Biddell. The Birmingham runner is combining his trip to New Zealand for a ‘holiday’ with taking on the ASB Auckland Marathon and has form to suggest he will be a contender.
“I am not sure what my expectations are to be honest as it's my first race outside of the UK. I am planning to enjoy the experience and see what happens! I am coming off a good win at the recent MBNZ Chester Marathon (2:26), where I was representing England in the 35 to 39 age category against the Celtic nations.”
Adding to this year’s international flavour in the men’s race is last year’s third place getter, Hirotaka Tanimoto. The 32-year-old Japanese runner is based in Wellington these days and is looking for a form reversal in what has been a tough year.
“I was aiming to win both Christchurch and Wellington Marathon events this year and was going well until the 30km mark at both when I struck problems. In Christchurch I was too cold and wet and couldn’t keep up a good pace, while in Wellington I struggled with an ankle injury due to the camber and had to withdraw.
“This year I arrive in Auckland in better shape though and I am aiming for a personal best. My training has been going well and I am definitely able to run stronger than last year. My philosophy however is always to enjoy the running. The ASB Auckland Marathon has a lot of exciting points along the way, with amazing support from other runners, volunteers and spectators.”
A dark horse might be 27-year-old Kristian Davy (Wellington), with two previous finishes in times of 2:42 and 2:37, his more recent good form suggests that his goal of a sub 2:30 time might not be beyond him.
The native Chatham Islander is, like many of the other contenders, focused on a personal best on Sunday.
“I am just hoping to run a PB to be honest, the result will then look after itself. If I could go 2:28 I would be over the moon. My most recent outings have been a 2:31 finish at the Gold Coast Marathon and 31:44 at the National Road Championships (10km).”
The elite men will be amongst a total field expected to exceed 14,000 (entries are still being received) runners of all ages and backgrounds taking part in the events ranging from the 2km Kids Run, the Heart Foundation 5km, John West 12km Traverse (sold out), the Barfoot & Thompson Half Marathon and the ASB Marathon.
ASB head of community, sponsorship and events Mark Graham says ASB is looking forward to seeing race participants cross the finish line and achieving personal milestones at the ASB Auckland Marathon on Sunday.
“There are a range of reasons people are taking part in this year’s ASB Auckland Marathon event. Some runners are chasing spots on the podium, some are looking for personal bests and others are doing a great job raising money for local charities. We are proud of all runners and walkers entered, and wish them all the best,” Mr Graham says.
The Barfoot & Thompson Half Marathon is also shaping as a great race, with defending champion Evan Elder up against two time runner up and current National Road champion Daniel Balchin and well regarded road runner Jonathan Jackson, who was third in this event in 2014. Elder pipped Balchin by less than a minute last year and if these three stay together through the early stages of the race, the race record of 1:06:19 set by Matt Smith in 2009 could well be under threat.
ASB Auckland Marathon, leading male contenders
Blair McWhirter,35, Christchurch.
Blair is returning to New Zealand after time away in the UK and Asia. The 35-year-old Christchurch native posted an impressive 2:22 at the 2017 London Marathon.
Hirotaka Tanimoto, 32, Japan
The Wellington domiciled Japan representative, Hiro is a regular competitor on the New Zealand marathon circuit. Has had some issues at big events in 2017, but is reportedly in great shape and a chance to go better than his 2016 ASB Auckland Marathon, 3rd place finish.
Lloyd Biddell, 36, England
Perhaps an unknown quantity given Lloyd is mixing holiday with the race, but the 2017 Chester Marathon champion has a long and consistent record in top level competition and will enjoy the undulations of the course, especially going up the Harbour Bridge on the way across the Waitemata
Josh Maisey, 24, Melbourne (originally from Auckland)
Maisey knows the course well, having competed four times over the half distance and finishing third in the 2015 ASB Auckland Marathon 3rd. The youngest of the main contenders has spent three weeks at altitude in Arizona to prepare, suggesting he is more than serious about winning in 2017.
Kristian Davy, 27, Wellington
Davy might be the dark horse of the bunch, his steady improvement has him looking to run sub 2:30 for the first time, the question will be by how much can he go under that time?
Barfoot & Thompson Half Marathon, leading male contenders
Daniel Balchin (New Zealand)
A 1:05.53 half-marathon performer at his best the Christchurch-based athlete is a class act. The 27-year-old New Brighton Olympic club athlete is a three-time former New Zealand 3000m steeplechase champion and last month was crowned New Zealand 10km road champion for the second time in succession.
Jonathan Jackson, 26, Auckland
Jackson is a regular at the Auckland event and has a collection of national titles on the road and cross country (and mountain running) to his name. Jackson was third at the Rotorua Marathon earlier this year in just over 2 and a half hours.
Evan Elder, 25, Christchurch
The defending champion returns to try and win the title for a second year running, last year posting a time of just over 1 hour and 8 minutes. Elder is from Christchurch but has been based in North America and will again be one to watch on Sunday.