INDEPENDENT NEWS

Record Running In Wellington Today

Published: Sun 23 Jun 2024 04:26 AM
2023 start at Sky Stadium. Credit: marathonphotos.live
With runners and walkers from a record 25 countries, today’s Gazley Volkswagen Wellington Marathon is setting records before the starters gun is even fired. And internationals are tipped for line honours too.
More than 4000 runners and walkers will line up at Wellington’s Sky Stadium today for the 38th Gazley Volkswagen Wellington Marathon. Established in 1986, the event has been the regions premier marathon event for more than three decades and is one of New Zealand’s “big five” marathons alongside Christchurch, Rotorua, Auckland and Queenstown.
As well as from all ends of Aotearoa, participants this year have come from Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, France, French Polynesia, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Oman, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan, UK and USA. And among favourites are three Japanese runners, one from Wellington’s sister city of Sakai and two who now reside in Wellington,Japanese Favourites
Shizuka Tanaka is from Wellington’s Japanese sister city of Sakai. She won the trip as the first Sakai resident to finish the Senshu Marathon last year. The 38-year-old has a marathon best of 2hrs 59min, which makes her the favourite to win this year’s wide open women’s race. Although Wellington’s Gabriela Diver will be looking to go one better than her second place in 2023, while fellow local Maria Mavroeidi and Marton’s Claire Horner have best times similar to the 3hrs 06min that Tanaka ran to win the Wellington trip. So, a close race is expected.
The men’s full marathon is also shaping up as a wide-open affair. Wellington’s David Haunschmidt and Chris Wharam will face South Islanders Tom Galloway and Simon Cromarty. The 25-year-old Haunschmidt finds himself favourite after a close third place in 2023 and the fastest best time of 2hrs 30min. But 2015 winner, Wharam, (36) has more experience on the course, while Christchurch’s Galloway (also 36) was the winner of last year’s Dunedin Marathon, and Cromarty, from Dunedin, has a faster half marathon best of 69min than any of them.New Winners Guaranteed
With no recent winners on the start line, the men’s and women’s half marathons also look wide open. Among women, Wellington-based Japanese runner, Kumiko Otani, who has a best time of 1hr 13min that is faster than Sarah Drought’s 2023 record of 1hr 15min, is the favourite. But Otani has not been in that form since settling in Wellington and will face close attention from 2023 third placegetter Deb Fuller from Tauranga, Wellingtonian Beth Garland and Hamilton’s Sarah Murphy. But they might all need to watch for Whanganui’s motivated masters super-star, Sally Gibbs, who since turning 60 has been smashing national records left right and centre and could well threaten the podium.
In the men’s half marathon, clear favourite on past form is Wellington’s own Eric Speakman, the reigning national 5000m champion and a sub-four-minute miler, who is lining up for his debut over the half marathon distance. The 33-year-old, who twice represented New Zealand in 2023, is a class act who could threaten Michael Voss’s 2023 race record of 1hr 06min 21secs. But with neither Voss nor any previous winners in the field, Speakman will face a handful of past placegetters who are all hungry for the top step.
Fellow Wellingtonian Toby Gualter (23) doesn’t have the middle-distance pedigree of Speakman, but he does have faster times over 10k and form in the Wellington race after finishing second to Michael Voss in 2022 in 1hr 07min. Third in that race was local runner Nathan Tse, who was also third in 2019 and has a faster best time than Gualter of 1hr 06min. After finishing third last year, Taupo’s Cullen Thorby will be putting his hand up too, as will Wellington-based Japanese runner Hiro Tanimoto, who won the full marathon in 2019.Something for Everyone
Along with the feature Gazley Volkswagen Marathon and Shoe Clinic Half Marathon, the event also includes the Mizuno 10k and The Hits Kids’ Magic Mile, which will feature almost 300 primary school children racing the classic one-mile distance.
Event Manager, Michael Jacques is excited with the calibre of racing in this year’s Gazley Volkswagen Wellington Marathon, but points out, “This event is so much more than the top runners. We provide something for everyone from kids right through to first timers and weekend warriors, runners and walkers.”
Jacques says it is great to see people like Wellington’s Des Young continuing his streak as the only person to have run every year of the event. And Levin husband and wife, Levin’s Pauline and Barry Coupland, who at age 83 share the honours as the eldest participants in 2024, with Pauline entered in the half marathon and Barry in the 10k. In the full marathon 80-year-old Aucklander, Colleen Falloon is aiming to be the eldest ever female finisher for the classic 42.2k. At the other end of the scale, Tawa Intermediate have the biggest team entry with more than 50 entries.
Sunday’s 38th Gazley Volkswagen Wellington Marathon kicks off at Sky Stadium with the Full Marathon Walk at 7:00am. The Full Marathon Run, which doubles as the Wellington Championship, starts at 7:30pm. The Half Marathon Run and Walk start at 9:00am, the 10K Run and Walk at 9:30am, and the Kid’s Magic Mile at 9:40am.
For more information see www.wellingtonmarathon.co.nz.

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