Scenery Draws Leading Marathon Runners
Sabina Piras (Christchurch) and Daniel Jones (Wellington) go into Saturday’s Air New Zealand Queenstown International Marathon as race favourites but when asked what motivates them going into the race, both agree it is the scenic beauty of the course that leads runners from Millbrook in Arrowtown past spectacular scenery on hard packed off-road trails to the finish line in the heart of Queenstown.
Wellington based Jones comes to Queenstown as the defending champion and loves the trail-based course and racing experience.
“I am always chasing the win, but in Queenstown where it's more scenic and trail based, time isn't the concern. I'd rather enjoy the experience and race hard against people.
“One of the keys is to understand the nature of the course, for training I treat it as a road marathon but with a few more hill sessions. If you're fit enough to run a marathon you'll be fine. But come race day treat it with a bit more respect as the earlier hills will take it out of you, so save a bit in reserve for the final quarter.”
Jones has enjoyed a stellar season since his win last year, going on to win the 60km Keppler Challenge, Air New Zealand Hawke’s Bay Marathon, posted a personal best of 2:16:15 on the Gold Coast and recently took on a 150km Ultramarathon event in China.
Amongst the contenders Jones must deal with is Auckland road running specialist Jonathan Jackson, who despite being on debut in Queenstown will likely shadow Jones for much of the early going.
“I have always wanted to do Queenstown marathon due to the beautiful course and finally this year I get to do it for the first time. I just happen to be in the area as my wife and my friends are doing a road trip down the South Island from Nelson to the Southern Lakes so I thought I would take advantage of that opportunity and race here.
“I think the scenery is going to be amazing. When it starts to hurt we can always distract ourselves with the beautiful mountains and lakes around us. I think I will also enjoy running on the trails as opposed to roads the whole way. As always, I would love to be on the podium.”
Jackson will be hoping he is on the top step, with runner up finishes at the ASB Auckland Marathon (twice), third in Rotorua and Christchurch, he is a little tired of looking up during prize giving.
30-year-old Sabina Piras is another newcomer to Queenstown, with a recent move to Christchurch to work on her PHD, the USA born (San Diego) Structural Engineer says the timing was perfect to race in Central Otago.
“I have heard that the course is really beautiful and now I am in Christchurch it is just a hop and skip away. I have done Hawke’s Bay twice and loved that event and given this is put on by the same organisers there was no hesitation in coming down.
“I am definitely aiming for top two, and while I know it is not a super-fast course I want to test my fitness and see how I feel. You won’t have the same speed as you would on a road race, but it is a great test of endurance on that terrain. Running off-road trails makes it easier mentally, I have only lived in New Zealand for just over two years and I am still taken by how beautiful the country is.”
The top end of the women’s field looks very even, with any number of contenders, but one is likely to be Dunedin based Aussie physiotherapist Margie Atthow.
“This will be my first time racing in Queenstown, which I am very excited about. I have been told many times how beautiful the course is and how well run the event is. I've run around the trails out there a few times and it is always spectacular.
“Training has been great, with some good races this year and consistent mileage. I'm looking to have a good finish for the year.”
Daniel Balchin heads up a strong field in the New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon, returning in search of a third win in a row. Already with the 3000m national track title and the Christchurch Marathon Half title in his kit bag for 2019, Balchin can’t wait to return and end his season on a high.
“The Queenstown race will end the road racing season for me this year, and I’m hoping to end it on a high. Lowering my course personal best is one of my goals this year. Hopefully the weather conditions will be favourable.”
Balchin knows the course better than most and has some tips that might be worth heeding by the close to 6000 others taking on the half course on Saturday morning.
“The first half of this course has many undulations. You have to judge your effort correctly and not burn yourself out too much on the hills. If the racing is tight there’s plenty of opportunities to make small moves to test out the opposition and create breaks. I always look to leave something in reserve for when we hit Frankton Beach. This is where the course flattens out and you can really get rolling all the way to the finish.”
The New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Half women’s field features former place getter Fiona Crombie (Christchurch) and another athlete more known for her triathlon exploits in Rebecca Clarke (Auckland).
The day also features the Cigna 10km race and the Queenstown Airport Kids Race. All races take place on Saturday, with a variety of start lines through the morning, with all races converging on the finish line party at the Memorial Centre grounds.