Marathon field shapes up as the toughest

By Greg Taipari

Rotorua roads will take a pounding tomorrow with more than 4500 competitors expected to take part in the Rotorua Marathon.

The Lion Foundation 48th Rotorua Marathon is shaping up to be one of the best yet with one of the strongest fields assembled at any New Zealand marathon.

Last year's men's winner Dale Warrander is looking for win number six.

However, he faces strong competition from a number of competitors, including Phil Costley from Nelson who has won two Rotorua marathons and has held more than 30 national athletics titles.

Angus Bell, a former New Zealand mountain running rep who has switched to road events, will take on his first marathon, while Japanese runner Yosuke Tokitani, who won the Lake Kawaguchi Marathon in November last year, has also confirmed his entry for tomorrow's race which starts in front of the museum in Rotorua's Government Gardens.

In the women's division, a new champion will be crowned since last year's winner Johanna Ottosson, of Rotorua, has pulled out because of injury.

Pundits are leaning towards former marathon Olympian Liza Hunter-Galvan, who is based in Texas. She is expected to be have strong competition from Auckland marathon winner Lisa Robertson.

Robertson confirmed her entry this week and has recently returned from Japan after competing in the Ngano Marathon, where she was unsuccessful in her attempt to qualify for the London Olympics. The 28-year-old who is an apprentice jockey has been creating some talk around New Zealand athletics circles after winning the national road champs and Auckland Marathon last year, the later in a race record of 2hrs 41min.

With Robertson's goal time of 2hrs 40min for Rotorua - there should be a great battle over the 42.2km lake run between her and Hunter-Galvan.

The marathon isn't the only race creating interest, with the Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust Half Marathon boasting a strong field which includes Kenyan Kip Kemei. Kemei who has a best of 64 minutes over 21.1km will face a strong New Zealand challenge which includes national road, 10,000m and half marathon champion Stephen Lett, 2007 Rotorua Marathon winner Craig Kirkwood, top New Zealand triathlete Martin van Barneveld and the MacDonald twins Kyle and Iain, from Tauranga.

Saturday's Met Service forecast is for a few morning showers, then fine with southwesterlies and a high of 18C. The race is scheduled to start at 8am.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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