Marathon: Warrander aims for third consecutive marathon title

By Peter Thornton

Favourite Dale Warrander is chasing his sixth Rotorua Marathon title. Picture / Ben Fraser
Favourite Dale Warrander is chasing his sixth Rotorua Marathon title. Picture / Ben Fraser

After an emotional record-breaking fifth win at the Rotorua Marathon to usurp his running hero, Dale Warrander is focused on continuing his own legacy in the iconic race.

The then 37-year-old passed Scott Winton during the final stages of the 2011 Rotorua Marathon to claim the record from the late Jack Foster, who won four titles in the 1970s, to become the most successful runner in the past 47 years of the event.

Soon after, he dedicated his win to the man he took the record from. "I regard the late legendary Jack Foster as a role model," said Warrander.

"He was a tough runner and to overtake him is pretty special."

The five-time champion, and former Olympian, is widely regarded as the favourite for next weekend because of his record and experience on the tough marathon course. He is also looking for his third victory in a row.

"I'm pretty proud of my achievements at Rotorua Marathon. The last two wins have been hard with injury interruptions affecting my build up to race. But I've managed to take the wins."

He knows building on his legacy in the latter years of his career is important as he might not have too many more chances.

"I'm not getting any younger these days and I'm making the most of things while I can. I'll definitely be gunning for a sixth win this year. But it's not too far away before I hang up the competitive shoes."

Warrander has a great record in the race and it's one his rivals know all too well.

"Dale who?" main contender Phil Costley joked about the favourite.

"Yeah Dale is a tough nut to crack. We have been having battles for the last 20 years, but on few occasions have we run shoulder to shoulder to the end. We have both tended to be in different training phases when we race, so while one guy is peaking for one event, the other guy is focused on something a little further down the track ... I don't know what Dale's long-term plans are ... but mine don't go past Rotorua."

The respect is mutual. "Phil Costley is always a tough customer and I don't expect anything different from him," said Warrander.

"But I will have a race plan and my main aim will be to stick to that! If I do this I will give myself a very good chance of winning."

Costley, a 42-year-old from Nelson, has his own sources of motivation for the race. "I am trying to peg back another win on my sister Jillian who has won the women's race five times and often reminds me ... despite 31 New Zealand titles to my name."

In 2009 Costley's attempt to claim a third title around the lake was thwarted by a knee problem.

"At the halfway point I let the leaders go and was forced to walk to the finish line which blew my 2 hour 25m predicted time out to 4h30m. I left the baggage tag on my race bag to remind me of the unfinished business at Rotorua and vowed not to remove it until I completed the lake with a better result."

Costley comes into the event with great form after wins at the Buller and Kaiteriteri Gold Half Marathons.

There will also be an international presence on the start line with Japanese competitor Yusuke Tokitani making the trip. Tokitani won at Rotorua's sister event the Lake Kawaguchi marathon in November 2011. Tokitani, who took 2hr 22mins to complete this challenging marathon, should provide a real threat for the local athletes.

The Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust half marathon will enter its second year with one of the strongest fields assembled at any NZ half for some time.

The field will include past marathon champions, some of New Zealand's best athletes and exciting talent Kip Kemei from Kenya.

A talented New Zealand field will provide great competition. The line-up includes current NZ 10,000m and 2011 NZ half marathon champion Stephen Lett from Takapuna, 2007 Rotorua Marathon champion and former Commonwealth Games rep Craig Kirkwood, Kyle and Iain McDonald of Tauranga and Martin van Barneveld from Wellington.

- NZ Herald

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