Olympic 1500m semifinalist Lucy van Dalen will compete in the Queen St Golden Mile in April.
A late selection for the New Zealand Olympic team last year when she ran a qualifying time of 4m 05.76s at San Diego last June, slashing her personal best by six seconds, van Dalen also became the first Kiwi female athlete since Toni Hodgkinson back in 2000 to represent New Zealand in the Olympic 1500m.
Van Dalen, who left Wanganui for Stony Brook University in New York on an athletic scholarship in 2006, is home for her first summer in six years and this week won the women's mile at the Cook Classic in Wanganui in a time of 4m 36.07s. After another race in Christchurch next month she will head for Melbourne to continue her training.
She aims to return to New Zealand and contest the NZ athletic championships at Auckland in late March - seeking a qualifying time for the World championships at Moscow in August - and then stay on in Auckland for the race down Queen St on April 1.
Last held in 1983, the return of the event is a John Walker Find Your Field of Dreams Foundation initiative. The aim is to provide athletes young and old the chance to run in the footsteps of champions and, at the same time, generate some revenue to support the work of the foundation.
Van Dalen says she is looking forward to competing in the elite women's race and has put out a challenge to other top local and international runners to join her. "It is a chance for women to run a really fast time in a unique race and help benefit Sir John's foundation.
"I'd love to see the best Kiwi athletes line up and I've made contact with Zoe Buckman [2011 Australian champion] and challenged her to come across and take me on. Getting the Aussie v Kiwi rivalry going would be great."
Fellow Kiwi and 1500m finalist at the London Olympics, Nick Willis, winner of the men's Cook Classic in Wanganui, is not able to contest the elite men's mile because the date clashes with other races here and overseas.
"It is unfortunate that I committed some time ago to other races around that period," he says. "I have great respect for Sir John and all he has achieved with his foundation. I'm sure it will be a most successful event on what promises to be a super-fast track."
Field of Dreams executive Craig Pollock said that unlike previous Queen St miles which had a heavy focus on elite athletes, "This year we will have more than 16 races over a four-hour period on Easter Monday to give as many New Zealanders as possible the chance to run in the footsteps of champions".
Races planned for the day include under-16, under-19, over 20 and veteran men's and women's miles, plus a citizen's mile for non-registered athletes, a corporate team's event, the Clash of Codes and the race for wheelchair competitors.
All the races will start at the Queen St/Mayoral Drive intersection, with athletes racing to the bottom of Queen St, across Customs and Quay Streets, finishing on Queen's Wharf.