Top athletes testing their legs at Ohope

By Vicki Woolley

The Podium Ohope Express is perfectly positioned as a final hit-out for runners heading for the Rotorua Marathon.
The Podium Ohope Express is perfectly positioned as a final hit-out for runners heading for the Rotorua Marathon.

All eyes will be on Ohope today as some of the country's top athletes battle it out across the fastest half-marathon course in New Zealand.

The Podium Ohope Express is perfectly positioned for those preparing for the Rotorua Marathon to have a final hit-out and get their leg speed up against other top runners.

Craig Kirkwood-coached athletes Kyle MacDonald, James Parsons and Kristian Day have the ability to go under the 70-minute mark, as does Kirkwood himself.

Adding to the talent pool is young local rising star and 2015 runner-up Hayden Wilde, while 2015 winner Stephen Lett will be determined to retain his crown.

A lead group of this calibre has the potential to push rivals to personal bests over the flat 21.1km course.

Last year's winner Johanna Ottoson will be missing from the women's field but 2015 runner-up Kristen Milne (Te Awamutu) and Tauranga's Frances Stringfellow will be stiff competition for each other.

Event director Mike van der Boom says the Podium Ohope Express is aptly named as it conjures up images of express train speed.

"We're getting the word out that Ohope is the place to set your personal best. With an ideal course - all on road, mostly flat and set against the backdrop of New Zealand's favourite beach, we'll be working hard on getting the New Zealand Half-marathon Champs here."

He is quick to point out fast times are just one reason to take part. It's a fundraiser for the Diabetes, Exercise and Sport Association (DESA), with proceeds from the 5km event helping to fund a networking and advisory camp for children recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes ambassadors and fellow sufferers Hamish Yates, 30, and Neve Power, 11, will be running at the event - as will 74-year-old Lesley Westwood, who had the fastest 10km time in the 70-plus age group last year.

"I believe in the mantra 'use it or lose it'," says Westwood. "Having an event to aim for keeps me focused on being fit and mobile. It's for a good cause and it's going to be a fun day."

Van der Boom agrees.

"We are focused on raising awareness for diabetes while delivering a great day out for all those looking for some good healthy fun."

Podium Ohope Express

What: 21km, 10km, 5km run
When: Today
Where: Ohope, Bay of Plenty
For more information:

- NZ Herald

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