The ASB Auckland Marathon is on Sunday and a number of Tauranga and Rotorua athletes have been identified as leading contenders. Rotorua's Michael Voss is expected to perform well in men's race, while in the women's event, Tauranga's Hannah Wells and Jess Walley have also been tipped to do well. Their biggest competition will be Wellington's Mel Aitken, who is coached by Tauranga's Craig Kirkwood. In the men's Half Marathon Aaron Pulford (Tauranga) is a favourite along with Tauranga's Lisa Cross in the women's half. Kristin Macfarlane reports.
In the past six weeks Tauranga pro athlete Hannah Wells has travelled more than 30,000km, won the Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast and spent most of that time undergoing Ironman training in Idaho, Texas and Hawaii.
She returned home this week and is now preparing for her first marathon on Sunday, heading north to compete in the ASB Auckland Marathon.
She'll have no issue with the endurance side of the race but having never run a marathon, she's admittedly heading into the unknown - but she's still after a podium finish.
She is identified as a leading contender in the women's marathon, along with Wellington's Mel Aitken, whose best time is 2hrs, 47minutes and 42 seconds and who is coached by Tauranga's Craig Kirkwood, and Tauranga's Jess Walley, whose pb is 3 hours, 2minutes
"It will be my first marathon. I'm not sure exactly how I'll go but I'm fit.," Wells said.
"This will be my first marathon, so I want to race it smart and not go out too hard, I've heard a marathon hurts,
"My goal is to race a well-paced event with the plan to aim for sub 2.50, maybe around the 2.45-2.48 mark, all things going well."
"This has not been on my radar until just recently. But since I have just come out of six weeks of Ironman training in the US, it turned out to be perfect timing. I also like to try new challenges from time to time when it comes to racing as well as the half distance triathlons."
She said her international training sessions was her first extended training block away from working. She said opened her eyes to the extra time she had to focus on her training.
Working less was something she would consider looking at in the future but before that happens, and after this weekend's race, she will also compete in a Half Ironman in western Sydney, Australia, next month.
Wells' biggest competition, police officer Mel Aitken, won last month's Garmin Tauranga Marathon in 2hrs, 56min, 44sec, and took out the New Zealand and Oceania Ultra Running title in Taupō last weekend.
"It's been a real mix and to be honest I am looking to make the most of opportunities when they allow me to be able to attend events feeling fit and well. My training has been solid so it's nice to be able to test myself over different terrains. I am off to Xterra World Trail Champs in Hawaii in November so that will be my last big one for the year."
In the men's marathon, Australian runner Isaias Beyn will be looking to improve on his third place last year, starting as race favourite.
His personal best time in the 42.2km race is 2hrs, 11min, 37sec.
"There are some hills in the first 15km. Last year they weren't a problem for me, but I paid for it in the second half. By 32km I had bad pain in my foot. This year, I hope to be more patient," Beyn said.
Rotorua's Michael Voss and Queenstown's Nicholas Sunseri, who have both previously run under or close to 2hrs 30min for the marathon distance, are expected to be his toughest competition.
2019 Leading contenders (name, region, personal best time):
Isaias Beyn, Australia, 2:11.37; Hiro Tanimoto, Wellington, 2:20.54; Michael Voss, Rotorua, 2:27.00; Bert Prendergast, Wellington, 2:28.39; Nicholas Sunseri, Queenstown, 2:30.30.
Mel Aitken, Wellington, 2:47.42; Hannah Wells, Tauranga (on debut); Jess Walley, Tauranga, 3:02.57.
Barfoot and Thompson Half Marathon:
Cameron Graves, North Shore, 1:05.27; Aaron Pulford, Tauranga, 1:05.35; Daniel Balchin, Cromwell, 1:05.53; Jack Moody, Auckland, 1:07.16; Jonathan Jackson, Auckland, 1:07.22; Christopher Dryden, Christchurch, 1:07.27.
Lisa Cross, Tauranga, 1:14.22; Lindsay Barwick, Wellington; Katrina Andrew, Inglewood, 1:22.00.