Rotorua runner Alice Mason could make history in Sunday's ASB Christchurch Marathon, but her main focus is running a faster time.
Established in 1981, some of New Zealand's best runners have tasted success at the Christchurch Marathon. The famously flat course is renowned as the fastest in the country and Mason knows the scenic route well.
It was the site of her first marathon and first marathon win, when she won the 2015 event. In the four years since, Mason has dominated the domestic scene, including winning the national title the past two years. If the 31-year-old can win again at Christchurch on Sunday, she'll be the first woman in history to win three consecutive New Zealand Marathon titles.
Few would bet against her, she comes into this weekend's race in good form having won the Rotorua Marathon on May 4.
In March she ran a personal best time of 2h 39m 48s. If she can knock three minutes off that in Christchurch, there's a silver fern waiting for her at the world championships in Doha on September 27.
A solid field will push her along. Auckland's Lisa Cross won the half marathon in Christchurch in 2012 while Australian Marnie Ponton is a first-timer in Christchurch but has similar best times to Cross and Mason, as well as having represented Australia and won Australian titles. Adding even more interest is the late entry of Olympic triathlete Andrea Hewitt in her first foray at the classic 42.2km.
With Mason and Ponton looking to run close to 2h 35m, the Christchurch Marathon's women's race record of 2hrs 35min exactly, set by Japanese Olympian Naenai Sasaki in 1982, could be under threat.
"It really would be good to see someone set a new record," race director Chris Cox said.
"Most of New Zealand's best do their fastest running overseas these days, so both our men's and women's records have stood for some time."
This year the event returns to the Town Hall race base for the first time since the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.
"Everyone is as excited as us about the Christchurch Town Hall being open again and what's great for Christchurch has always been great for the Christchurch Marathon," Cox said.
The 2019 ASB Christchurch Marathon is being held on Sunday, June 2.
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