Lydia O’Donnell, the national women’s 10,000m track champion for the last two years, should have the edge over Alexandra Williams, Rachel Kingsford and Rowan Marie Torckler in the New Zealand half marathon championship, being run in conjunction with the Christchurch Airport Marathon on Sunday.
Last year O’Donnell won the Huntly half marathon in 1:17:05 before going on to record a personal best 1:15:49 in finishing fourth in the Gold Coast Half Marathon race in July. Williams, the 2013 national half marathon champion, won in Christchurch in the same year in her best time to date of 1:16:25. Her last major outing was tenth in the Gold Coast marathon last July in 2:45:21.
Kingsford, a previous national 5,000m and 10,000m champion and second in the 2009 and 2014 national road championships, in a rare half marathon, won the 2013 Arthur’s Half Marathon around the Waitakere Ranges in 2013 in 1:24:58.
Torckler, the 2008 national cross country champion, has the best time of the field with 1:14:01 from the Gold Coast in 2008 and in a recent come-back was second in the Tauranga half marathon in 1:18:30. Fiona Crombie after a number of seasons competing in triathlons is another returning to the running scene. Crombie, a former national road, cross country and steeplechase champion was third in Christchurch in 2009 in 1:15:52.
Sally Gibbs heads the master women. Gibbs won the national women’s title last year in Wellington and has a best of 1:17:03 from her second place in Christchurch in 2013. Gabrielle O’Rourke has entered the masters with a best of 1:17:52 and Paula Canning with 1:22:35.
Callan Moody proved that he is just at home over the half marathon as he is over the country and shorter road distances. The 27 year old, who nailed the cross country and road titles last year, also won the Christchurch half marathon last year in a fast 1:06:06. However Moody will face up to six others with a similar clocking over the half marathon this time.
They include his flat mate and training partner Daniel Balchin, eighth last year in 1:07:55, Malcolm Hicks who he beat last year by 13 seconds, Aaron Pulford fourth last year in 1:06:45, Dougal Thorburn fifth in 2010 in 1:06:16 and recently crowned mountain running champion, Caden Shields sixth last year and winner in the Wanaka Half Marathon in March in 1:05:56 and Jono Jackson a previous Huntly and Tauranga winner and second in the 2013 Auckland race in 1:07:46.
Like O’Donnell, Pulford has won the 10,000m track title for the past two seasons and comes into the race fresh from a trip to the States where he ran a personal best 5000m of 13:51.31 in Los Angeles earlier this month.
Of interest in the race will be the progress of three juniors. Nineteen year old national junior road champion Joshua Baan, 19 year old Oceania 10,000m champion Matthew Dryden who was 13th last year in 1:13:15 and 18 year old Michael Voss who was second at Rotorua four weeks ago in 1:08:36.
Sasha Daniels is one of the leading masters men, having won the Kerikeri half marathon last November in 1:10:50. He also won Kerikeri in 2013 and was fifth at Rotorua earlier this month in 1:13:08. Don Greig a 2:13:50 marathoner from 1981 and Glen Ferguson with a time of 1:13:10 in Christchurch in 2010 should battle out the over 50 age group along with Alastair Prangnell, Tony Price and Cliff Bowman.
The half marathon was added to the championship programme in 1991 and was held at Pakuranga with Kerry Rodger and Maree Turner winning the first titles.
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent