Doing nothing by halves
Cara Shirley is shouting herself a birthday present.
Nothing unusual about that, but the present is pretty left field for the Blenheim woman. It's an entry to run in tomorrow's New World Marlborough Marathon, a 42.2km run around streets, vineyards and farmland in and around Blenheim - hardly the recipe for a chilled-out, relaxing day.
Shirley is one of a record 1100 athletes competing in the third annual Marlborough Marathon - an endurance test which has quickly grown into a major event for the province.
There are 108 runners doing the full marathon, 450 tackling the half marathon run/walk, 500 attacking the 10km run/walk and about 100 doing the 5km section. The majority are from outside Marlborough, including a significant overseas contingent from a dozen different countries.
Included are 60 staff from New World in Blenheim, their entries paid for by their bosses, Mark Elkington and Andrea Boock.
Shirley and her Marlborough Harrier clubmate and friend Michelle Harris are having their first attempt at the full marathon.
Both women have trained hard and are looking forward to the challenge.
Shirley is combining her run with a fundraising effort for the Life Education Trust. She hopes to raise more than $200.
She's run five half marathons before but has stepped up this year to do the big one and is coming off an 18-week training programme.
"My longest training run was 36km. Judging from my last long run, the marathon is going to be challenging but I'm not daunted by it. It's hard to tell how I will go because I never run one.
"People carry you along on racedays."
She has no specific time in mind and, like the majority of competitors, said, "I just want to finish.
"That way I won't be disappointed with my time. I'm nervously excited."
Harris comes from very good running stock. Her father, Rab Rodger, is a bit of of a harrier legend in these parts and he'll be following his daughter around the course on a mountainbike.
Harris did a different but similar programme to Shirley and they both did some of their long training runs together. She's confident she's done the work to accomplish her goal.
"I'm definitely going to be able to do it. Just to finish and be able to stand afterwards would be good.
"I'll pull my hat down so I can't see too far ahead," Harris said.
Spokesman for Top of the South Events, who run the marathon, Pete Halligan said he's excited by the new start/finish venue at Villa Maria Estate, a venue which provides plenty of room for not only parking but for athletes and supporters.
Each competitor in the full and half marathon gets a bottle of the host's wine when they finish the race and there are thousands of dollars worth of spot prizes including $1000 each for the men's and women's marathon winner.
While the start/finish line has changed, the rest of the full and half marathon courses cover almost the same ground along New Renwick Rd to the Burleigh Bridge, along the Taylor River bank to the Henry St Bridge and returning down the east side of the river, cutting through vineyards to Ben Morven Rd into Paynters Rd. The full marathon carries on into the Omaka Valley.
Predicting a winner is tough but there will be two new titleholders this year. Last year's men's winner Graeme Taylor, who holds the record time of 2hrs 34min, is not taking part, nor is women's winner Susie Aviss.
Inaugural women's winner Nicky Cameron-Dunn, from Blenheim, is back for another shot while Villa Maria head winemaker Jeremy McKenzie is a good bet to win the half marathon.
The Marlborough Express