Armstrong leads Kepler pack again

Some familiar names are expected to be at the sharp end of the Kepler Challenge tomorrow.

Christchurch's Vajin Armstrong, who has represented New Zealand in international mountain running events this year, will be chasing a third straight win.

Martin Lukes, who will be competing in his 11th challenge, is a three-time winner but he has finished runner-up to Armstrong for the past two years, despite being crowned the King of the Mountain at the Luxmore Huts in 2010 and 2011.

Australian runner Tony Fattorini has never finished worse than fourth in his previous four challenges.

After three third-placed finishes he was fourth last year and is hoping to get back on to the podium.

English professional Martin Cox is also expected to challenge for the title.

He has won numerous mountain running events in Europe and finished second in the Kepler in 2005.

Shireen Crumpton won the Challenge in 2010 but had to pull out during the latter stages last year.

She will be pitted against defending champion Victoria Beck, while 2009 winner Vanessa Harverd will also be in the mix following runner-up finishes over the past two years.

Elina Ussher, a professional multisport athlete and wife of 2002 challenge winner Richard Ussher, has won the Coast to Coast twice and is keen to test her running skills on the Kepler.

Other names to watch include Dunedin's Russell Hurring.

He is returning to celebrate the race's 25th birthday.

Hurring, who will be competing in his 11th challenge, held the race record for 16 years and is hoping to break the six-hour mark.

Invercargill's Nobby Clark will be competing in Te Anau for the 23rd time.

He has done three challenges and will be running his 21st Luxmore Grunt.

Australian Stuart Doyle is returning to defend his title in the Grunt.

The Southland Times