Special 'angel' inspires Liza to fourth victory

TONY SMITH
Last updated 05:00 02/06/2014
liza hunter-galvan
DANIEL TOBIN/FAIRFAX NZ
FAB FOUR: Liza Hunter-Galvan crosses to win her fourth successive Christchurch Marathon title, and says she will return for the "drive for five".

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Double Olympian Liza Hunter-Galvan clinched her fourth straight Christchurch Marathon title yesterday but used her teenage daughter's battle with a brain injury to spur her on during the tough troughs.

The 44-year-old Texas-based Kiwi turned in her fastest Christchurch time -  2hr 43min 40sec - to claim her fifth Christchurch title following her first in 1999.

Unbeaten on the Christchurch Airport course since 2011, Hunter-Galvan showed no ill-effects from the chronic cough that dogged her for six weeks and forced her to quit midway through last month's Rotorua Marathon.

She passed early pacesetter Victoria Beck at the 32km mark, tossed her beanie and gloves to her 67-year-old mother, who was contesting the 10km walk, and surged on to victory.

But Hunter-Galvan admitted she ''got a bit lonely'' between the 18km and 22km marks and had a bit of a mental dip.
''But I came round.  I talked to myself out there on the course. You have to, [when] you're all by yourself. You've got to keep yourself company.''

Her thoughts turned to her four children ''in 10km blocks''.

 ''The first 10k was for my little boy, the next for my girl, then the next for my next girl.''

Then she focused on her eldest daughter, Amber, who suffered a brain injury in a car crash six years ago.

Amber, 18, graduates from high school in San Antonio this week and her mother flies out today to be home for the ceremony.
Hunter-Galvan often thinks of Amber, ''who's got the biggest struggles''.

''When my struggles pop up the most, I think about her...because she's an angel.

''I want her to be proud, I want her to know she has something special in her.  She can't compete with other kids on an intellectual level [after her accident]. But she can do OK running.

''She did a half marathon in Wellington last year and ran 1:40, I was very proud of her.''

Beck finished second for the consecutive year, but said her time - 2hr 46min 12sec -  was ''about five minutes faster than last year''.  Mel Aitken was a further 10 minutes back, in third place.

Hunter-Galvan reckoned her decision to quit the Rotorua race helped keep her fresh yesterday.

''Last year, I was plastered on the floor [at the finish line in Christchurch]. This year, I feel great.''

Great enough to contemplate ''a drive for five'' in 2015, possibly the final year of her long competitive marathon career.

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Hunter-Galvan, who, as well as Amber's accident also had to fight back from a two-year ban for using a performance-enhancing substance, said the Christchurch marathon was special to her.

Hunter-Galvan said both she and earthquake-ravaged Christchurch had been through a lot and were rebuilding.

''I know some people don't like me to make that comparison. [But] I feel like I've rebuilt, and Christchurch is back on its feet already.' 

- The Press

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