Rio Olympics Sam Wreford's long-term goal

MISSION AHEAD: Timaru's Sam Wreford wants to venture overseas after cracking his personal best in winning the Christchurch marathon yesterday.
MISSION AHEAD: Timaru's Sam Wreford wants to venture overseas after cracking his personal best in winning the Christchurch marathon yesterday.

Canterbury's masterful marathon man Sam Wreford is ready for a crack at the world stage after a personal best on the Christchurch Airport course yesterday.

The 31-year-old Timaru athlete regained his title and went within 90 seconds of breaking a 29-year race record when he led from start to finish in the 42km race.

Wreford - who won New Zealand's coveted marathon "triple crown" in 2012 - promised he would be back to defend his Christchurch title in 2015, but big races in the United States also beckon.

He confirmed he might chase a start in the Chicago or New York marathons.

"I'm pretty keen to get overseas and jump in where I can get pulled along, but I still want to continue do things like Christchurch.

"But I think it's time to test myself in some international marathons."

The appliance serviceman - who is coached by 1960 Rome Olympic Games marathon bronze medallist Barry Magee - was delighted to clock a personal best, 2hr 16min 28sec yesterday - 0.7sec faster than his previous benchmark, set in Invercargill in 2012.

"I'm very happy, especially under the conditions. It was a bit cool for my liking and a bit of ice out on the road, really slowed things down for about a 4km stretch."

Wreford felt he was in shape to beat Tom Birnie's race record of 2hr 15min set in 1985 - had he been pushed more by his rivals.

"It's hard on your own. If I could get someone to take me through to halfway, I think I could have a go."

He ran with the lead half-marathoners until they turned at the 8km mark and was on his own thereafter.

Wreford regards Christchurch as his "home marathon" and said he had always been keen to succeed there after watching previous champions Phil Costley and Jonathan Wyatt "rip round here" on the former central city course.

He was grateful to be back on top of the podium after pulling out during last year's race due to a debilitating virus.

"Three days before [that race], I couldn't even walk. It was a silly decision to start. Marathon runners are silly sometimes."

The bug also forced him to scratch plans to run the Gold Coast marathon last July and he took three months off "just to let my body recover".

He won the Auckland marathon last year but found his "deep calf muscles got quite tight".

Wreford believes he is "three or four years away" from his prime after starting racing late, due to earlier injuries.

He aspires to run at the Rio Olympic Games but said he would not get "totally focused on it" because "you just put unnecessary pressure on yourself".

Wreford won by 10 minutes yesterday from Stephen Lett (2hr 26min 35sec), who pipped fellow Aucklander Tony Payne (2hr 27min 16sec) in a "cat and mouse" duel which saw the pair lose about a minute after they followed Australian Nathan Hartigan on an unscheduled tiki-tour which came to an abrupt end at a no-exit sign.

Hartigan pulled up lame after 12km and withdrew from the race. Fairfax NZ

The Press