Marathon runners brave icy conditions

TONY SMITH
Last updated 14:24 01/06/2014

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Timaru's marathon man Sam Wreford produced a personal best to regain his Canterbury Airport marathon title today.

The 31-­year-­old was unfazed by the chilly frost at the start of the 42km race and charged out to create an unassailable lead.

Wreford - the 2012 titleholder who was forced to withdraw during last year's race due to sickness - won in 2hr 16min 28sec, 0.7sec better than his previous personal best set in Invercargill two years ago.

He was 10 minutes ahead of runner­up Stephen Lett, who ran a cat­and­mouse race to pip fellow Aucklander Tony Payne for the minor medals.

Wreford had hoped to beat Tom Birnie's 29­-year race record, 2hr 15min, set in 1985 He said conditions were superb today "with no wind'', but it was tough to topple the record without a pacemaker to push him.

Wreford plans on returning for next year's Christchurch Marathon, which will revert to a central city course after moving to the airport after the earthquakes.

Women's champion Liza Hunter­Galvan would also like to "drive for five'' after winning her fourth consecutive title today.

The 44­-year­-old double Olympian produced her customary canny race tactics, pacing herself over the first half while last year's runner­up Victoria Beck set the pace.

But Hunter­Galvan passed Beck at the 32km mark to win her fifth Christchurch title and fourth on the bounce since 2011.

She also turned in her best time in Christchurch, 2hr 43.40sec, and was in good shape at the finish­line, waving to the crowd. 

Beck, a former Otago athlete now working as an orthodonist in Queensland, was second for the second successive year, in 2hr 46.16sec - 5 minutes faster than her 2013 time.  

Mel Aitken was 10 minutes further back, in third place.

Former New Zealand cycling representative Gavin Stevens finished fourth in the men's race and just missed, by 1 minute, breaking the world record for a 58­-year­-old.

Canterbury's Callan Moody won the men's half­ marathon in 1hr 06.06sec and Wellington veteran Gabrielle O'Rourke took the women's title in 1hr 17min 07sec.

The 10km race winners were Matt Harris and Rachel Kingsford.

More than 4000 people participated in the marathon, half­ marathon, 10km run or walk categories.

They had to contend with zero­ degree temperatures at the start at 8.30am with some icy patches in the early stages, particularly near the hedgerows in Savills Rd.

O'Rourke struck a chord with the crowd at the start­finish line in Orchard Road when she said the Christchurch marathon was "all about participation''.

"The elites are just the icing on the cake.''

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- The Press

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