The women’s race at the Air New Zealand Hawke’s Bay International Marathon this Saturday appears to be anyone’s in 2017. With first and second from last year not returning, the door is open for a new winner to emerge from a field of primarily new contenders.
The focus may well fall on third place getter in 2016, Marisa Ruhter. Originally from Seattle, the Auckland based aircraft engineer is one of many in the race looking to go sub 3:15, a time that last year would have earned a place on the podium (Ruhter was third in 3:20 in 2016).
2016 Wellington Marathon winner Katie Wyrill-Smith is well credentialed, with that win (3:02:46) coming in testing conditions. The Auckland athlete was runner up in the Rotorua Marathon that same year and missed a race record at the North Shore half by one second later in the season and has the Coatesville Half Marathon title to her name in 2017.
Another entrant of note is writer with the Guardian newspaper in the UK, Kate Carter. Carter is here partly on an invite from Tourism New Zealand and Hawke’s Bay Tourism as she blogs about her running exploits, but with a predicted time of under three hours (the winning time of Leah Fitzgerald last year was 3:00:44), Carter must be respected as a genuine challenger. Already Carter has posted a personal best in the half marathon this year (Cambridge, UK) of 1:26, and finished the London Marathon in a very respectable 3:10.40. A mum to two daughters as well as juggling her writing career, Carter has a 3:00:07 marathon time to her name, from Berlin in 2015.
The women’s field in the New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon brings plenty of intrigue too, with Queenstown Half winner Hannah Wells (Te Puke) lining up to see if she can make it the perfect pair at Air New Zealand events. If Wells can repeat her time of 1:29:00 from last November in Queenstown, she will be right in the mix at the Sileni Estates finish line.
Competition for Wells will come from a number of other strong contenders, not the least of which is a late entry from Australian Hillory Davis, the wife of one of the men’s marathon favourites in Dan Wallis. Davis is a former Australian Olympic Trials finalist in the 3,000m steeplechase, has run 1:18 for the half marathon and has won the past two Great Edinburgh 10 Mile events (she and Daniel both won in April this year).
The full Air New Zealand Marathon gets underway from Marine Parade at 9:00am on Saturday morning, and the New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon starts at 8:15am from Pakowhai Regional Park in Hastings, with other events starting through the morning from different start lines, but all making their way to the finish line and the wine and food festival at Sileni Estates Winery.