Rotorua physiotherapist Sarah Biss could run away from
the women's field in the 25th annual Kepler Challenge near Te
Biss (34) has represented New Zealand on the track and in
cross-country and mountain running and ran a best marathon
time of 2hr 39min in Melbourne this year.
It is a strong female field but Biss is the only runner
capable of breaking the race record of 5hr 23min 34sec, which
Zelah Morrall ran in 2003.
Biss will be challenged by the winners from the past three
years: Vanessa Haverd (Canberra) in 2009, Shireen Crumpton
(Dunedin) in 2010 and Victoria Beck (Dunedin) last year.
Haverd, who has finished runner-up in the past two years, has
a best time of 5hr 52min.
However, she lacks the speed over the final 20km to match the
Beck (30) and Crumpton (40) have prepared for the race in
Beck, who won last year's race in 5hr 51min, has a best
marathon time of 2hr 45min.
She has run for more than five hours on three occasions
during her preparation for the Kepler.
"I have done more long running this year and it has made me
stronger," Beck said. "I have competed in long-distance
duathlons and am used to being on my feet for that time."
Beck made her mark as an international athlete in the
duathlon before switching to long-distance running. She was
eighth in the Hong Kong marathon last year.
Crumpton injured her left knee near Rocky Point last year and
was flown back to Te Anau.
She has adopted a different approach to Beck and has trained
in the same way she did when representing New Zealand in the
marathon. Crumpton has refused to join Beck and others on
their five-hour training runs.
"You don't need it," Crumpton said. "You just need sheer
Crumpton is prepared to run between two and three hours on
training runs but pulls the plug on any more than that.
"It makes you slow if you run too long," she said. "It takes
too long to recover and you can't do quality training for a
Crumpton underwent an Achilles tendon operation on her left
foot after last year's Kepler Challenge and spent the first
few months of the year in recovery mode.
Her best race since the operation has been her third place at
the New Zealand championships in Auckland, when she ran 2hr
Other contenders in the women's race are Elina Ussher
(Nelson), Johanna Ottosson (Rotorua), who won the Rotorua
marathon this year and has a best time of 2hr 45min, and
Whitney Dagg (Dunedin), who broke the women's record for the
Routeburn race this year.
Vajin Armstrong (Christchurch) will be attempting to win his
third successive Kepler Challenge in the men's event.
Armstrong (32) will be challenged by fellow Christchurch
runner Marty Lukes (41), who won the event three years in a
row (2007 to 2009) and has been runner-up in the past two
He has a best Kepler time of 4hr 49min.
Other contenders are Australians Tony Fattorini and Andrew
Tuckey, Jason Schlarb (United States) and Nick Hirschfeld
A capacity field of 450 will start in the 60km Kepler
Challenge and 150 in the 27km Luxmore Grunt.
- Venue: Te Anau.
- Distance: 60km.
- First held: 1988.
- Men, Phil Costley, 4hr 37min
- Women, Zelah Morrall, 5hr 23min
Luxmore Grunt (27km):
- Men, Phil Costley, 1hr 52min
- Women, Shireen Crumpton, 2hr
4min 18sec (1998).