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Entries are up 25% on last year’s and as of yesterday afternoon 1876 had been confirmed. This may rise to about 2000 with late entries, which is a real boost for the event.
The last time there was a field of 2000-plus was five years ago. The record number of entries is 2369, achieved in 2009, and they remained over the 2000 mark until 2013.
Among the early favourites for the senior men’s marathon crown tomorrow is 2016 champion Jonah Smith.
Smith (23), a dairy farmer at East Taieri, hopes to lay to rest the demons of last year, when a bout of insomnia played a part in having him short on preparation.He lined up at the start, hoping for the best, but it was not to be.
He started out strong and went toe to toe with 2012 champion Jason Palmer, but it all went to pieces for Smith around halfway, and he had to withdraw.
Smith ran his first marathon on the course in 2015, when he finished runner-up to Romain Mirosa, who will be making his first return to the event since his win in 2015.
"I find marathons are a big step up from anything else you can do," Smith said.
He had won Otago 10,000m and steeplechase titles on the track, before taking to running marathon distances three years ago.
He will also be using tomorrow’s marathon as a stepping stone towards contesting the 60km Kepler Challenge in December.
Despite juggling a work-life balance around training, Smith began preparing for distances beyond 42.2km in January, when he took on the 44km Big Easy in Wanaka, finishing third. He followed this up with a top-10 result in the 50km Motutapu Challenge in March.
In early June he won the 44km Mount Difficulty Ascent in Cromwell. Trudging through knee-deep snow surrounding the summit, he completed the course in 5hr 22min 19sec.
Depending on work commitments, Smith tries to mix in a number of small training runs with a 35km circuit over Saddle Hill and Brighton once a week.Smith will not have it all his own way tomorrow, however.
Ready to spoil Smith’s chances of a second title is Mirosa, who will not lack for incentive to do well in making his first appearance in the event in three years.
Mirosa, who turns 40 later this year, would dearly love to be the first on the list of fastest times on the new-look course. All the past record times are now only aligned to the previous course.
"I am feeling good. No injuries. No niggles.
"I’m looking forward to the race.
"I’ll be racing to win if I can," Mirosa said.
If there is a dark horse looming for the title it is another Dunedin runner, Nic Bathgate, who appears to be well primed for the event and has returned some impressive times in training of late.
Another who could feature in the final wash is multisport exponent Glen McSkimming.
The half marathon section, which will this year incorporate the New Zealand half marathon championships, features last year’s runner-up in the women’s section of the full marathon, Bella Bloomfield. Others in the mix to lift the senior women’s national half marathon crown are Alice Mason (Cambridge) and Natasha Mitchell (North Canterbury).
Among the early favourites to lift the senior men’s national title is Jared Monk, from the Hill City-University club.
Monk tied with Jacob Priddey for first place in last month’s Otago road championships.
He is joined by other early favourites Isaac Murphy (Waikato), Liam Woolford (Palmerston North) and Mark Moore (Wellington Scottish).
First held: 1979
Marathon start: 8am Harington Point.
Half marathon (run): 9am Forsyth Barr Stadium car park
Half marathon (walk): 9.03am Forsyth Barr Stadium car park
10km run: 9.30am Forsyth Barr Stadium car park
10km walk: 9.33am Forsyth Barr Stadium car park