Kenyan Racing In Christchurch

Press Release – MDJ Media

Kenyan distance runner Kip Kemei is adding some international flavour to this weekend’s Christchurch Airport Marathon Event.
Kenyan Racing In Christchurch

Kenyan distance runner Kip Kemei is adding some international flavour to this weekend’s Christchurch Airport Marathon Event.

With a new sponsor and new course, the Christchurch Airport Marathon is on the way back from earthquake woes that it suffered alongside the rest of the region. This year the event has a new route based around Christchurch Airport. It also has some new talent at the top end.

Kenyan Kip Kemei is the first athlete from his famous distance running nation to compete in the annual Queen’s Birthday Weekend event. The 21 year is expected to dominate the Half Marathon option, with his best time of 64 minutes being three minutes better than the leading Kiwi challengers.

Kemei is from Kenya’s Rift Valley, the region that is renowned for producing more world records and Olympic, Commonwealth and World Championship medals than any other region in the world. He is in New Zealand training in Wellington with Kiwi triathlete Martin Van Barneveld. The two met when Van Barneveld was training in Kenya last year.

Fittingly, Christchurch was the first place New Zealand saw the might of Kenya, when the great Ben Jipcho won gold medals in the 5000m and 3000m steeplechase and bronze in the 1500m at the 1974 Commonwealth Games. He left such an impact on the region that “Jipcho Road” in Wigram was named after him.

This weekend’s 32nd Christchurch Airport Marathon was inspired by those 1974 Commonwealth Games, and prior to the region’s recent earthquakes the event was still based on the 1974 course.

Kip Kemei has an opportunity to continue that Kenyan legacy. He will face current New Zealand cross country and road champion Stephen Lett (Akld), who he recently beat at the Rotorua Half Marathon. But also 2011 Christchurch Half Marathon runner up Dougal Thorburn (Dun) former national medallist Luke Hurring (Timaru) and half marathon rookies Matt Harris (Wgtn) and Caden Shieids (Dun).

The women’s half marathon might also see relative rookies to the fore. Former Christchurch half and full marathon winner, Shireen Crumpton (Dun), would be the favourite on previous form in the Garden City, but she faces several up and coming women from all ends of the country and even Canada.

Foremost among them is professional jockey turned Auckland Marathon and New Zealand 10k champion, Lisa Roberston (Akld). But Rotorua’s Sarah Biss, a former junior star who came back to the sport five years ago, recently ran a personal best full marathon in Rotterdam of 2hrs 38min and is expected to improve on her fourth place here last year. Others likely to challenge include Canadian Anne-Marie Madden, off-road specialist Victoria Beck (Dun) and local Christchurch standout Alex Williams.

“It’s great that the country’s top runners continue supporting our event,” says Race Director Chris Cox. “One of our focuses following the earthquakes has been to make sure that we retain our reputation as the country’s fastest marathon course.”

First and foremost, however, Cox says, “The Christchurch Airport Marathon is a people’s race.”

“We’ve always felt the success of the Christchurch Marathon was a reflection of the community at large. Last year the event was impacted in much the same way as everyone else in the region and our entries dropped from almost 6000 to just over 3000. But now, just like everyone else in the region, the Christchurch Airport Marathon is rebuilding and this year is looking like 4500 entries.”

The Christchurch Airport Marathon, Half Marathon and 10K gets underway on Sunday at 9:00am from Orchard Road in Christchurch Airport. The Kids’ 3K Mara’Fun gets underway at 1:00pm. Entries are still open – visit: www.christchurchmarathon.co.nz.

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