News & Updates

15 April 2023 • Road

Mel seeks redemption at NZ Marathon champs

Rotorua Marathon champion Mel Brandon will be seeking a strong performance in Christchurch on Sunday at the NZ Marathon Championships.

For evergreen Mel Brandon a crack at the 2023 New Zealand Marathon Championships, which features as part of the Frontrunner Christchurch Marathon on Sunday, represents a shot at redemption.

In 2021 the Wellington Scottish athlete went into the Christchurch Marathon with big ambitions. Aiming for a PB and a sub-2:50 clocking Mel, however, in her words “bombed out” and came home sixth in a disappointing 3:03:57 – a long way off her goal and PB of 2:53.22.

“I felt like I had trained my hardest ever and I was the fittest I’d ever been but I knew I was a little bit off in the weeks leading up and by 10km into the race I knew there was something wrong,” she explains.

“I quickly run out of steam and kept readjusting my goals to the point simply finishing was the goal. I later discovered my iron level was critically low, so that is why I’m aiming at redemption (at the 2023 Christchurch Marathon) this year.”

Mel, 45, only took up running eight years ago. Initially entering the Round the Bays the Wellington-based mum-of-three quickly discovered the running bug and in 2017 made her marathon debut at Rotorua Marathon, surprisingly winning her age group.

Juggling training with the demands of raising three children as a single parent and working full time as Head of People and Culture at Wētā  Workshop is far from easy but slotting in around 100km for running a week she has continued to impress.

Setting her marathon PB when winning the 2021 Wairarapa Country Marathon last year she clinched the biggest victory of her career when taking out the historic Rotorua Marathon in 3:00:08.

“It was nice to get the accolades and positive reinforcement,” explains Mel of her victory in Rotorua. “Being an older athlete knowing I can potentially achieve good results at a more advanced age did give me a boost in confidence.”

A late entrant to the Auckland Marathon last October – where she finished sixth in 2:58:36 – provided a positive climax to her season but keen to develop further she has accepted the help of a coach.

Connecting with Andrew Wharton, Mel believes his input has re-energised her training and will lead to further improvements.

“He has given me some different sessions which have perhaps been a little harder than what I’m used to, and I’ve enjoyed that variety.

“Andrew is a long-serving, well-respected member of Wellington Scottish and he has been a really good influence. He’s very experienced, very much knows the sport and I’ve learned from his knowledge base.”

In an attempt not to replicate the mistakes made in the countdown to the 2021 Christchurch Marathon, Mel wisely checked her iron levels after she started to feel sluggish in training. Following the appointment she underwent an iron infusion and has for the past month or so “felt a lot better in training.”

Fond of breaking the marathon down into chunks, Mel believes the four laps of the 10km looped course of the brand new Christchurch Marathon course will be psychologically easier. Aiming to run on pace for the first three laps she believes the marathon for real will start on the final lap.

So what are her aims and ambitions on the day?

“It is sometimes dangerous to make predictions in the marathon and I had a similar target in 2021 but did not deliver,” says Mel, whose two teenage daughters Eva and Scarlet will be in attendance supporting.

“It would be great to run a PB closer to 2:50 and I feel like I’ve trained towards that time. With the New Zealand Marathon Championships on the line it does make the race more prestigious but I have no expectations of pulling that off as I’m up against lots of amazing, younger runners.”

***To follow the results at the Frontrunner Christchurch Marathon and New Zealand Marathon Championships go here