News & Updates

19 September 2023 • Road

Oska all set to make his maiden appearance for New Zealand

Oska Inkster-Baynes in action at the 2022 Reboot Marathon in Christchurch. Credit (Michael Dawson).

After more than a decade-and-a-half in the sport, one of the most prominent personalities on the Christchurch distance running scene, Oska Inkster-Baynes is finally set to make his New Zealand debut competing at the World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga on October 2 (NZ time).

The fact that the 32-year-old will do so over his preferred half marathon distance makes his appearance in the Latvian capital all the sweeter and one which he is relishing.

“It is nice because I was selected for New Zealand to compete at the 2020 World Half Marathon Championships in Poland, but Covid took that away,” explains Oska.

“The half marathon is my favourite distance, I’ve won four New Zealand half marathon titles and I’m looking forward to running with three other mates (Michael Voss, Chris Dryden and Cameron Avery who have also won selection to compete for New Zealand in the half marathon in Riga). It is definitely a reward for perseverance and consistency.”

Believing the half marathon perfectly suits his skill set of having a good “aerobic engine” but also a “power gear,” Oska enjoyed an outstanding past 12 months or so setting PB’s at a range of distances from the 800m to the marathon.

Yet it has been his exploits over the 21.1km distance where the University of Canterbury athlete has been most potent. In April he came with 14 seconds of his then PB to record 1:05:04 to place second in the half marathon at the Christchurch Marathon and then at the Gold Coast Marathon in July he trimmed 16 seconds from his lifetime best to run a slick 1:04:34 for eighth position.

“The Gold Coast worked out perfectly,” says Oska. “We knew the pace would be quick at the front but there was a group of five or six guys who worked well together behind. We went through 10km in a similar time to Christchurch but with that extra help from the pack and no wind, unlike in Christchurch, we kicked on and finished strongly.”

Given that it would be typically unusual for Oska to run three hard half marathons in one year, he and his coach, Matt Ingram, have adopted a very different approach to training and preparing for Riga than he did prior to Christchurch and Gold Coast.

While for the latter two events he focused the bulk of his work on the flat for the World Road Running Championships, Oska has upped his mileage and taken to the hills in order to best prepare for the most competitive race of his career.

“I found that after Gold Coast I was mentally a bit fried, so we went for a bit of a refresh and returned to what I’m good at. I like running the hills and running for 12 hours a week, so my mileage went up to 110 miles a week with much of it in the Port Hills.

“Part of our thinking too was around what would the race demand of me in Riga? I feel like the race would be surging a lot, so I’m going to rely more on strength and power and gears rather than that flat, consistent style of racing we get more here in New Zealand or in Aussie. For the last four weeks of preparation, we’ve reverted more to the flat and I really feel the training has worked. Being mentally fresh is important, you don’t want to go into a big race feeling fried.”

A pair of time trials in the past week or so have reinforced Oska’s confidence. Feeling “really comfortable” he clocked 49:30 for ten miles and also a 14:30 5km to suggest everything is on track.

Insisting training has gone as well as it possibly could he plans to spend five to six days finalising his preparations in Amsterdam before flying to Latvia, where he will serve the dual role of both athlete and team manager of the seven-strong New Zealand team set to compete at the inaugural World Athletics Road Running Championships.

Relishing the prospect of competing on the tight, compact and relatively flat course, what would Oska like to achieve on race day?

“I’ve just got to get to that start line in a positive head space and travel well. If I do everything right, then I hope to relax into the race and find that right groove to have the best day I’ve ever had. I thought in Gold Coast we went through 10km a little soft, so I know I have 15 seconds or so I can find. I’d just like to see a good split through 10km, and I’d love to run under 64 minutes.

“I’m looking forward to supporting the whole team and I hope they all run well. The nature of the course means I’ll have a chance to see the top guys ripping around in 58 minutes. It will be special to be a part of that.”

***The 2023 World Athletics Road Running Championships in Riga, Latvia takes place on Sunday-Monday 1-2 October. More information here