News & Updates
Tough battle in store at gruelling 24-hour champs
Mike Field with his family and supporters after last year’s 24-hour Championships (Photo: Jason Oxenham)
Defending men’s champion Mike Field acknowledges he faces a formidable battle to clinch back-to-back titles at the New Zealand 24-hour Championships in Auckland this weekend.
The 52-year-old from the Port Hills club was a surprise victor in the 2019 edition, racking up a total distance of 201.77km to finish more than 13km clear of silver medallist Greg Yee (Caversham).
But Field believes a much stronger field assembled for this year’s event, coupled with a far-from-perfect build-up, will make his task much harder when he takes to the start line at the AUT Millennium track at 9am on Saturday.
“To be fair, I think the only reason I won last year was because many of the top guys were not racing,” adds Field, a business and te reo teacher at Christs’ College in Christchurch.
The global pandemic has restricted Field’s competitive schedule in 2020. Earlier this year, he competed in the 190km Revenant race on the South Island but was sidelined for two months with a calf tear during the winter. In his most recent outing last month, he was disappointed to complete 147km in 22 hours to place ninth Kiwi at the Big Dog’s Backyard World Championship in Riverhead in which participants complete a 6.7km loop every hour for as long as possible.
Nonetheless, loyally supported by wife Julia, Field will once again return to Auckland keen to deliver his best.
“I feel after the Riverhead race I have a bit of a point to prove. It was quite a hilly course, so I might still have some fatigue, I’ll just see how the legs go,” he says.
“I’ll just try and push my body to the limit and see where that takes me. My only superpower is that I’m stubborn and in 24-hour racing sometimes you don’t need to do anything special or be particularly fast, you just need to keep on running!”
Among Field’s main rivals are Wayne Botha (Takapuna Harriers), the 2018 New Zealand 100km champion. The 48-year-old, who holds the 100km barefoot world record, plans to run this weekend barefoot and, with a personal best for the 24-hour distance of 222.295km, he is a man who must be respected.
Watch out too for 57-year-old Paul Hewitson, who will be looking to add the New Zealand 24-hour title to the national 100km crown he snared last year. The Wellington Harrier further illustrated his endurance powers by placing an impressive second in a combined time of 31 hours 34 minutes at the 316km seven-stage Alps2Ocean Ultra last year.
Hewitson’s club-mate Seth Campbell placed fourth man and fifth overall in that same event and is another who could make an impact.
Other entrants with a strong pedigree include Anthony Hancy of Ngaruawhia, who placed second man at the 85km Old Ghost Ultra in February and Greytown-based James Inwood, who claimed an impressive victory in February’s 155km Great Lake Taupo Solo in 18:32:04.
The clear favourite in the women’s race will be Dawn Tuffery, who will seek to reclaim the 24-hour title she last banked in 2017. On that occasion, the Hamilton City Hawks athlete racked up a women’s championship best performance distance of 202.705km and the 38-year-old three-time New Zealand 100km champion will once again be the athlete to beat.
Auckland’s Jamie Stevenson, who placed second woman in the 2018 Taupo Ultramarathon and is two-time winner of the 100km Trail Trilogy Hauraki Hundee, will also look to feature.
Some 29 athletes have been entered in the 24-hour race. The meet will also feature 12-hour and six-hours races, although neither event will offer a national title.
The action in the gruelling 24-hour race begins at 9am on Saturday and will conclude at 9am on Sunday.
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