The 2013 men’s Kepler Challenge, like the woman’s race,
should will be epic! On paper the line up promises fast times and a depth that has been absent for some years. I don’t think this is going to be the same as the days of the epic Hurring/Murry show downs of the 1990′s (go to 20min45 in that video- 5 under 5hrs!), but it has the potential. there is some real speed and experience up front.
Vajin Armstrong (MacPac/Ultimate Direction/Saucony)- 3x winner and defending Kepler champ. What else do we need say- his exploits and success has been well documented here on BCR. He will be as focused and determined as ever and it is pretty hard to go past Vajin as the pre-race favourite, but if there is one person that could dethrone the current Kepler King, it is the man below. “My build up has been the best I have ever had, I am feeling stronger than ever before and am looking forward to seeing what I can do on Saturday. This year I expect that the race is going to be fast. With the quality there is at the front of the field this year I can’t see things playing out any other way.”
- Martin Dent, Australia (New Balance)- Martin is bringing some serous speed to the start line- a marathon best of 2hr12 (current course record holder Phil Costley’s marathon PB is 2hr13), and Martin represented Australia in the marathon at the last Olympics in London- so yeah, he can run! But over the years there have been a few top marathoners come unstuck during their “lap”. A fast marathon is not everything, but jeez, in Martins case it will help! And Martin has plenty of mountain and trail running experience.“Kepler has been my main race focus for the last few months, but with the Kepler taking more than twice as long as I have raced before I will be going outside of my comfort zone. I expect to be competitive at the front of the race and am prepared to take some risks to get the result I am after.”
- Rowan Walker, Australia (Asics)- Another class marathon runner from Australia, I can see Rowan rounding out the top 3. He has experience at ultra races and sounds like he has recovered well from another solid run in Auckland- “I‘m really looking forward to the race and visiting the area. I raced Auckland Marathon four weeks back and managed to hold on to third feeling strong–if not fast. I’ve since recovered really well and put in a few more solid trail runs in training with an emphasis on climbing. In all I’m feeling strong and think I can put in a solid performance. Without knowing the course first hand, or the competition other than my friend Martin Dent, I’m not too sure that I’d want to make any bold predictions. I’ll shoot for the top ten and see how the legs hold up for the last 20 kms.”
The Chase Pack- this is where things could get really interesting, especially if we have a few “blow ups” out front. Well in the past few years the “depth” has been in the 5hr30-6hr range, I think this year might see a lot more in the 5hr-5hr20 range. At least on paper it has the potential.
- Martin Lukes (Asics/Ultimate Direction)- the 3x Kepler winner, with a 4hr49 best at Kepler (no one on the start line this year has run faster!) Marty should really be listed above! But we don’t want to put to much pressure on the old boy . He has never finished worse than 3rd in his 10 previous Keplers, I expect him to keep that steller record in tack.
- John Winsbury, Australia- John will be very familiar to many here in NZ, with a string of solid performances and wins in NZ. He has a 5hr03 best at the Kepler. A shoe-in for sub 5hr10 and if he keeps it together sub 5hrs is on the cards.
- Kohta Araki Kumamoto,
Japan- Yeah, I have not heard the name neither, but my source in Japan tells me he is the real deal. A 2hr22 marathoner, we hear he has had some very good success in trail races in the 30-40km range. He is one to watch!Just hear Kohta is now not coming due to work commitments.
Gary Melhuish (Merrell/Patagonia/Ultimate Direction)- I made the call back in April’12 that Gary would one to watch – a 3rd at Loop the Lake, a 6th place 5hr25 Kepler last year and then breaking the Motatapu Miners Trail course record. If things fall into place a 5hr0X is not out of reach for the “Hack”
- Flavio Vianna, Brazil/New Zealand (Specialized/Chain Reaction)- Flavio, original from Brazil, is likely to be the happiest guy you will come across at the Kepler, OK, maybe not last year when he ran 5hr45 (I think he is still having nightmares about Ruby passing him), but if he finds the form that saw him finish 2nd at the Shotover Moonlight (in front of Richard Ussher, Armstrong, Lukes and Melhuish!!) then look out! Flavio did race the Big Day at the Office last weekend, so we will see how he has recovered…
- Mark Green, Australia- Mark has a 5hr08 Kepler to his name, that was back in the late 90’s, so hard to know if he can run that time again. But he has had a strong 3rd place at Six Foot in Sydney beating the likes of Mick Donges, so should certainly be in the mix.
- Christiaan Greyling, South Africa (Salomon)- We know Christiaan represented South Africa in this years World Trail Running Champs, but beyond that our only real reference (ie has raced some one we know) for how quick he is- finishing 13mins ahead of Ruby Muir at the Otter Trail in South Africa. Put it this way, 13mins ahead of Ruby at last years Kepler = 6th place!
What are YOUR predictions?? Leave a comment!