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2014 Kepler Challenge Preview

The 2014 Kepler Challenge is fast approaching and at the pointy end of the field both the defending men’s and women’s champs are returning, both with their sights set on new course records.

At the end of the day it could be the weather and track conditions that keep the current blistering course records (Zelah Morrall 5:23:34 in 2003 and Martin Dent 4:33:37 in 2013) safe, but this should not distract from some exciting racing for the top positions, especially in a deep women’s field-

Ruby Muir on her way to owning the 2012 Kepler. Photo: Graham Dainty

Ruby Muir on her way to owning the 2012 Kepler. Photo: Graham Dainty

Ruby Muir returns as the 2 time defending Kepler champ and the only woman to run faster at the Kepler is Zelah Morrall when she set the current course record. Since winning the 2012 Kepler in 5hr37 Ruby has had an up and down time, with big wins (Tarawera 100km and Kepler again in 2013), but also large chunks of time off with injury and ended dropping from this year’s Skyrunning Ultra Champs in Chamonix. But her 5hr37 was off less of a build up than she has had this year and she is still the favorite, but she will be pushed more than she has in the past.

Jo Johansen more or less came from nowhere and dealt to the most competitive women’s field that the Tarawera Ultra had seen earlier this year. She then went on to win The Hillary Ultra and recently the Aorangi Undulator. Jo has been targeting the Kepler for most of this year.

Lara Prince is the Queen of Avalanche Peak and has also finished 2nd at Kepler before, with a 6hr30- no doubt she will be looking to make a big improvement on that. For the history buffs out there- Lara’s father, Russell, was the first ever winner of the Kepler Challenge.

Jean Beaumont will be as solid as ever- she placed 4th here last year in 6hr21 and will be looking to repeat that no doubt.

Bridge Thompson is rumored to be in very good form. I believe this will be her first Kepler, but word on the street is her father (happy 60th today Russell!) is worried about her and that puts her in the 6hr flat range!

Australian Girls

Hanny Allston will be well known among the compass map reading crowd, with multiple world orienteering titles to her name. Hanny has also won the Six Foot Track and Cradle Mountain Ultra, 2 of Australia’s oldest trail races. Oh, and she has Australian and New Zealand marathon titles to her name and boasts a 2hr40 marathon best.

Beth Cardelli ran a 2hr30 Luxmore Grunt back in 2011, but that is not why we are listing her here- it is the multiple wins at TNF100km in Australia where she has shown her class. Recently she set a new women’s course record at the Yurribrilla Trail in Adelaide.

Julie Quinn is, I believe, actually a kiwi girl, now permanently based in Canberra for sometime. Julie is another multiple TNF100 winner  and will bring a lot of experience to the start line.

Sara-Jane Uden could be a bit of an outside shot, but she did recently finish 2nd to Hanny Allston at the Bright Four Peaks and has a sub 3hr marathon to her name. Can go up hill and run fast- the 2 things you need to do well at Kepler.

MDent

In the men’s race I don’t think anyone will be betting against Martin Dent to make it back to the control gates in first place some time well before 11am come Saturday the 6th. His run last year here was pretty mind blowing, but with course knowledge (and now knowing what a seam sealed jacket is) I would not at all be surprised if he betters his course record. Possibly the only thing in his way will be track conditions up high.

If Martin is our hot favorite for 1st, then 3 time winner Vajin Armstrong is equally our favorite to take 2nd, providing the ankle he rolled at the Tarawera 50km in mid Novemeber is healed and strong. Vajin clocked 4hr55 last year.

Stafford Thompson is one that could very well break 5hrs. Stafford is a multiple winner at Dunedin’s Three Peaks, took first at the Motatapu Marathon earlier this year and Kelly’s Canter. He will have no doubt have been talking race tactics with his father in-law and 6 time Kepler winner Russell Hurring. He is my top pick for rounding out the podium.

Mick Donges is best known in New Zealand for winning the 2012 Tarawera Ultra 100km and Mick has a heap of wins in trail races in Australia. If he is in form, expect something in the 5hr15 range, if not faster!

Mark Green currently lives in Sydney but he can claim to be a local boy, having grown up in Te Anau. His father, Wayne, was one of the founders of the Kepler Challenge back in 1988. He has a 5hr08 best and I imagine he will be somewhere between that and the 5hr18 he ran here last year.

Danny Garrett is a guy I admittedly know very little about, other than he gave me a beat down back in October at the Waihi Xterra of about 15mins and he has been leading the BCR Strava group the last few weeks. Going off that run at Waihi, I’d say he is in the 5hr10 range and will be very competitive.

Timo Meyer will probably find the Kepler a bit short to really excel, like he has in the HURT and Leadville 100mile races, but after taking 2nd recently at the Tarawera 50km he should hold his own all the same.

Scott Hawker has had a big year, racing all over the place with some great results. Scott would/should be another sub 5hr10 guy, but has said he will just be jogging the Kepler this year, running with his father. We will see….

And the dark horse is…. well, he wouldn’t be the dark horse if I told you all about him now would he ;-)

LUXMORE GRUNT- the “fun run”. It is the shorter of the 2 races taking place, but that dose not make it “Just” the Luxmore. It is still a 27km mountain run that climbs to Luxmore Hut, at over 1000m.
In the women’s race Jo Brischetto, Louisa Andrew and Christina Taylor will be the main players. Hard to go past last year’s winner Louisa.

The men’s race should also be a great battle, with Richard Ford, Luke Hurring , Nathan Jones and Alan Funnell  all set to feature.

Keep an eye on BCR’s Facebook page for live Kepler updates on race day!

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  1. Go the Dark Horse !!

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