Kepler Challenge 2015 Preview

Kepler Challenge 2015 Preview- Matt Bixley gives us his picks on this weekends big lap in Te Anau.

I have always wanted to write an iRunFar-esque preview. So I went to their TNF50 preview as I do each year as it’s on at the same time as the Kepler. However I just don’t know enough about everyone in the field to name 57 men and 35 woman as people to content, win, podium, watch or not start. So I’ll keep it brief.

Last year 57th place male went to Wayne Ramage, he’s lining up again this year. Wayne is a Mosgiel local so as I write this he’s about 5km away at work, like I am supposed to be. He has plenty of experience with this being his 4th Kepler and has the goal that most of us who return regularly aim for, and that is to run a PB. I’ll bet a lazy $5 he lines up for his five year medal next year as well. Have a great day Wayne.

On the womans side, 35th place went to Cherie Richardson, but she doesn’t appear to be starting this year. The nearest I can find who is returning is Sally ‘The Gazelle’ Law. Word on the street is that Sally has been on a coaching program, so if conditions are favourable expect to see her run a PB.

Womans Field-


Ruby Muir winning the 2012 Kepler.

Last years 1st and 2nd, Ruby Muir and Beth Cardelli have been joined by the return of the record holder Zelah Morrall.

Ruby Muir – in 2012 Ruby (as far as I can tell) became the 2nd fastest woman at the Kepler with a 5:37:55. Since then, while injury hasn’t stopped her from winning it has hindered her desire to chase the race record of 5:23:34 set by Zelah in 2003. Ruby has spent the winter running Cross Country and Marathons, so barring anything going wrong, I suspect she will be motivated to push hard from the start and see what she can achieve.

Zelah Morrall – 5:40ish jogging around taking photos in 2002, followed by her race record and 2nd overall in 2003 before returning home to the UK never to be heard from again. Until now. It may well be 12 years since the race record, but THIS year she ran her Marathon PB of 2:47 in London, and October/November have seen her run two more in what I assume was a solid training block. Who knows what she will be capable of on Saturday, but the track will be in better condition and she is faster than when she set her record.

Unless Ruby or Zelah have other plans or some misfortune, the race will be between those two, a 5:30 or course record is possible.

Beth Cardelli – a fantastic and dominant year of running in the inaugural SkyrunningANZ series, a 6:07 last year but should go better than that. Exceptionally good climber and if the above two are conservative, Beth could take the QOM title.

Lizzie Wesley-Smith – 1st at Abel Tasman, 1st at Jumbo Holdsworth (Course Record) and plenty of marathon experience.

There haven’t been two woman break six hours since 2010. These four could.

Mens Field-

Martin Dent on his way to setting the Kepler course record.

Martin Dent on his way to setting the Kepler course record in 2013.

The return of last years top three, plus 3x winner Vajin Armstrong and Australian David Byrne.

Martin Dent – All good journalist have sources, I’m not a journalist so I make stuff up, maybe. “Marty is in great shape. I reckon he’ll clear out early.”
When one of the contenders says that, you’d have to think that another 4:3x is on the cards of conditions play their part. Everyone else is running for 2nd.

Mark Green – 2nd last year, but I suspect will need to improve on 5:04 and is six foot track 3:20 earlier this year suggest that is possible.

Stafford Thompson – ran out to the swamp after Moturau then corrected himself only to start running back to Moturau before being further corrected by Mark Green. Clearly a man who knows how to run right to the very limit. Expect to see him push the 5 hour mark.

Vajin Armstrong – the 3x Champion with a 4:55pb is back. You’ll never die wondering if Vajin has been training hard, he very rarely has a bad day and is very self-aware of his strengths and weaknesses.

David Byrne – editor in chief at “The Long Run”. David is from the old school, where “elite” means you’ve been to World Champ or Olympics, not someone who wins back yard races. The former Strayan XC rep, has been quietly dipping his toe into trail running in the last couple of years, bit by bit. My pick is for Dave and Vajin to go hammer and tongs at each other with the result being a coin toss for 2nd.

Steven McKinstry- A name I’ve always wanted to see on the start list. He is a Three Peaks winner, 2 day coast to coast winner as an individual and teams, with a 4th fastest ever over the Mingha/Deception run.

QUIZ – who is the fastest Miler and 3000m runner in the field. He’s my dark horse for the top five.


Luxmore Grunt –

In the woman, expect to see Emma Rilen, Louisa Andrew and Shireen Crumpton to battling it out. In the men’s, it is likely to be a race between Tane Cambridge, Kirsten Day and Richard Ford.

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