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Late champion on minds

Last year’s Jumbo-Holdsworth Mountain Race winner, the late Chris Swallow. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Conditions expected to slow mountain race times

ATHLETICS

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

Last year’s winner will be very much on the minds of the tough guys and girls of running in today’s Jumbo-Holdsworth Mountain Race in the Tararua Range.

Adrenaline junkie Chris Swallow won last year’s edition of the race and added victories in the Tararua Mountain Challenge and Porirua Grand Traverse, before he was killed while racing in the Senior Classic TT at the Isle of Man motorcycle event in August.

Race organiser Andrew Thompson said Swallow was “part and parcel of the race, and there will be acknowledgement of his achievements, probably at the prizegiving”.

Two hundred and twenty runners faced the starter’s gun at 8am today for the gruelling 24km race. Runners could choose to run uphill to Jumbo and then across to Mt Holdsworth before the fast downhill, or they can race in the opposite direction.

The Jumbo-Holdsworth direction is generally considered as being faster than Holdsworth-Jumbo and Thompson predicted that will be a telling factor in today’s race.

“Martin McCrudden [Wellington] was second last year running the Holdsworth-Jumbo direction, which is a couple of minutes slower, so he’ll be doing Jumbo-Holdsworth this year.”

Laurence Pidcock, a previous placegetter, and 2015 winner Dan Clendon, both from Wellington, are others that Thompson expected to do well.

“Laurence has just turned veteran but will be a threat for the overall race, and Dan is a previous winner and is an insane downhiller. Hector Haines from the UK has been in Queenstown for two weeks and won the Ultra Easy 42km race last week and is in good form.”

Thompson predicted Mel Aitken, previously from the West Coast and now based in Wellington, will be favoured to take out the women’s race after competing in the 2019 Trail World Championships in Portugal.

With hot conditions forecast, the race record of two hours and 14 minutes 55 seconds, set in 2018 by Daniel Jones, is unlikely to be challenged. The women’s course record is 2:43.52 set by Ruby Muir, also in 2018.

The race will also be a significant occasion of four men, who have contested every edition of the race.

Colin Boyd, Owen Rowse, Kelly Holland and Rod McCrudden [father of Martin] will tackle the challenging course.

Another 80 competitors will run the Hooper Loop course. Wellington doctor Dougal Thorburn set a course record of 49.35 in 2016, while the women’s record of 1:00.23 was set in 2002 by Carline MacDonald.

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