Alice Mason will be up against an unknown over the marathon distance in Olivia Burne, in the defence of her national marathon title at the 54th Rotorua Marathon on Saturday.

Mason (30) won the title in last year’s Wellington marathon in 2:48:36. She has since gone on to run a personal best of 2:44:05 in Saitama Japan in November. Mason also won in Wellington in 2017 and in Christchurch in 2015.

It will be a marathon debut for 26 year old Burne who has trained well for the event under the coaching from Barry Magee. Burne has won three national titles in the last seven months, the 10km road title, and the 3000m and 5000m titles on the track. She comes into the race with a best half marathon time of1:15:29 achieved in winning the 2016 national title in Christchurch.

Last year in Rotorua Burne won the half marathon by nearly nine minutes in 1:16:27 and she will use the experience gained from her first marathon when she starts in the Gold Coast Marathon in July this year.

Johanna Ottosson (44) national marathon champion in 2011 in winning at Rotorua, has a best of 2:46:05 in New York in 2011 and will be in the mix as well. She also won in Rotorua in 2010, was third in 2016 and second last year.

Nancy Jiang will be aiming for a podium placing. Two years ago the 27 year old from Hamilton was third in the Huntly half marathon, seventh in the Rotorua Marathon and fourth in the Auckland Marathon with personal best time of 2:55:15.

Lesley Turner Hall (46) with a best of 2:57:05 and third at Rotorua in 2010 has entered and Nyla Carroll (52) is also down to run. Carroll recorded 2:33:19 in the 1995 London Marathon, won the national title in Rotorua in 1994 and was second in the 2008 Rotorua event.

Blair McWhirter, a 35 year old school teacher from Christchurch will start as favourite for the national men’s title after running 2:22:38 in last year’s London Marathon and third in the Auckland Marathon last October in 2:25:59. 

He knows the Rotorua course well having finished second in 2012 in 2:28:44. In his last marathon run in Queenstown in November he was second in 2:32:45.

Michael Voss (21) the national junior road champion in 2015 and 2016 will be giving the 42.2km distance a first try. He has had considerable success over half the distance winning at Huntly in March and also New Plymouth, Wellington and in Rotorua in 2016 where he ran a personal best 1:06:07.

The Macdonald twins from Tauranga have entered, Iain who was third in 2009 in 2:29:00 and Kyle who was sixth in 2010 in 2:39:45.

Other leading runners entered are Nick Pannett silver medallist in the national marathon in 2012, Matt Parsonage fourth in Rotorua and fifth in the national championship last year and David Lovelock, with Rotorua placings of fourth in 2013, sixth in 2015 and fifth in 2016.

The marathon starts at 8:20am from the Energy Events Centre in Government Gardens, with the finish back at the Government Gardens

Over 3,500 runners and walkers will take part in the various distances on Saturday and almost 2,500 will take part in the children’s Rotorua Mini Marathon on Friday.