Recommended NZ | Guide to Money | Gimme: Competitions - Giveaways

Air NZ Queenstown International Marathon athletes turn heads

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media


Clasina (pro: Cla-vina) Van der Veeken is no stranger to the spotlight, the amazing 87-year-old is a regular at Masters athletics events, competing most recently in a wide range of events on the track and in the field at the World Masters Games in Spain (winning five medals in six events), in her time setting and holding numerous world records.

On Saturday in Queenstown, she will again turn a few heads as she casts age aside to compete in the Air New Zealand Queenstown International Marathon, lining up amongst 5747 others in the New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon.

She will do so alongside two of her grandsons, with Matt and Kurt Davies lining up to keep her company, although the boys mum Liz Davies says it might be more a question of them needing their grandmother.

"She is just amazing, she has done lots of marathons and half marathons before, she looks so much younger than she is," said Liz. "The boys will be alongside their grandmother, she knows about Matt but Kurt turning up is going to be a surprise for her later in the week, but the question might be whether they can keep up with her!"

Clasina immigrated to New Zealand in the late fifties from her home in the Netherlands and took up life as a farmer’s wife. The onset of arthritis in her sixties led to an uptake in exercise to combat the effects, first on the bike and then in athletics. The Round Lake Taupo bike ride has been conquered nine times and she has never looked back, getting stronger the more she takes on, becoming a regular on the Masters Athletics scene.

Whangarei based Van der Veeken has a wonderful sense of humour and positive outlook on life and said her decision was an easy one to make, with a little help from Suzie at the local Smiths Sport Shoes store.

"I said, before I am going, I better do this race! I always do Kerikeri but this is on the same day, so this year I decided I need to go to Queenstown, there are a few others coming from Whangarei to do the Queenstown race.

"There are no goals for me, I have done so many already, I just like to do the race and want to keep going for as long as I can. I hear that the scenery is so nice, I was talking to Suzie from the Smith Shoes Shop and she said, ‘you will like it, it is very nice’.

"So, I am looking forward to it, and to do it alongside my grandson will be very special, this is the first time I have done an event alongside Matt, I have done one with Kurt before, but not with Matt. We will be okay though, just enjoying it together."

Van der Veeken says she is reminded of that arthritis every now and then but has few complaints.

"I started sport when the doctor told me to exercise or to take medicine for my arthritis and I have been exercising ever since. I still have some arthritis, it doesn’t bother me too much."


When well-known Christchurch athlete Fiona Crombie was diagnosed with arthritis in her 20s, she thought she’d never compete again. Frustrated, weak and in horrific pain, she struggled to even walk for a year and a half.

That shock diagnosis was 12 years ago. Now, the former New Zealand triathlon representative is as fit and determined as ever as she chases another win at the New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Queenstown Half Marathon this week.

The 36-year-old won the 30-39 Years category (and was third overall) at the renowned race last year and will return to defend her title, despite continuously managing ankylosing spondylitis (AS) in both of her sacroiliac joints.

"I’m looking forward to running faster, especially over the last half of the course where I struggled a bit last year," she says. "Constantly having an event to work towards makes it easier to get out and stay as fit as I can to minimise the impact on my joints. My biggest coping mechanism is deep breathing while working through the pain, whether it is arthritis pain or just trying to make the finish line."

Crombie’s running career spans well over a decade - she qualified for the 2006 Commonwealth Games NZ Athletics team but was injured a few weeks before the event. Since then, the environmental manager has competed in marathons and triathlons around the world, all while learning how to manage stress and train appropriately to keep AS symptoms at bay.

"At times it did seem impossible to get back to where I had been. I didn't want to have AS and I lived in denial for a long time," she says. "But once I accepted it, things started to come right and I learnt to train to how I felt, rather than following what was on my training plan. Exercise is also a treatment method for AS and I find that, if I stop, things start to stiffen up and ache more than usual."


New Zealand hosts some of the world’s most renowned running events and Auckland travel agent Fan Zhou expects "running tourism" to get more popular with Chinese visitors.

At 54 years old, Zhou is an accomplished racewalker, having participated in the ASB Auckland and Waiheke Island half marathons. On Saturday she will take on the 21.1km New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Queenstown Half Marathon at the Air New Zealand Queenstown International Marathon for the second time and embrace the new role of athlete ambassador for the premium real estate brand.

Zhou says she hopes to bring more visitors over from China to experience running in New Zealand.

"Many of my clients are interested in running marathons here, particularly the Queenstown Half Marathon which is said to be the most beautiful and scenic run in the world," she says. "I think we will see more and more Chinese coming to New Zealand specifically to participate in these events in the future."

Marathon tourism is big business for destinations such as Queenstown - the Air New Zealand Queenstown International Marathon bolsters the local economy by about $7 million each year, with more than 11,000 people participating in the full and half marathons, 10km and kids run. Over 100 Chinese are registered to race this year.

Zhou won the Walker 50-59 Years category in the New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon last year with a time of two hours, 30 minutes. It was an impressive result for the mother-of-two, who only started competitive walking three years ago and completed her first official event in Auckland at 52 years old. Now she hopes to beat her time at this year’s sold-out Queenstown race on Saturday, November 17.

"My end goal is just to finish, beat my previous time and enjoy the views," she says. "When it starts to get difficult, I just tell myself ‘you can do it’ and that stops me from doubting myself, so I don't give up or feel discouraged during the race. I’ll just try my best, keep a positive mindset and be happy with whatever result I get."


Brett Tingay is running a half marathon on Saturday, despite being struck down by a mystery superbug two years ago.

The Christchurch athlete - well-known for his success in running and multisport events - has been battling residual issues from an undiagnosed illness since November 2016. That hasn’t stopped him from competing, however, and he plans to take on the New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon at the Air NZ Queenstown International Marathon on Saturday. He placed third in the overall race and won his division last year.

It’s an immense achievement for a man that lay unconscious in Christchurch Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit exactly two years ago. Tingay was training for a Half Ironman event in Australia when he suddenly became weak with nausea, vertigo and intense migraines. His partner Fiona Crombie took him to hospital, where he remained for two-and-a-half weeks.

"The doctors started testing me for a lot of waterborne viruses because of the open-water swimming I had done in Australia and overseas for racing, but all the tests came back inconclusive," he says. "I wasn’t responding to the anti-virals so they ended up putting me in a drug-induced coma because I was in and out of consciousness. The pain was horrendous, and the painkillers weren’t working - they had to turn off my body and let it reset."

Despite numerous tests, doctors could only confirm that Tingay had contracted a ‘virus of unknown origin’. After waking up from the coma, he finally started responding to antiviral treatment and began to heal.

Although he had doubts he would ever race competitively again, Tingay has learnt to train within his limits and not overextend himself. He lives with the residual symptoms of the virus - such as migraines and fatigue - every day and says his body is less "durable" than it was prior to the infection. Now Tingay’s game plan is to train smarter, not harder.

"About four weeks after I was discharged from hospital I went for a little jog. I couldn’t walk for a few days after that," he says. "I had to build back up slowly; if I felt tired, I got out of the pool or I would cut my runs down. I wear a heart rate monitor to keep everything under control and I’ve tried to be sensible about it. Whereas before I just did whatever - I could push myself to whatever lengths I wanted to."

Although he’s hoping to once again win his division, Tingay will be taking it sensibly in Queenstown, where he is also acting as an athlete ambassador for New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty.

"What I enjoy most about the New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Queenstown Half Marathon is the terrain - it’s one of the most picturesque places you could ever run a half marathon," he says. "Crossing over the Old Shotover Bridge is epic!"

2018 Air New Zealand Queenstown International Marathon

Event Schedule

Thursday 15 November

1pm to 7pm Athlete check in, Queenstown Memorial Centre

1pm to 7pm Sports Expo, Memorial Street

Friday 16 November

8am to 9pm Athlete check in, Queenstown Memorial Centre

9am to 7pm Sports Expo, Memorial Street

Saturday 17 November

7:45am Cigna 10km start, Lake Ave, Frankton

7:55am Cigna 10km start, Lake Ave, Frankton

8:00am NZ Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon start, Speargrass Flat Road

8:15am NZ Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon walk start, Speargrass Flat Road

8:20am Air NZ Marathon start, Millbrook Resort

8:30am Air NZ Marathon walk start, Millbrook Resort

1:00pm Kids Run start, Queenstown Gardens

3:30pm Prize giving, Queenstown Recreation Ground

All events finish at the Queenstown Recreation Ground

Air New Zealand Queenstown International Marathon, by the numbers

Skyline Queenstown Volunteers

Total Number 520

From community groups, schools and clubs and individuals

$20,000 donated to these groups by the Air NZ Queenstown International Marathon in 2018

Charity Partner - Queenstown Trails Trust

Approx $190,000 donated to Queenstown Trails Trust over its five-year history (including 2018)

Economic Impact (estimated)

Estimated 8-million-dollar boost to the local economy

5 nights’ average stay for international visitors

3 nights’ average stay for domestic visitors

5000 extra seats into and out of Queenstown with Air New Zealand during the 2018 Queenstown Marathon period

Quirky Numbers

8,500 bananas

1.4km Fencing

239,292 Km’s covered by all athletes running on Saturday (estimate based on entries)

294 Portaloos

Total participants 11,265 (entries remain open online for the Kids Run)

Air NZ Marathon 2385

NZ Sotheby’s International Realty Half Marathon 5842

Cigna 10km 2786

Kids Run 252 entries still open


Female 6574 (61.74%)

Male 4074 (38.26%)


Average age: 38

Median age: 38

Oldest: 87

Youngest: 5

Participant location numbers based on Country (leading five):

#1 New Zealand 8,615

#2 Australia 1,339

#3 United States 187

#4 China 103

#5 Singapore 71

Participant location numbers based on New Zealand region (leading five):

#1 CAN 2,267

#2 OTA 2,194

#3 AUK 1,910

#4 STL 699

#5 WGN 635

All articles and comments on have been submitted by our community of users. Please notify us through our contact form if you believe an item on this site breaches our community guidelines.