It is safe to say Liam Lace is hooked on marathon racing, following his debut performance at the 2021 ICF Marathon World Championships held in Romania at the beginning of October.
“Wow, wow, wow” was how Liam summed up the build up to and experience of his 23rd placing in his 26.2km race. “It wasn’t quite the result I was hoping for, but all things considered I’m stoked with the effort. I left everything out on the water and gained so much valuable knowledge from the racing. Plenty of things learned, so mission accomplished.”
The U23 mens race was won by Nikolai Thomsen of Denmark in a time of 01:50:52, followed by Argentinian Agustin Rodriguez in second place and Ulvard Hart (South Africa) coming in third.
Distance racing is a new direction for the 21year old from Whanganui, who had to reconsider his future when the K2 1000m event was cut from the Paris Olympics earlier this year. “I had considered pivoting away from sprint and converting my efforts to the marathon distance, but it wasn’t until May (when I won the NZ Marathon Nationals) that I thought I’ll give this a real crack, and I’ve never looked back.
“Over the last 5 months I’ve had the most fun I’ve had in a boat in a very long time.”
The sport of canoe marathon is a true test of a paddlers tactics, endurance and athleticism. Standard races can be up to 30km on a flatwater course, often with regular portages where the paddler must carry the kayak.
While NZ’s marathon scene has never been massive, we have produced world class marathon paddlers, including Teneale Hatton (U23 World Champion 2013), Ben Fouhy (3rd in 2005), and Vaughan Reed and Garth Spencer, who won the K2 Masters World Championship in 2019.
Liam enjoys the tactical intricacies that come with marathon racing. “It adds a whole element to the sport. The technicalities of wash riding, portaging and even hydrating, means the fittest, strongest guy on the water won win every single race.”
“The style of training also suits my other passions in life, with its flexibility with cross training. The vibe of the whole sport is super friendly, and it’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed this tour so much.”
Liam left a level 4 locked down New Zealand at the end of August for a training camp in Paris with French paddlers Jeremy Candy and Quentin Urban (who went on to win the K2 World title), before heading over to Romania where he was essentially adopted by the South African team.
“I learned so much from the entire South African squad and speaking with and learning from one of the greatest marathon paddlers of our generation, Hank McGregor.”
Liam is now taking a bit of time off to travel and explore before getting back into some training with friends in Germany. He has an MIQ spot booked for November and plans to be out in time for Blue Lake 2.
What advice does Liam have for paddlers interested in trying marathon paddling?
“If you’re considering giving marathon a crack I’d highly recommend sitting down and watching the 2018 or 2020 K1 men’s long course, listen to the commentary to see what it’s all about, or you can reach out to me directly. Also for all you sprinters out there thinking “I don’t want to paddle 30km”, there’s a 3.2km short course with 2 portages too!.”
The 2022 NZ Marathon National Championships is set to be held next September, venue still to be determined. The new timing (later in the year) was decided upon to give paddlers time after the summer sprint season to train for longer distances over the winter.