Renwick's Latz in blazing run
Annabelle Latz made sure the New World Marlborough Marathon women's title stayed in home territory with an outstanding run in ideal conditions on Saturday.
Latz, from Renwick, blitzed the field in the women's division, clocking 3hrs 25min 48sec over a demanding 42.2km course which started and finished at Villa Maria Estate in New Renwick Rd and travelled along the banks of the Taylor River, through vineyards to Ben Morven Rd with the marathon heading over into Omaka Valley and back to finish.
Latz headed off Julia Stevenson from Palmerston North, her time 3.33.20. Third was 2010 winner Nicky Cameron Dunn, seven minutes further back, meaning all three titles in this division have been won by Marlborough athletes with last year's winner Susie Aviss not competing this time.
In the men's division, Nelson's Simon Leaning benefited from a big training schedule to go one better than his runner-up spot last year, winning impressively in 2.42.36. It was a personal best by over six minutes for the talented 39-year-old timber worker in what was his third attempt to win the race.
Once again, the third edition of this increasingly popular event attracted a record number of around 1100 entries from Marlborough, many other parts of New Zealand plus 12 overseas countries.
Latz was delighted with her performance in just her third marathon and said: "I realised about halfway I was in the lead. I just tried to keep it up. It's a bit of a head game the second half. I was waiting for my knee to give out but it didn't. Good on the knee. I had a few words to it along the way.
"A beaut course. I was stoked. Thrilled to run a strong race. Thank you to the organisers for putting on the race. It was awesome."
Leaning led from start to finish and was also delighted with his win.
"Having done this before I knew what to expect. I've just been building up for this for the past few months and it's paid off. I was relieved to feel as good as I did at the finish. I enjoyed it. The variation of the course was good. A very mentally testing run and a very nice start/finish area."
Home town hero Jeremy McKenzie had double cause for celebration. Not only did he blitz the field to win the half marathon in a very sharp 1.16.02 but, as chief winemaker at Villa Maria, the product he makes proved a huge hit with punters, each finisher in the marathon and half marathon getting a bottle of the sponsor's product.
McKenzie didn't have things all his own way for the first half but showed his power and stamina over the last nine kilometres.
"I loved the course. Beautiful conditions for running. Hopefully all the people that came from outside the district enjoyed what's good about Marlborough. There was a good fast pace in our race heading into town.
"I sort of pushed a bit harder going through the river into the wind. Those steep wee joints on Ben Morven Rd. Obviously, I like that sort of stuff. I put the hammer down on those.
"I did suffer a wee bit. It took the sting out of me a bit but felt really good coming down Paynters Rd. It was like running to work and a really good strong finish."
McKenzie was chased most of the way by another Marlborough athlete, Englishman Chris Booth, who also ran a fine race to finish second just over a minute behind. Nelson's Micha Guedel was third in 1.17.44 with another Marlborough runner Billy Hebberd fourth just 12 sec back.
Marlborough-born, Christchurch-domiciled runner Nicola Handley produced a dominant performance to take out the women's half marathon category in 1.26.30 from Nelson's Susie Wood (1.32.37) with Robyn Deane, also of Nelson, third in 1.35.30.
Marlborough produced a double in the 10km run, Dale Smit winning the men's title in 38.42 with Willem Lampe second and Travis Haymes third. Paula Mossman won the women's title in 30.04, Cushla Holdaway, from Ashburton, was second and Marilyn Horne from Auckland third.
Christchurch's Norm Shipley and Nelson's Sharon Stringer won the respective 10km walk titles and in the 5km run, Marlborough's Ben Stark and Jess Barnes were the winners. James Poulter and Kari Robinson, also from Marlborough, won the 5km walk titles and in the 10km wheelchair section, Marlborough's Blake Nicholson and Lynn Nicholl triumphed.
In the three-person team section contesting the J J Hamilton Memorial Trophy, the family teams combination under the Millar Girls banner of Kate Dean, Anna Millar and Krystal Millar triumphed in 2.33.17.
The Business House winners were the Winstanley Kerridge team of Stacey Cleaver, Marty Ryder and Tracey Price, in a time of 2.41.35.
Pete Halligan, spokesman for Top of the South Events - which ran the event - was a very happy man afterwards, especially given there were no major medical or injury episodes despite the record field.
"The feedback was just unbelievable. It was fantastic. So many good comments from people all over the world saying how magnificent the event was.
"The venue, the backdrop and the course. I was humbled by the positive comments."
Halligan said the new course configuration proved popular, especially the spectacular start/finish entry chute lined with wine barrels and flags. He is hopeful the event will be held over the same course next year.
Full results and times are available by clicking here
The Marlborough Express