Craig doesn't wither in blitzing record

Simon Leaning produced the fastest time but Marlborough's Megan Craig turned in the performance of the day when the King and Queen of the Withers Run was held near Blenheim on Saturday morning.

Leaning, a 40-year-old veteran runner from Nelson, crossed the finish line in 44 minutes 10 seconds to be crowned King of the Withers for the first time, but Craig was just 12 seconds back, retaining her Queen of the Withers title and setting a new women's record.

Her time of 44.22 over the demanding Wither Hills farm park course eclipsed the previous record of 45.28 set by Olympic triathlete Andrea Hewitt in 2009, but she was feeling the effects of her efforts at the finish.

"It was bloody hard . . . it was the toughest run of my life, every year, it's brutal," said Craig, who improved her winning time from last year by a staggering four minutes.

"I ran with Ian Thomas on the way up, we were second equal. The guy in front [Leaning] was well ahead and I thought ‘he'll fall behind' . . . but he just stayed out there and I was quite impressed. I was gaining on him a little bit but he just kept going.

"I lost Ian on the first hills, I was glad about that, then I got to those other hills and they are killers aren't they? After I had done a few of them I thought, ‘if there's one more hill I won't make it up', your legs are just screaming ‘don't do this to me' but you keep going, then you get a little downhill and it's alright. I was thinking ‘where the hell is that water truck', I finally found that and the guy said there's only one more hill.

"I don't do this whole run beforehand to train for it cause I don't enjoy it to be honest. It's good, it's a tough mental thing, but if I trained it I'm not sure if I would want to do it so much."

Craig had a family member to thank for providing her with the impetus to go for the record.

"My grandad is up from Christchurch and he was reading the Express and said ‘I've seen the record here, you got 48 something last year, I think you should try to beat it tomorrow - you've got this'

"I was like ‘don't put any pressure on grandad' and then I was coming down and I had my watch on, I don't normally wear one, and it said 39 minutes so I thought, ‘you've got five minutes to get there, and it worked, eh.

"I did three little training runs but I only ran up to the triangle and I was blowing, seriously. I didn't think I was going to do too well out there but I felt alright today.

"That last strip though my legs were like ‘just stop please', they were killing me. I was trying to catch [Simon] but it just wasn't happening."

Although squash is her primary focus, Craig is happy with her running, rating Saturday's run probably her best effort.

"It just keeps getting better. I think I got 52 the very first time, 48, 44 . . . next year under 40 - get real!", she joked.

Craig is in the last week of her squash off-season and acknowledges the benefits of the cross training.

"I've got a tournament in 20 days in Australia so I was waiting until this was over," she said.

"Monday I'll start my shorter interval training but this is really good for my off-season."

Leaning also enjoyed his morning's efforts on a course he was running for the first time.

"It's my first time doing the King and Queen of the Withers, I've done Mount Vernon a couple of times so I had a pretty good idea of what to expect but of course this is that much quicker.

"And I knew that John Kennedy, Ian Thomas and then Megan were there. I was aware that there was someone not far behind but I never looked back. Then when I finished I was surprised to see how close Megan was, it was really good."

Leaning led all the way, a tactic he described as "a failing of mine".

"I usually head out too fast. If I can stay there I will but I'm not a very strategic runner. I just go hell for leather and if I can stay in the lead, that's good."

Second male across the line was John Kennedy in 44.29, followed by last year's King, Thomas, in 44.41. Second woman was Annabelle Latz in 52.13 (18th overall) with Robyn Deane (52.53, 21st overall) third across the line. First veteran woman was Robyn Deane in 52.53 from Susie Aviss, 53.49 and Almuth Waechter 54.50.

The leading junior man was Hamish Clark in 55.03, 28th overall, while Stella Blake took out the junior women's title in 57.43, 46th overall.

The hybrid title was won by Andrew Curnow in 53.36 from George Varley, 1.03.55, and Stu Campbell, 1.04.37.

The walkers' crown was won by Lisa Johnston in 1.16.44, from Richard McCallum in 1.18.46 and Jonathon Martin in 1.22.14.

The Rose Agricultural combination of John Kennedy, Haleigh Smith and Nick Rayner took out the teams section, while Dave and Julie Grono won the married teams section.

Robbie Barnes won the Dennis Patchett Memorial Trophy presented to the first Marlborough Harrier Club member home.

Ninety-five runners tackled the event, 47 competed in the hybrid section and 23 walkers took part, the bumper 165-strong turnout thrilling organiser Steve Olsen.

"We had record numbers, certainly since I have been involved in the last decade," he explained.

"It has just got bigger each year. I was a bit surprised by the numbers, it certainly stretched us, but I'm rapt with how it went.

"It's a tough course, and it's great to see so many people having a go."

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The Marlborough Express