Nelson's Phil Costley has won the 2012 Rotorua Marathon, 15 years after he first won the race.
Costley took his third Rotorua title in 2hr 28min 25sec, having fought off a determined challenge from Blair McWhirter over the last 10km.
Forty-two-year old Costley, a winner at the Rotorua Marathon in 1997 and 2000 and winner of 31 New Zealand championship titles over many distances, ran just off the early pace and came through just past halfway to challenge for the lead.
Despite a slower than hoped for time, Costley was delighted with his win.
"I am rapt, given the way I felt out there," he said.
"I didn't feel flash from the start, but when you're running 42km, you're thinking there will be a good patch there somewhere and I was waiting and waiting."
McWhirter finished 100m behind in second to back up his third place at last year's Auckland Marathon. Third place went to Ross McIntyre from Hawke's Bay.
Liza Hunter-Galvan played a waiting game to take the women's race in 2hr 46min.
Texan based Hunter-Galvan, a 2004 and 2008 Olympian, let Auckland's Lisa Robertson lead for the first half of the race, but made a decisive break at the 25km mark and finished strongly, running the last 17km on her own.
Gaby O'Rourke came through strongly to finish second, while Robertson, running her second marathon in two weeks, faded to third.
Costley and defending champion Dale Warrander were part of the lead pack for the first half of the race, before Warrander began to struggle.
Going for his sixth Rotorua title, Warrander dropped behind and eventually pulled out injured. That left the door open for Costley and McWhirter who pulled away from the pack, battling it out into a headwind into the city.
"A couple of times I tried to break away from him but he's a tough nut and he stayed there," said Costley.
"It was only with three kilometres to go, slowly and surely I started to edge away."
McWhirter was "chuffed" with the result, despite coming so close to a historic victory.
"With three kilometres to go he [Costley] put a little gap on me and I just couldn't get the legs ticking over," he said. "But it was nice to run with those experienced guys, sitting behind them, just saving it all up."
- The Nelson Mail