Nelson's Simon Leaning led from start to finish in winning Saturday's New World Marlborough Marathon.
The talented 39-year-old timber worker slashed more than six minutes off his previous best time to win impressively in 2hr 42min 36sec in what was his third attempt to win the race.
Christchurch's Chris Dunell was second in 2hr 49min 39sec and Blenheim's Brett Forgesson third in 2hr 53min 44sec. Nelson's Matt Newbury was fifth in 3hr 2min 49sec.
Leaning benefited from a big training schedule to go one better than his runner-up spot last year 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.
Leaning set the pace throughout and was delighted with his win.
"Having done this before I knew what to expect," he said.
"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."
Once again, the third edition of this increasingly popular event attracted a record number of about 1100 entries from Marlborough and many other parts of New Zealand, with 12 overseas countries represented as well.
Renwick's Annabelle Latz made sure the women's title stayed in home territory with an outstanding run, blitzing the field in the women's division in 3hr 25min 48sec. Latz headed off Palmerston North's Julia Stevenson, who clocked 3hr 33min 20sec, with 2010 winner Nicky Cameron Dunn, seven minutes further back in third.
Hometown 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 received a bottle of the sponsor's product.
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 1hr 17min 44sec. Marlborough-born but Christchurch-domiciled runner Nicola Handley produced a dominant performance to take out the women's half marathon category in 1hr 26min 30sec from Nelson's Susie Wood (1hr 32min 37sec) with Robyn Deane, also of Nelson, third in 1hr 35min 30sec.
Marlborough produced a double in the 10km run, Dale Smit winning the men's title in 38min 42sec with Willem Lampe second and Travis Haymes third. Paula Mossman won the women's title in 30min 4sec, Cushla Holdaway, from Ashburton, was second and Marilyn Horne, from Auckland, third.
Nelsonians dominated the half marathon walk, Ray Hutchinson winning the men's event in 2hr 37min 47sec and Lyn Smith and Ros D'Agnilli finishing first and second in the women's race. Smith clocked 2hr 25min 18sec, with D'Agnilli a further 13sec back.
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.
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