Runaway leader claims marathon

Sam Wreford's stellar 2012 season continued yesterday, with the Timaru long-distance runner adding victory in the Southland Marathon to his list of achievements.

The 29-year-old has been in exceptional form this year, winning the Christchurch Marathon in June, and also taking out the national cross-country title.

Wreford was untroubled on his way to winning the Southland Marathon, breaking away from the rest of the pack after just 100m, and being the runaway leader for the rest of the 42.2km journey from Riverton to the finish line at Surrey Park.

Wreford won in a personal best time of 2hr 16min 35sec, which was an exceptional effort, considering he was running into a headwind for most of the way.

He finished well clear of second-placed Romain Mirosa in 2hr 44min 53sec, and Simon Richardson, who placed third in 2hr 55min 55 sec.

It was the third quickest time in the history of the Southland Marathon, with only John Campbell's record time of 2hr 12min 12sec and Paul Herlihy's 2hr 15min 58sec being better.

Wreford had never competed in the Southland Marathon before and said he was delighted to finish in such a strong time.

He was aiming for a time of about the 2hr 14min mark, but said the blustery winds were always going to make that difficult.

"For the first 21km, I was getting the crosswind coming into my front right shoulder and it turned into a headwind.

"I had a tailwind the last couple of kilometres.

"You've got to take what the conditions give you."

Wreford is coached by 1960 Olympic Games marathon bronze medallist Barry Magee, and hopes to compete in the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

He spent six months in Kenya last year to train at high altitude.

"In terms of marathon running, I don't believe I'm close to reaching my peak. I see myself about six years from my peak."

Gore's Ricky Gutsell, who won five of the past six Southland Marathons, registered the third quickest overall time in 2hr 47min 25 sec to take out the men's masters section.

The women's marathon was won by Queenstown's Tracey Woodford in a time of 3hr 25min 43sec.

She triumphed in a close finish from Kerry Rowley, who was 38 seconds back.

Woodford completed her first marathon in Invercargill four years ago, and bettered that time by 28 minutes yesterday, which she was elated about.

"It's like fine wine. You get better with age," she laughed.

"It was a nice surprise [to win]. It was a bit of a training run for me. I didn't expect to go out and win it."

The Ascot Park Hotel-sponsored Festival of Running event attracted almost 600 competitors in five events, including the marathon, half marathon, McDermotts Coachlines 10k, The Southland Times 150 Years 5k and the SBS Bank Kids Mara-Fun-Run.

In the men's half marathon, Neale McLanachan was the fastest male home in 1hr 14min 10 sec, with Victoria Beck winning the female half marathon in 1hr 19min 41sec.

Jordan Rackham won the men's 10km run in a time of 36min 32sec, and Kirsty O'Sullivan won the women's event in 39min 29sec.

The Southland Times 150 Years men's 5k run was won by Oliver O'Sullivan in 20min 9sec, while Andrea McDowell was the fastest woman in 28min 4sec.