"A year older, a year wiser" was the battle cry as Mt Maunganui's King and Queen of the Mountain threw up two new winners on Boxing Day.
For Galatea dairy farmer Sjors Corporaal the judicious consumption of food and beverage on Christmas Day paid dividends as he trumped four-time champion Iain MacDonald in the grind to the summit of Mauao, missing the race record by a solitary second.
Rookie women's winner, 19-year-old Coromandel athlete Ruby Muir, ditched the running shoes and took on the summit barefoot, downing defending champion Helen Rountree (Hamilton), who had been pushing for her fourth win in six years, by more than a minute.
A record 163 runners lined up in the Vitasport-sponsored race, which dates back to 1946, eclipsing the previous best of 154 in 2007.
They rolled down on to the soft sand start in all states of dress. Several runners sported plaster casts on broken limbs and many (males) were bare-chested, some with straw hats and others adorned with bandanas.
There were denim shorts, running shorts and board shorts, with a sprinkling of well-known faces among the crowd, although it was mostly weekend warriors.
All had paid $22.50 for the pleasure of shaking off the over-indulgence of the previous day and getting to the summit of Mauao, an altitude of 231m.
The event doubled as the Waikato-Bay of Plenty mountain race championship.
Corporaal, fresh from winning The Goat trail run at Tongariro, where he broke his own record by more than 3min, took the race more seriously this year after being beaten into second by MacDonald last Boxing Day.
"After winning The Goat I kept up the training and tried not to let festivities get in the way.
"I ate more sensibly and had a quieter Christmas than it has been in the past.
"It wasn't easy to leave the bloody beers alone but I'll celebrate with a few tonight!"
It was a family day out for Corporaal, with 10-year-old son Kaya second in the boys' under-12 junior race and daughter Alie fourth in the 12-15 years girls' event.
Corporaal, who will tackle his first marathon next year in Rotorua, sat back and let MacDonald win a year ago, but this year he attacked on the ascent and cleared out on the way back down, winning by 32sec, a second outside Angus Bell's 2007 record of 18min and 45sec.
"Sjors is an animal on the downhill, and once you give him that sort of head start to the top it's game over," MacDonald said.
Muir also attacked on the uphill, with the well-performed junior putting almost 1min into Rountree by the time they had returned to the start-finish line near Moturiki Island.
She trains barefoot when the terrain is suitable and is coming off a bumper tail season in which she took second in the Toi's Challenge and won The Goat.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to run this but saw my name in the paper being talked about as a possible contender so I felt obliged to turn up and have a go," she said.