Aucklander Stephen Lett left a 2500-strong field in his wake to win the Kerikeri Half Marathon for the second year in a row - but the overall winner of Sport Northland's run/walk series was a Whangarei schoolboy contesting his first half-marathon.
Lett finished Saturday's 21.1km run from Okaihau to Kerikeri Domain in 1h 10m 08s, a minute and half clear of his closest rival, Sam Dobson, and four minutes ahead of third-placed Luke Longdill.
Lett's time was two minutes slower than in 2011 and five minutes shy of the long-standing record of 1h 05m 14s set by Seaton Meredith in 1999.
The 28-year-old physiotherapist from Takapuna said the run felt harder than last year, which he put down to humid conditions. The seven-time contestant said he would be back next year to try for a hat trick.
Lett preferred the Kerikeri run to the overcrowded Auckland marathon, saying he enjoyed the country scenery, point-to-point route and ''good home town support''.
The first Northlander across the line was a schoolboy running his first formal half-marathon, 17-year-old Harry Linford from Whangarei's Whau Valley.
Linford was stoked with his 6th placing and time of 1h 17m 50s, especially as he was up against professional runners from around New Zealand.
Saturday's result means the Hatea Harriers member and Year 12 student at Pompallier Catholic College is the overall winner of the Sport Northland Run/Walk series. Linford had earlier won the Whangarei Beach 2 Basin, Baylys 2 Dargaville, Mangawhai Heads 2 Hub and Paihia runs.
The first female runner home was Melissa Norris of Auckland's Takapuna Harriers in a time of 1h 22m 58s.
''I love it. It's a beautiful course with undulating terrain and a real community feel,'' Norris said.
One of the more unusual sights in this year's event was Aucklander Lee Warn contesting the racing chair event in a gorilla suit. Any runners feeling hot and sticky got a boost from seeing someone competing in a gorilla suit, he said.
''I'm not going to lie, it was bloody hot in there, but it's fun and it motivates the others. If I wanted to come first I'd be wearing lycra, but where's the fun in that?''
Warn said he loved the Kerikeri event for its smooth organisation, ''bloody beautiful course'' and weather that had never let him down. Saturday's rain held off until just after the 1pm prizegiving.
This year's Fullers GreatSights Kerikeri Half Marathon sold out ten days ahead of the event with a record 2500 entries including 550 from the Far North, 500 from the Whangarei District, several Australians and one German. Just under half the runners came up from Auckland.
Founded by the Kerikeri Striders 23 years ago, it is one of the country's few half-marathon-only events. The 2010 winner, Wayne Guest of Matamata, planned to challenge Lett but had to pull out due to illness.
Run (M): 1 Stephen Lett (Auckland) 1:10:08; 2 Sam Dobson (Auckland) 1:11:37; 3 Luke Longdill (Auckland) 1:14:08.
Run (F): 1 Melissa Norris (Auckland) 1:22:58; 2 Hinano Sefesi (Wellington) 1:25:10; Rachel Bowie (Auckland) 1:26:31.
Competitive walk (M): 1 Alan Connelley (Whangarei) 2:13:16; 2 John Wesseling (Auckland) 2:15:34; Dave Strong (Ashburton) 2:23:03.
Competitive walk (F): 1 Nic Quilty (Auckland) 2:27:50; Kathy Schluter (Coopers Beach) 2:28:38; Jo Allan 2:30:27.
Wheelchair (M): 1 Brandon Stratton (Auckland) 0:40:17; 2 Lee Warn (Auckland) 1:21:32. Note: As the other competitors in the wheelchair class used hand-cycle chairs, first place awarded to Lee Warn.
Wheelchair (F): 1 Tiffiney Perry (Hamilton) 00:51:41.
Clydesdales: 90-95kg Neil Walker (Kerikeri) 1:34:29; 95.1-100kg James Heneghan (Auckland) 1:46:51; 100.1kg+ Dave Twaddle (Whangarei) 1:37:36.
Fillies: 60-65kg DJ Gillming (Whangarei) 1:46:57; 65.1-70kg Elizabeth Fell (Auckland) 1:55:37; 70.1kg+ Catherine Semenoff-Murray (Kaitaia) 1:39:27.
Corporate team: 1 Fullers GreatSights guns; 2 NorthTec.