Dale Warrander showed his class as a marathon runner fighting back over the final 7km to beat an equally determined Sam Wreford in the Auckland marathon yesterday.
Despite having to make three uncharacteristic toilet stops along the way, Shireen Crumpton of Dunedin retained her women's title in a race record time of 2h 45m 51s beating previous record holder Ady Ngawati of Whangarei who was second in 2h 52m 12s.
After matching strides over the first half out of Devonport and across the harbour bridge at 2h 20m marathon pace, Warrander lost concentration and became frustrated at three consecutive feeding stations.
Along Quay St and the start of Tamaki Drive he was unable to find his particular water bottle among the number cluttered on the table.
At each of these stops Wreford from Timaru made a slight break and Warrander had to work his way back on to him.
Warrander's coach Chris Pilone came to the rescue through Okahu Bay and managed to find Warrander's fluid at the next feeding station handing it to his relieved runner.
At the turn at St Heliers for the run back into the City Wreford made a break building up a lead of 15 metres. However through Mission Bay Warrander was back in contact and passing the Parnell Baths the 2004 Athens Olympian with 4km remaining pressed hard and quickly surged into the lead.
Capturing a hat-trick of recent marathon victories Warrander crossed the finish alongside Victoria Park in 2h 19m 22s, 34 seconds ahead of Wreford.
The win also gave Warrander his third New Zealand marathon title.
The Gold Coast based runner said that he felt a bit flat at the start.
"I didn't feel great right from the start, my legs felt a little bit tired, I've been doing some big miles and maybe I didn't taper enough," he said.
"Sam put a lot of pressure on me, I take my hat off to him, he ran a gutsy race and there were a few moments there where I was panicking a little bit. I missed a few drink stations which really got me psychologically.
"I was able not to panic too much and claw my way back on to him. I back my pace at the end of a marathon and I got stronger in that last 5km," said Warrander.
The 37-year-old now has his sights set on a fast time in the Rotterdam Marathon next April where he hopes to qualify for the world championships next year in Korea.
Wreford was well satisfied with second placing.
"It's the first marathon I've actually had a full-on race with anyone - my first real battle head to head with someone, it's a good experience," said Wreford.
Phil Costley, after a conservative start, came through well over the second half to claim third in 2h 24m 26s. Scott Winton, the 2003 winner, was fourth in 2h 29m 40s with Japanese visitor Koji Tanaka from Tokyo running a personal best 2h 30m 3s for fifth.
Danielle Trevis set a women's half marathon race record of 1h 13m 8s beating Delhi Commonwealth Games double silver medallist Nikki Hamblin by just over three minutes. Matt Smith made it two years in a row in the men's half in 1h 6m 38s.By Murray McKinnon