Vajin Armstrong, 32, from Christchurch has won the 2012 ASICS Kepler Challenge today in a time of 4.55.24 on the challenging 60km mountain terrain course on a cool, windy day.
Beating an extended field of 480 runners, Armstrong led from the Forest Burn shelter, overtaking Martin Cox after the Luxmore Hut. Cox from Leicester, England, was first up the hill, in 1.07.04, winning the King of the Mountain title this year.
In second place, Tony Fattorini from New South Wales, Australia also broke the 5 hour barrier. Fattorini has continued to improve his placings since his first challenge in 2008.
Martin Lukes, 41, competing in his 11th challenge was placed third. He was second in 2010 and 2011. Lukes from Christchurch was pleased for Armstrong and Fattorini breaking their five hour goal. Lukes found the conditions cold and windy over the tops.
Armstrong was thrilled to achieve his goal of completing the ASICS Kepler Challenge in under 5 hours. Armstrong enjoyed the run and stayed relaxed throughout the race. He said he ran a perfect race, meeting all his split times along the way.
Asked about what makes this race special for him, he said he enjoyed the company at the beginning of the race, running with Cox, and taking in the amazing scenery along the track.
In second place, Tony Fattorini, was also excited to achieve his aim of beating five hours. He knew he wasn't gaining on Armstrong, but you never know what might happen on the ASICS Kepler Challenge, so he kept on going.
Fattorini's mother competed in the Luxmore Grunt as a gesture of support for her son.
Martin Lukes, 3rd in 5.02.56, found the track conditions dry underfoot. He maintained his third position from the Hanging Valley Shelter through to the finish.
The winning woman was Ruby Muir from Napier. Muir was the first woman in the Great Kauri run this year, coming second overall to Vajin Armstrong. Muir was only 20 minutes behind Armstrong in this event.
In the 2012 ASICS Kepler Challenge, Muir, 21, led from the Hanging Valley Shelter. She completed the challenge in the second fastest time ever in 5.37.55. Muir, who arrived at the finish line with bloodied knees, fell at Rocky Point. Muir was a late entry into this event having made a rapid recovery from surgery in July.
In second place was Victoria Beck in 6.02.31. Beck won this event last year and also the Mototapu off-road marathon earlier in the year.
Shireen Crumpton, 3rd, is back among the leaders after pulling out with an injury during last year's race. Crumpton holds the race record for the women's Luxmore Grunt and won the ASICS Kepler Challenge in 2010. She maintained her third position throughout the race.
A highlight of the day was seeing Russell Hurring, 58, cross the finish line in his 11th challenge on his birthday. Russell only returned to this event to commemorate the 25th running of the ASICS Kepler Challenge.
Steve Norris, chairman of the Kepler Challenge Organising Committee, said, "It's been a brilliant day, partly due to the dry conditions of the track, which has been so well maintained by the Department of Conservation. The event also wouldn't be possible without the enormous hard work of the more than 200 local volunteers, and the sponsors.
ASICS Kepler Challenge Results
* Vajin Armstrong (Christchurch) 4.55.24
* Tony Fattorini (New South Wales) 4.59.29 Martin Lukes (Christchurch) 5.02.26
* Ruby Muir (Napier) 5.37.55
* Victoria Beck (Dunedin) 6.02.31
* Shireen Crumpton (Dunedin) 6.07.41
On the same day, the Luxmore Grunt, took place, a 27km sister race over the first part of the Kepler Challenge, up to the Luxmore Hut from the Lake Te Anau control gates and back along the same route.
The male event winner was Stuart Doyle, 46, from Canberra, Australia who won in a time of 2.08.25, slightly slower than his winning time last year. He said, "I found the race harder this year, possibly due the windy conditions up on the top of Mount Luxmore."
Second place went to Richard Ford from Otautau in 2.12.55. Ford improved on his 3rd place last year. Sixteen year-old Joel Fletcher from James Hargest College in Invercargill, youngest competitor in this event, was placed third.
Female winner was Jackie Gee from Christchurch. She ran the Luxmore Grunt after initially entering in the 2012 Kepler Challenge. Second was Melissa Clarke, 29, from Australia. This was her first experience in the Luxmore Grunt. Sadie Cranston came in third.
Luxmore Grunt Results
* Stuart Doyle (Canberra) 2.08.25
* Richard Ford (Otautau) 2.12.55
* Joel Fletcher (Invercargill) 2.18.51
* Jackie Gee (Christchurch) 2.33.11
* Melissa Clarke (Australia) 2.36.51
* Sadie Cranston (Adelaide) 2.39.14