Athletics: Elite mix with weekend warriors at marathon

By Kris Shannon

Competitors, during the Auckland Half and Full Marathon, Auckland, on Sunday morning. 03 November 2013 New Zealand Herald photograph by Brett Phibbs.
Competitors, during the Auckland Half and Full Marathon, Auckland, on Sunday morning. 03 November 2013 New Zealand Herald photograph by Brett Phibbs.

Long before winners Sam Wreford and Kirsten Molloy arrived, the scene at the finish line of today's Auckland Marathon resembled a campground early on New Year's Day.

Bodies were strewn about Victoria Park in various states of health, sports drinks were being cradled in attempts of revival, while a sausage sizzle was fired up for anyone who could contemplate food.

But instead of feelings of uncertainty and regret about what had transpired the night before, there was a palpable sense of triumph in the air following the morning's events.

It was especially true of the victors but most seemed more than satisfied once they gulped down a Powerade and devoured a banana or three from the bountiful supply.

Almost 17,000 took part across all events, forming a steady procession across the Harbour Bridge after setting out from Devonport. Some were as young as seven, others found time for a hug after spotting a familiar face among the well-wishers lining the streets.

Wreford, unsurprisingly, was unable to indulge in such gestures. The Timaru runner crossed the line in a time of 2:18:57, finishing a minute outside of the course record set by Dale Warrander in 2006.

After placing second to Warrander in his only previous attempt at the Auckland Marathon, Wreford made the most of the four-time champion's absence, leading throughout as he cut a swathe through a course clogged with brightly-clad weekend warriors.

The victory capped a memorable stretch for Wreford, who in the last 18 months has won marathons in Christchurch, Rotorua and Invercargill. The 30-year-old was intent on celebrating his win before eyeing a potential place at next year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

"Hopefully we'll have a crack, I'll line up a marathon somewhere (to attempt to qualify),'' he said. ``Today was a stepping stone - we'll go from there and just enjoy it.''

Molloy also had a day to savour in the women's field, running as part of a lead bunch for much of the race before breaking away with 8km left to win by almost two minutes.

The Australian was another whose previous best finish was runner-up, going one better today by out-pacing Wellington's Angela Leck to cross in a time of 2:52:24.

"I'm rapt with the win,'' said Molloy, who somewhat modestly described herself as a part-time runner. ``It was a hard race because there were four of us girls running nearly the whole way together.

"I took the girls with maybe 6 to 8 kilometres to go, which may have been a little too early, but it paid off. I feel amazing - you can't win marathons every day, so it's fantastic.''

With kids' events, 5km runs, half and quarter marathons supplementing the main event, there were plenty of tired limbs to occupy the troupe of masseuses in a tent at Victoria Park.

Others declined the rub-down in favour of a different, but equally effective, form of recovery - a spot in a deck chair and a well-earned beer.

- APNZ

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