Wellington's Nick Horspool won an epic battle at the Rotorua Marathon on Saturday after fighting it out for almost the whole 42km distance around lake Rotorua with Tony Payne, Ciaran Faherty and Chris Sanson.
The women's title went to Liza Hunter-Galvan who got away from the other competitors after the 10km mark.
The early stages of the men's race saw Horspool, Payne, Faherty, Sanson and Stephen Lett, running together. Lett was the first to crack, falling off the pace around the 10km mark leaving the others to battle it out, sharing the lead until well into the race.
Sanson got a small break around the 37km point, but Horspool managed to get back on his shoulder and then forged ahead, going on to win in 2:27:39, 31 seconds ahead of Sanson, with Faherty claiming third place.
Payne faded to fourth and David Lovelock came through for fifth.
The win was 34 year old Horspool's first big marathon victory, surpassing his 2nd place at Auckland in 2014. It was also his first New Zealand title.
After Texas-based Hunter-Galvan got away from Mel Aitken, she had the running to herself in the women's race, although she ran into dehydration and cramping problems over the final stages, she had a big enough buffer to hold off a fast finishing Katie Wyrill from Auckland and Rotorua local Johanna Ottosson. It was former Olympian Hunter Galvan's first National title.
Early leader Aitken finished in fourth, just ahead of Klaartje van Schie.
Auckland YMCA, led by Faherty took out the men's teams race from Palmerston North and Lake City Rotorua, while the local Lake City club, led by Ottosson won the women's teams race.
Michael Voss and Alice Mason took out the half marathon victories, both improving from second placings last year. Voss ran a personal best of 66:21 for the win over Craig Kirkwood while Mason was also a clear winner over Candice Hammond, recording 78:31.
Over 5000 took part in the races at the 52nd Lion Foundation Rotorua Marathon this year in perfect conditions on the iconic course around Lake Rotorua.