Auckland's main waterfront road became one big people's park yesterday morning as 70,000 runners and walkers took part in the 40th annual Round the Bays run.

Starting from Quay St, after a countdown by Prime Minister John Key, the procession streamed slowly along Tamaki Drive towards St Heliers Bay, 8.4km away.

While serious athletes raced ahead to finish inside 30 minutes, the rest slogged determinedly onwards in a stiff headwind, some carrying shoes because of blisters on their heels, some dressed up as butterflies or chickens or, in one case, carrying a boat with a rubber killer whale on board.

For an extended family of 18 from Mangere, the event was the focus for weeks of a team effort to try to get fit.


"We are trying to get our family more fit ... everyone is on a health buzz at the moment for a change," said Faiai Sika, 30.

"We probably finished about 5000th but we made it."

The family's efforts were prompted after a relative was diagnosed with diabetes.

A young Balmoral mother with her toddler in a pushchair said she had been in the event twice previously, but as a fit student.

"I'm here because I liked it and I haven't done it in 10 years."

First-time walkers were Rosehill College students Tyler Tarawa and Rita Lee Letele, who were sponsored for their run to raise money for their kapa haka group's trip to Hawaii.

"We did run a little bit at the start but we didn't train," said Rita, of Papakura.

The breeze was warm and St John Ambulance staff were busy treating sufferers of heat exhaustion.

A popular reviver was a walk-in mist spray chamber, rigged up in the park at St Heliers.

One grateful user was Sam Shallard, of Herne Bay, who finished the race in 33 minutes, despite the handicap of wearing a full-length body suit.

"It was extremely hot," he said.

His run for Owens Transport won a $4000 wager between his company's team and another from Mainfreight.

The race was won by Jono Jackson, of Auckland City Athletics Club, who led from Kohimarama Beach to finish in 27m 02s, 12 seconds ahead of Tony Payne of Dunedin.

Presenting the prizes, Athletics Auckland president Murray McKinnon noted it was a case of third time lucky for Jackson.

After coming second in two of the events, he kept trying, because of the prestige of being able to say he had won Round the Bays Auckland.

Mr Mckinnon praised the outstanding run by the first woman home, Lisa Robertson. He said her time of 29m 19s could be the fastest time set by a woman in the event.

The 28-year-old professional jockey also won the Auckland Marathon in October at her first attempt, in record time. She will race in Japan to try to qualify for the Olympic marathon.

In second place was Nikki Hill in 34m 14s.