At a cursory glance the times athletes posted were relatively smart but something else stuck out like wobbly legs at the Hawke's Bay International Marathon at the weekend.

It's the collective intelligence quotient that reached the podium of the annual Air New Zealand-sponsored event in Hastings, never mind how many crossed the finish line in myriad categories allocated on distances and ages.

To give readers a snapshot: the marquee 42.2km full marathon gave glimpses of those who may have been brain boxes either from school or later through universities and other tertiary institutions.

The women's winner, Marisa Ruhter, 34, of the American state of Idaho, but working in Auckland, is a Boeing aerospace mechanical engineer, who clocked 03h 4m 11s;
Michelle Law was 12m 41s behind Ruhter as runner-up in 3:16:52, in her maiden marathon.


The 45-year-old England-born runner, who worked in the Bay once and has been based in Wellington for the past 15 years, is a paediatrician.

Third-placed Wing Hay Heidi Yu, 26, of Hong Kong, who was third (3:17:38), is an anaesthetist. She was in her maiden outing too after her colleague Harry Yu encouraged her to graduate from half-marathons.

Harry Yu, 35, who's also from Hong Kong, is a surgeon who finished 38th (32nd male) overall among 256 finishers in 3:31:12.

Among the male winners, William O'Connor, of Hastings, is a sports scientist completing his doctorate in Palmerston North.

The 28-year-old, who clocked 2:45:55, was 18m 43s behind champion Samuel Wreford, of Timaru.

A cross-section of other categories may reveal more competitors who belong to exclusive scholastic backgrounds but it does ask the question: "Does a heavy academic course in life lead one to prove one's worth on an unforgiving but liberating physically and emotionally draining course?"

Law agrees people have to have a touch of lunacy to delve into marathons.

"I have a lot of friends who are saying, 'Why are you doing it?'. I asked myself that today halfway round," the engineer said with a laugh.

She said it was a good challenge because she was partial to an outdoors-type of lifestyle. Coming from a sporty family, she had been running shorter distances.

"My little boy said I could definitely come in the top 10 so he had faith in me," she said of 8-year-old Jamie, whose brother Sam, 9, and their father, Graham Law, all gave her positive reinforcement before the start of her maiden marathon along Marine Pde, Napier, from 9am on Saturday.

"They said you can do it and my husband said around 3:15 and I said no way but he wasn't far off," said a smiling Law, who said she felt "second isn't too bad".

She is sold on the Bay event and hopes to return next year.

"Oh definitely. It was great along the way. Lots of people turned out to cheer us and that did really help so it was really nice," she said.

Last year's male champion, James Parsons, a general practitioner who has moved from Hastings hospital to Wellington, didn't defend his crown because he wants to compete on a faster Gold Coast course in July, akin to Wreford, but is in awe of Saturday's winner.

The 30-year-old, who found the Bay course tough, believes people of that calibre enjoy investing time and effort to "give it 110 per cent to get up there".

"I think the marathon calls for an obsessive, compulsive mind," says Parsons of runners who focus on crunching numbers in the daily build up to the physical and emotional crescendo at the finish line.

Those compulsive traits would help the mindset of "just go and do it day after day".

"You know, any sort of endurance events will require time and investment," said Parsons.

O'Connor, who labelled Wreford a "top dog" the second he spotted him on the starting line, was himself there as a guinea pig for his run/walk experiment.

The former St John's College student, who has thousands of followers tracking his "Can I Run-Walk a Sub 2:40 Marathon?" project, posted on his business website Performance Advantage, was happy to endorse his theory - especially on the Bay course, which was altered at some flooded stretches due to two days of persistent rain.

Although it didn't rain on Saturday, head winds tested runners' fortitude.

In his first walk interval, O'Connor assured clapping fans he was fine as a member of the leading bunch before championing the value of recuperating from walks for more legs in the last 10km.

The initial stage was sheltered but head winds kicked in, undulating terrain gave way to gradual climbs along the route and gravel/dirt greeted the final stage.

Asked how he would celebrate, O'Connor said: "Chill out".

"I've got a wedding coming up so I've got to win for money," he said, putting his arm around his fiancee, Emma Crum, of Palmerston North, at the finish line.

The prizemoney here, he said with a grin as Crum nodded in agreement, would go towards paying for the wedding photographer.


■ 42.2km marathon walkers, men: 1 Joff Hulbert, 5:07:26; 2 Simon Law, 5:59:35; 3 Stephen Houltham, 6:28:22.
Women: 1 Christine Maxwell, 5:27:41; 2 Madeleine Howard, 5:59:36.

Half marathon, men: 1 Chris Sanson, Manawatu, 1:12:14; 2 Dan Wallis, UK-based Kiwi (Napier), 1:12:29; 3 Ryan McAlister, Blenheim, 1:14:50.
Women: 1 Laura Nagel, Napier, 1:21:09; 2 Hillory Wallis, Australia, 1:25:44; 3 Grace Ritchie, Hamilton, 1:26:35.

Walkers, men: 1 Derren Hutchinson, 2:26:45; 2 Rand Huso, 2:50:06; 3 Peter Semmens, 2:54:25.
Women: 1 Robyn Wolfsbauer, 2:36:08; 2= Jules Benton, 2:43:11; 2= Bridget Jakicevich, 2:43:11.

10km race, men: 1 Aaron Jackson, Auckland, 35:51; 2 Cameron Keast, UK (Bay of Plenty), 37:40; 3 Mathijs Wetzels, Hamilton, 38:10.
Women: 1 Amber Morrison, Havelock North, 41:18; 2 Anna Kean, Wellington, 41:27; 3 Maggie Pedersen, Napier, 42:43.

Walkers, men: 1 Craig Thompson, 1:23:30; 2 Brendan Jackson, 1:27:06; 3 Ross Cammick, 1:28:20.
Women: 1 Tamsin Brown, 1:01:10; 2 Patricia Martin, 1:08:17; 3 Lizzie Dickson, 1:17:01.