Tauranga's Craig Kirkwood is rightly regarded as one of the foremost athletic coaches in New Zealand.

But he proved he is far from finished as a competitive runner by winning the 12th Tauranga Half Marathon on Sunday morning.

Kirkwood was never troubled throughout the 21km race held in glorious conditions, finishing in a time of 1h 14m 20s with one of his athletes in course record-holder Kyle MacDonald second (1:15:58) and Lance Brew third home (1:17:09).

The victory was a pleasing result for Kirkwood who is coming to the end of a challenge he set himself of running every day for 1000 consecutive days.


Tauranga Half Marathon was day 830 and it was a simple race plan that worked for him.

"I just wanted to get away from Kyle as quickly as possible and just run at my own tempo really. I ran quite hard for the first 5k and then just settled in and I just cruised from there," Kirkwood said.

"The [World] Masters Games is in two weeks so I am having a crack at that [half marathon] and will see what the old boys can do."

Kirkwood rates the Tauranga Half Marathon as one of his favourite events.

"It is just a fantastic race. It is our backyard so I just love running on that terrain into Memorial Park and do a loop in there and back to Fergusson Park. It is just beautiful all the way."

He admits combining his own training with mentoring the athletes he coaches at CK Coaching is a juggling act.

"I have a great stable of athletes at all levels with some really good high-performing athletes that are doing really well nationally and internationally. I have the flexibility to get out during the day and do my own training and I do a lot of running with my clients so it works all right."

Women's winner Jesse Ruthe broke her own course record set in 2014 with a new time of 1:17:09, despite not being pushed at any stage of the race.

"It was a faster course today," she said. "I was solo the whole way which is hard as you get older knowing you are not going to do any PBs.

"It is kind of hard to keep up that motivation but it is quite good for mental toughness. I give myself a challenge to run as hard as I can but if you have a real race you can always run harder."

Ruthe says her goal is to stay injury-free and just enjoy running every day.

But, unlike Kirkwood, she will not be on the starting line in Auckland later this month.

"I am not doing Masters Games. I just can't get my head around being that old, even if I am, so I think I will leave it for a while," she joked to the crowd after her win.

The half marathon was the feature race of yesterday's event with large numbers taking part in the 5km, 10km and 15km runs.

Results: www.taurangahalfmarathon.co.nz