For a large chunk of yesterday's Tauranga Half Marathon it looked likely there would be a rare victory by a female athlete over the men's field.
But a late race surge from Tauranga local Regan Bones put paid to that as he sprinted home in idyllic conditions along the Matua foreshore to win ahead of Cambridge-based doctor Alice Mason.
"I was trailing her by about 150m and at about the 15km mark just starting pushing it and slowly got a gap but it was hard. She is amazing," Bones said.
He grew up running around Fergusson Park so was completely at home with the course.
He finished in a smart time of 1h 15m 43s with Mason's time of 1:16:37 breaking the record for the fastest women's time by 35 seconds.
Bones came to the event in good form after last month winning the Copthorne Rotorua Off Road Half Marathon in a quality field.
"I have trained here pretty much all my life so love it. It is sort of the home track I guess.
"This is a lot faster course and obviously, the conditions were perfect. It was awesome out there," he said.
"I went out feeling pretty hopeful and have come off a lot of racing so have not done a lot of training in the last month."
Bones is full of praise for the way the Tauranga Half Marathon course is set up.
"It is definitely the ability of the support crew to get in and help you out and just have your back really. There were lots of locals about. The course was fairly flat but with a few nice little hills in there to keep your legs guessing."
Mason last year won the New Zealand Marathon title in Wellington and last month the Huntly Half marathon. She was thrilled to win in Tauranga in preparation for the Rotorua Half Marathon on May 5.
"Yeah, it was good out there, beautiful conditions. I am a junior doctor at (Waikato) hospital so have to fit my training in around the long hours before and after work," she said.
The event was a New Zealand first in allowing competitors across all the races covering 5km, 10km, 15km and the 21.1km half marathon to pay what they want to enter.
Race organiser Luke Garea came up with the bold strategy to encourage more participation and it worked. Numbers were up to 1400 across the various race divisions — an increase of 200 from the previous high.
"It was absolutely successful. We have seen our biggest entries into the event that has been going 13 years and just a really great reception from the entrants and a really good feeling at the event," Garea said.
"It worked really well to boost numbers and to get people talking about the event. The key thing for us was getting more people at the event and giving us a better chance next year to grow even more."
Results: Running and walking, www.taurangahalfmarathon.co.nz