Rotorua's Sue Crowley overcame tired legs and wet conditions to win her first Tarawera Trail Marathon and 50km women's premier event in Rotorua.

Crowley crossed over Saturday's Hot Water Beach 50km finish line in a time of 5h 00m 23s battling through wet weather conditions to beat second placed Kym Skerman from Bulls by over 26 minutes. Auckland's Ruby Morgan finished in third.

Crowley said she was disappointed in not breaking the five-hour barrier with the addition of two new hill sections on the course made it tough-going.

"There were amazing views up there, I could've just done without those hills," Crowley says.

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"It would have been nice to run faster but last year after the buried village I had cramp in my legs and I walked most of it so I was a bit nervous about that and I was very careful early on.

"Also I found I was running by myself for quite a while. For a while I was thinking - is there anyone out there?"

Local Sue Crowley celebrates her win with Tarawera Trail Marathon & 50km event organisers Paul Charteris (right) and Tim Day (left). Photo/ Ben Fraser.
Local Sue Crowley celebrates her win with Tarawera Trail Marathon & 50km event organisers Paul Charteris (right) and Tim Day (left). Photo/ Ben Fraser.

Crowley now has her sights set on the Tarawera Ultra 100km event in February, in Rotorua.

"This event has scared me into more training," she said.

"My aim is I would like to be running the whole way but it's a very long way. I'm going to do a lot more training if I'm going to do that."

Meanwhile in the men's category Lithuania's Andrius Ramonas, currently studying in Auckland, won his second main feature title in a time of 4h 15m 07s - five minutes ahead of second-placed Rhys Johnston of Auckland. Tauranga's Chris Morrissey finished in third.

Ramonas won the inaugural event in 2014, but was ruled out of last year's race with injury.

Ramonas said the 50km meant a lot to him and was the first trail run event he'd raced in New Zealand when he arrived two years ago.

"It was beautiful. I really forgot how cool it was running in this area," Ramonas says.

While his time was over 15 minutes slower than the record he set two years ago, Ramonas said he was happy with the result in the persistent rain and wet.

He was pushed for the first 20kms by Tauranga marathon specialist Craig Kirkwood.

"Craig is an amazing road runner but this is much more technical terrain so there was a trade off and it was like a game," he said. "I know my strengths on technical terrain and I felt I was better. On each technical bit I pushed and started leaving him behind."

Read more:
Spectacular start for Tarawera Trail runners (+video)

In the men's marathon Tauranga's Bevan Jefferies took home the crown in a time of 3h 45m 17s with Lower Hutt's Geoff Ferry in second and Auckland's Matthew Mclaren in third.

Tauranga's Bevan Jefferies took home the In the men's marathon crown on Saturday. PHOTO/BEN FRASER.
Tauranga's Bevan Jefferies took home the In the men's marathon crown on Saturday. PHOTO/BEN FRASER.

Jefferies, who dominated his field from the off said he was "a little surprised" with his "comfortable win".

"I saw the start list and I knew there would be some guys there or there abouts," he said.

"I was certainly running for a podium but I was surprised I had it all my way really. Someone was with me until the 17km mark. I put a little kick in to 20km, he disappeared.

"Fortunately I got to cruise home and controlled my cramping. For me this course was better for actually trail runners and slowed down the marathon experts."

And in the women's marathon field Auckland's Katrin Gottschalk won the title in a time of 4h 40m 57s with fellow Aucklander Kelly McFadzien in second and Emma Bassett in third.

Roughly 1500 runners and walkers competed in Saturday's event, in it's third year. and for the first time also offered shorter 16km and 23km distances for the Tikitapu Trail Run.

The start line of the Tarawera Trail Marathon and 50km event start at Te Puia. Photo/Ben Fraser.
The start line of the Tarawera Trail Marathon and 50km event start at Te Puia. Photo/Ben Fraser.

All participants were treated to a spectacular send off in the mist from Te Puia's Pohutu geyser start line - including a special haka performed by kapa haka group Mauri Oho and inspirational speeches from deputy mayor Dave Donaldson plus event organisers Paul Charteris and Tim Day.

In a fitting start to one of New Zealand's most scenic and culturally rich races there was also a touching and emotional song played in memory of much-loved trail runner Steven Bruce Neary, 47, who died in a fatal car crash in rural south Auckland this week.


2016 Tarawera Trail Marathon and 50km results:
50km: Men: 1. Andrius Ramonas: 04h 15m 07s , 2. Rhys Johnston: 04h 20m 24s, 3. Chris Morrissey: 04h 24m 30s. Women: 1. Sue Crowley: 05h 00m 23s, 2. Kym Skerman: 05h 27m 16s, 3. Ruby Morgan 05h 30m 48s.

42km (Marathon): Men: 1. Bevan Jefferies: 03h 54m 17s, 2. Geoff Ferry: 04h 09m 09s, 3. Matthew Mclaren: 04h 18m 28s. Women: 1. Katrin Gottschalk: 04h 40m 57s, 2. Kelly McFadzien: 04h 42m 26s, 3. Emma Bassett: 04h 49m 45s.