Despite running 21km on tired legs and an early fourth-placed spot, Auckland's Steve Darby was able to hang on to win Saturday night's We Run the Night.

He was unsure of how he was going to go given he had completed his regular 5km park run in Hamilton earlier in the day and he had only realised the day before that the course wasn't the flat one he had expected.

But, he figured he'd give it a go and see what happened - which ended up being a first-place finish.

"I was in fourth place early on. It was so warm so I was being cautious, that course was very challenging but I think I got the benefit of taking it easy early on," Darby said.

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"I took the lead towards the end of the third lap so that was a high point. The fourth lap I was just trying to hold on because it was so warm.

"It was a really good event though ... we had a really good atmosphere," Darby said.

Straight after the Mount Maunganui event, he headed home to Auckland to get ready for his third running event of the weekend - the Albany Lakes Summer Series' 10km run on Sunday morning.

He didn't have the best sleep but managed to complete the event in 40 minutes and 12 seconds, finishing in 10th place.

"It was a big effort this weekend," he said.

Darby said the We Run the Night event was good training run for New Zealand's most scenic athletic event the Buller Gorge Marathon, which he has entered in February and then the London Marathon at the end of April.

The 52-year-old, who is originally from the UK, said he tried to do the London Marathon every year. His first marathon was in 1985 and he has no plans of giving it up any time soon.

Darby was one of more than 1200 runners and walkers from around New Zealand who took on events held as part of the We Run the Night running festival on Saturday.

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The starting line of the 21km event at the We Run the Night running festival at Mount Maunganui. Photo / Ezra Newick
The starting line of the 21km event at the We Run the Night running festival at Mount Maunganui. Photo / Ezra Newick

In second place, behind Darby was Luke Williams, finishing in 1hour, 28 minutes and 52 seconds, followed by Nathan Toma in third, with a time of 1hour, 32 minutes and 3 seconds.

"It was great for spectators and just awesome having the event located in the CBD. I really enjoyed the whole event and the conditions were perfect," Williams said.

He said he completed the Tauranga Half last weekend at Mount Maunganui, using the training from that to help get him through Saturday's 21km.

The first female 21km runner home was Sonia McAllister, who finished in 1hr, 40 minutes and 5 seconds.

It was her first time running the event.

"The last two laps were better because it started to cool down. I run quite a bit, but it was the first time I've run an event at night and I preferred it."

The We Run The Night event was established in 2017, with run or walk options available to participants in distances including 21km, 11km, 5.5km and a 2.5km kids dash.

The event attracted spectators and created a family environment with a Barrett Homes kids chill out zone, Hopt Soda tasting, Tauranga Samba drummers performing in the Main Street and DJs playing from 3pm.

Event director Tim Farmer said the community groups that got involved with the event created a great festival feel.

"It was cool to bring something into the urban space and to see the local bars filled with participants after the event."

Results

Men's 21kms:

1st: Steve Darby, 1:27:51; 2nd: Luke Williams, 1:28:52; 3rd: Nathan Toma, 1:32:03.

Women's 21km:

1st: Sonia McAllister, 1:40:05; 2nd: Savannah Love, 1:44:02; 3rd: Brenda Poutawera, 1:47:32.