There was a spirit of the great race bringing two cities together last night as twin-city mayors Bill Dalton and Lawrence Yule joined in welcoming runners for the Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay International Marathon.
The welcome took place at a small function for sponsors and others associated with the event, which will close several roads in Napier and the Hastings District today as up to 5000 pairs of feet pound the pavements in search of historic inaugural event triumph.
The overall event comprises a series of races stretching from 3km to the Olympic marathon distance of 42.195km, or 26 miles and 385 yards.
The function was held at The Dome, overlooking Napier's Marine Parade, on which the marathon will start at 8.15am between the intersections with Edwardes and Sale streets.
It will be about 10.30am when the first runner crosses the finish line at Sileni Estates Winery, off Maraekakaho Rd, between Longlands and State Highway 50, west of Hastings.
A 10km race is also being held around the Gimblett Gravels vineyards district starting at 7.45am, and a half-marathon starts at 8am at Pakowhai Regional Park, beside the Ngaruroro River just north of Hastings, and a 3km children's run will be held at the winery, starting at midday.
At a function addressed by both mayors, the twin-city spirit and the contribution of those at the top was applauded by event manager Dave Beeche, the former Triathlon NZ CEO who was also director of the FIFA Under 20 World Cup soccer tournament in New Zealand last year.
"To have leadership like that is really what make cities great, and that's what will distinguish Hawke's Bay from other cities," he said, amid comment on the promotion and organisation which has seen entries easily surpass expectations.
"It's what makes it such a pleasure to work in," he said.
"We deliver events all around New Zealand, and now all around Australia. This has been an absolute pleasure to work in, in terms of getting stuff done."
He said there were many places where it was "not easy getting stuff done", but Hawke's Bay had excelled with its attention to detail including beautifying of the course and graffiti, the local body involvement and the partnerships with the race and sponsors.
One thing he appreciated the powers that be could not manage was the weather, and with an overnight forecast of winds up to 120km/h south of Hastings, Mr Beeche was anticipating some "organisational challenges" but expected a brilliantly fine day.