Organisers are touting the success of yesterday's inaugural Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay International Marathon as just the start of what is to come for the region.

Close to 5000 competitors, with just over 900 in the marathon and the rest in supporting events, stepped up to the start line with thousands more spectators lining the course of what could soon become a must-do in the running calendar.

Marathon winners were James Parsons, 29, of Napier for the men's race and Leah Fitzgerald, 33, from New South Wales in the women.

Parsons crossed the line two minutes ahead of second place winner Chris Sanson, while in the women's, Ms Fitzgerald won by a margin of 13 minutes over Katherine Morgan.


The sun shone and temperatures peaked at 25C while runners made their way from Napier's Marine Parade, through vineyards and olive groves, fending off a northwesterly wind before ending up at Sileni Estates Winery in Hastings.

Parsons said his win was "an incredible feeling".

"I seriously didn't think I would even be able to race a week ago with a knee injury, and I think the fact that I was struggling so hard makes this even better that I made it through."

Fitzgerald said she was "very happy with the result".

"Pushing the wind was tough, but a good feeling to get the win. It was amazing out there and I will definitely be back to do it again."

Ironman Oceania, who delivered yesterday's event, was also responsible for the the Air New Zealand Queenstown Marathon which has quickly gained momentum as a favourite not to miss.

Managing director Dave Beeche said yesterday's run was "just the start in Hawke's Bay".
He extended his thanks to Air New Zealand, Hawke's Bay Tourism, volunteers, locals, stakeholders and sponsors who pitched in to make the happen.

"As with Queenstown we are seeing people sign up for events such as the Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay International Marathon for the challenge, yes, but primarily for the destination, the nature of the course and the quality of the experience, today has lived up to that billing."

Air New Zealand staff also laced up their shoes with 90 staff participating as well as cabin crew members offering support and serving refreshments.

Chief sales and commercial officer Cam Wallace said the airline was proud to get behind the event and to help attract and transport so many people to the event.

"A key objective of the Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay Marathon is to help showcase this beautiful region to the world and with more than 75 percent of entries coming from outside the area, the event is sure to give the local economy a boost during the quieter travel period."

A Rotorua woman said she enjoyed yesterday's event so much she was considering packing up and moving to the region.

Alison King swapped fast-food for running and yesterday completed her second marathon in just two weeks.

She said she enjoyed the scenery so much she now wants to move to the region.

"It's so beautiful. I just loved seeing all the different types of horticulture."

"Some of the orchardists were out supporting and it's great because you see that it's not just about the vineyards, it's about the produce too, it's made me want to move here."

Hawke's Bay Architect Nicholas Magdalinos completed the run after losing 27 kilograms.

He said just making the start line had changed his life, using the event as the motivator to start that process.

"I'm going to celebrate. It's been a pretty big achievement and I couldn't have done it without my training partner Brandon, he's been epic."

"It was fantastic to be running through Hawke's Bay on such a stunning day. What a testament to the region."