There are top titles up for grabs at Sunday's 10th Peak Trail Blazer event over the Te Mata Peak terrain as some reigning champions are unable to return to defend them.
Race Director Jo Throp said she had learned that several champions were not able to come back, including the reigning Te Awanga Estate King of the Peak, Niam Macdonald, who competed in last weekend's World Mountain Running Championships in Patagonia.
"Niam tried so hard to make it work, he was very keen to get back and defend, but in the end his flight was going to get him in to Napier only 40 minutes before the Peak Trail Blazer kicked off," Throp said.
"It just wasn't going to work — but that throws the field wide open which will make for an exciting battle up on the peak, especially with $500 prize money on the line."
Reigning Hawke's Bay Orthodontics Queen of the Peak Julia Anderson is making the trip up from Nelson and Throp says she was aware of a couple of other previous Queens heading this way for race day.
Another returning to defend his title is Napier's Eric Phimister, who last year won the inaugural Master Blazer category.
"There's certainly a lot of talk and good banter out there, but historically they like to keep it pretty close to their chests, sometimes only entering on the day, so it's always exciting to see just who turns up at the start line."
Also up for grabs is the boys and girls Up and Coming (quickest under 18 year olds on Te Mata Peak), with locals Ronan Lee and Zoe Elliott not defending this year.
"Ronan is too old to defend and Zoe had a competition meet in the weekend and will be taking part in a team to rest her legs a little."
Both categories have prizes of $150 each on the line thanks to Go Healthy.
A new Prince and Princess of Tainui will also be crowned on Sunday.
"It's almost a clean slate all round," Throp said.
Last year the Peak Trail Blazer drew around 700 competitors and Throp said entries for Sunday's event which kicks off at 8am had been "coming in thick and fast" with the 3.5km Tainui Trail selling out in record time.
The 12.8km Te Mata Peak Trail will not be capped and will remain open up until 30 minutes before the walkers and runners take off early on Sunday morning.
While this year's entrants predominantly come from Hawke's Bay-wide, others are travelling from as far afield as Auckland, Whanganui, Levin and Wellington.