She is a woman of few words but some may argue Marisa Ruhter doesn't have to wear out her laughing gear after races when her legs did all the talking today.

Ruhter, of Auckland, won the women's section of the 42.2km Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay International Marathon in a time of 03h 4m 11s, which was just shy of the ninth fastest male, Mathew McKay (3:02:15) but quicker than No 10 Vernon Preston (3:06:07).

The 34-year-old American aerospace mechanical engineer for Boeing, who arrived in Auckland to work more than two years ago, shaved about 16 minutes off her third-placed time last year of 3:20:03.

The scorching winning time of 3h 44s that Coffs Harbour athlete Leah Fitzgerald posted last year in just her second marathon stood although that year had a warmer, sunnier outlook for the 34-year-old Australian.


"The conditions were pretty tough today with a few long sections into the wind," said Ruhter, of Idaho, who had trained in windy conditions in the Big Smoke.

Despite the climatic fluctuations today, she gave the temperature a thumbs up.

Ruhter, who flirted with breaking the three-hour barrier (around 3:03) in the Auckland Marathon late last year, was simply happy with the effort she had put into her training "after a nice break".

Stretching and rehydrating in the refuelling tent at the finish line at the Sileni Estate Winery in the outskirts of the city, she said she hadn't given any thought to any other marathon on the calendar.

A former soccer player in her birth country, Ruhter was a competitive runner at high school but just don't ask her how many marathons she has clocked or whether she'll return to the Bay for No 3, understandably because recuperating and savouring today's accomplishment is paramount.

Michelle Law, of Wellington, was 12m 41s behind Ruhter as runner-up in 3:16:52, in her first marathon.

The 45-year-old paediatrician was the wedge between the other overseas podium place getter in the women's race, Wing Hay Heidi Yu, of Hong Kong, who finished third in 3:17:38, one minute 14 seconds behind Law.

"It [the weather] could have been better but coming from Wellington I can't complain," said Law, agreeing the long winds with a head straight made it a highway project.

A jovial Law, who used to live and work here about 15 years ago, said it certainly helped training in the capital city.

It also was a maiden marathon for Yu, an avid 10km runner in her country before graduating to half-marathons.

"I think 42.2km is my strongest distance," said the 26-year-old anaesthetist who was satisfied with her time after going for 3:20 when she lined up at Marine Parade, Napier, at 9am.

She was left threading her worry beads when it rained yesterday so she counted her blessings although hitting the wind wall for the most part of the route that took in Clive and Twyford wasn't something she was prepared for.

A runner since her high school days, the former middle-distance runner saw today as a key breakthrough for someone who is looking forward to a more 42.2km challenges.

Yu, who accepted the invitation of friend and surgeon Harry Yu to travel and compete here, was still waiting for her 35-year-old male marathoner to cross the line during the interview.

"It's my very first time to visit New Zealand so I had heard it is a great place with nice scenery so I'm actually quite excited to visit here," she said, revealing the pair would take in the North Island via Rotorua and Auckland in the next four days.

That will, of course, be after they have experienced a celebratory vineyard meal experience tonight.

In the NZ Sotheby's Real Estate Half Marathon, Laura Nagel, of Napier, took the line honours in 1:21:12, with Hillory Davis, of Australia, second in 1:25:49 (4:36 behind) and Grace Ritchie, of Hamilton, 5:27 behind Nagel in 1:26:40.