Rain drops and sweat dripped down his face as the crowd roared for the young local builder running towards his second consecutive victory in the Rotorua Marathon.
Rotorua's Michael Voss, 24, crossed the line of the 57th Rotorua Marathon five minutes ahead of his nearest rival.
Voss is the fourth man in history to claim back-to-back titles.
He joined more than 4000 runners, walkers and joggers who descended on the city's Government Gardens for Saturday's event.
And the big turnout was evident in the bustling city centre over the weekend, which gave a good boost to local businesses, business leaders said.
Event Promotions registration manager Jenna Keane said this year was the biggest since the event's 50th anniversary.
The full marathon was the headline race, in which participants complete the 42.2km "lap of the lake" course around Lake Rotorua.
The ages ranged widely and the costumes varied from the classic athlete attire to trailing balloons, tutus and face paint.
Spectators were spotted across the course, from the outskirts of Rotorua to the hundreds gathered and cheering on loved ones at the finish line at the Energy Events Centre - rain proving anything but a dampener.
For Voss, the rain was a refreshing change to last year's September race, and the second win at home was special.
"It was pretty awesome - just the roar of the crowd coming down that home straight," he said.
"It makes all of the late-night evenings training after work, and cold nights, all worth it."
Being able to run in his hometown was "such an advantage" and it "definitely helps a lot".
"I've done Auckland a few times and your competitors are just getting massive cheers and you feel like a loner," he said.
Voss had been training for the event for a few months, taking part in several half-marathons leading up to it.
"This was the main goal ... glad to get it ticked off."
He consistently trains from Monday to Friday after his full-time job as a builder at Longmile Builders.
From here, he's going to sit down with his coach and look at what to do next, which could be the Wellington marathon or a few cross-country races for the winter, he said.
Trail racing was also on the cards, as he wanted to give the Tarawera Ultramarathon a go again, saying with a laugh that he had "a bit of redemption" to achieve after not finishing it last year.
His first marathon was four years ago in Rotorua which he said was a good learning experience.
Voss is also a keen mountain biker - saying it was more fun - and his coach, Kim Stevenson, said it was good cross-training.
Stevenson has coached Voss for the last seven years, since he was 17.
Stevenson has more than 40 years' experience in distance training and said he wouldn't let Voss run a marathon before he had three years of training behind him.
"It's not so much stringent training as it is that you have to have a big background."
"Anyone can run a marathon, but to do one well, you've got to do a lot of work."
Stevenson said Voss has the ability to go "well under" two hours 20 minutes for a marathon.
Wellington mum of two Ingrid Cree, 38, grinned ear-to-ear as she was the first woman to cross the finish line, followed by Rotorua's Sue Crowley five minutes later.
"I grew up in Ōhope Beach and I remember doing school relays around the lake of 5km and 10km wondering how anyone could run a full marathon.
"It has always been an event I've admired. More recently, I knew it was an event I was capable of winning and to do so is an amazing and incredible feeling."
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia said the marathon would give a "much-needed boost" to the problems caused to local businesses reliant on domestic and international tourism.
"All those people need to be accommodated and fed while here which creates jobs for the region.
"Hospitality is a vital part of the region's economy and it is important that we retain the Rotorua Marathon for future years to help the hospitality sector recover from a difficult 2020."
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said the town was "packed" on Saturday, similar to the busy Easter weekend.
Cafes and restaurants were bustling this weekend, he said, and he looked forward to more weekends like this.
"We've got quite a full schedule of events coming up this year which is good ... there's a lot of working going on in that space and the people doing that are doing a good job," he said.
He said the steady flow of good events brought business with it, which would "help compensate Covid".
He said several upper-end accommodation providers told him they had booked out for the weekend.
However, there was an issue with space in the city because of the managed isolation facilities and emergency housing, he said.
Rotorua Marathon run results
First: Michael Voss, Rotorua - 2:29:30
Second: Greg Darbyshire, Mt Eden - 2:34:19
Third: Ewan Sinclain, Ellerslie - 2:34:37
First: Ingrid Cree, Wellington - 2:54:11
Second: Sue Crowley, Rotorua - 2:59:19
Third: Anna William, Remuera - 3:11:21