A much-loved and well respected trail runner, who regularly competed in Rotorua, was remembered in a touching and emotional tribute at the Tarawera Trail Marathon and 50km.
The song Dying Day by Kiwi singer-song writer Gin Wigmore was played for Steven Bruce Neary, 47, who died in a car crash in rural South Auckland last week, at the Te Puia's Pohutu geyser start line of each wave of races on Saturday.
Neary, from Pukekohe, had been running for about six years and played a large part in the trail running community.
In a moving start to one of New Zealand's most scenic and culturally rich races, a poignant speech was also made by event organisers Paul Charteris and Tim Day at Te Puia who were visibly emotional whilst the song requested by Neary's family played out.
Charteris said the father of two had left a hole in the trail running community and participants left the race course "full of emotion" on Saturday in memory of Neary.
"Steve was a true adventurer - if ever there was something going on he was always in amongst it or leading it," he said.
"He was a pillar of the trail running community and genuinely gave back.
"Everyone ran their hearts out and a lot of raw feelings and emotions were left out there on the race course."
Neary was the first person to complete New Zealand's gruelling Double Hillary Trail, solo and unsupported - a run of 153.5km with 7269m of elevation gain - an achievement Charteris celebrated.
"Steve really led the way in many respects. He was a pioneer in the sport," he said.
"But he was also incredibly modest - others may have been shouting about something like that from the rooftops but not Steve."
Chris Ord, the editor and publisher of Trail Runner magazine added: "He wasn't just a leading light of the trail running scene, he was part of the fabric. He appeared at events, always energetic, always smiling with a big beaming presence.
"His spirit will remain in the NZ trail running scene."
Hot Water Beach was the finish line for competitors on Saturday and cups of special craft beer - a favourite of Neary's, were raised in his honour by many of the finishers.
"That beer at the finish line was for Steve," said Charteris.
"It was a very special moment raising the glass to him. I will remember Steve as a kind and selfless guy. He was an outstanding athlete and we all miss him dearly."