To say Cate Pedersen was shocked at being the fastest woman at this year's Copthorne Rotorua Off Road Half Marathon would be an understatement.
Before lining up for today's event, the furthest the 16-year-old from Napier had run was 12km. About 4km into her first half marathon she took the lead and never looked back, finishing in 1h 40m 58s, nearly four minutes ahead of the next female competitor.
"It's my first half marathon so I wasn't expecting it. [The course] was good, it made it interesting. There was a really long hill at about the 6km mark, and it would've been about 16km on the second lap. You don't want to waste all your energy so you can sprint after the hill," Cate said.
The 21.1km feature race of the event comprised two laps through the Whakarewarewa Forest - not the easiest terrain to run your first half marathon on. She said she was "really shocked" with the result, but pleased.
The second woman in was Morrinsville's Zola McDonald in 1h 44m 29s and third was Melissa O'Brien, of Otorohanga, in 1h 46m 13s.
The men's race produced an enthralling duel between Tauranga's Regan Bones and Raglan's Rodrigo Gonzalez. The pair finished the first lap side-by-side before Bones made a break and held onto the lead to finish in 1h 22m 52s, two minutes ahead of Gonzalez.
Bones said he was "pretty stoked" to win.
"I wasn't expecting to be that competitive today, it was more of a building race, but I felt pretty good going into the second lap.
"[The course] was amazing. The most challenging thing was probably the pinchy hills, there were a couple that were quite steep and it was just getting the momentum to get up and over them.
"I hadn't raced against [Gonzalez] before, so I was just doing my own thing and hoping for the best. He pushed me all the way, so it was perfect. I'm building up for 'We Run the Night' in Tauranga in two or three weeks," Bones said.
In third was last year's winner Steve Morrow, of Gisborne, who finished in 1h 25m 12s, only 18 seconds slower than his time last year.
"It's a great course, it was my first one last year and I wanted to come back again this year. Those two were a bit too fast for me, I just ran my own race. It's fantastic here, all these great facilities on your doorstep, it's amazing," Morrow said.
The event also included the Mitre 10 Mega Quarter Marathon Fun Run/Walk, the Red Stag Timber 5km Fun Run/Walk, Lance Lawson Little Devils 2.5km Fun Run/Walk (7-10yrs) and the Lance Lawson Little Devils 1.5km Fun Run/Walk (3-6yrs).
Event Promotions marketing manager Aimee Gregory said the children's events set the tone for the rest of the day.
"It's been a spectacular day. There were so many kids having so much fun, it's really family orientated, they bring a lot of energy. I think it's so cool for the parents to see their kids do their race and then they go off for their own. You see the kids who already have their medal on and they run down the finish chute with their parents, it's really cool to see.
"[The top finishers in the adults races] are very impressive, they've done a really good job. We had about 1200 entries for the event, which is really good. What we love about today is you hear all these inspirational stories and you see the smiles as people cross the finish line, that's what is really rewarding for us," Gregory said.
Copthorne Rotorua Off Road Half Marathon Results
Sunday, March 4
1st Regan Bones Tauranga 1h 22m 52s
2nd Rodrigo Jaca Gonzalez Raglan 1h 24m 48s
3rd Steve Morrow Gisborne 1h 25m 12s
4th Scott McDonald Mount Maunganui 1h 30m 18s
5th Luke Williams Papamoa 1h 31m 17s
1st Cate Pedersen Napier 1h 40m 47s
2nd Zola McDonald Morrinsville 1h 44m 29s
3rd Melissa O'Brien Otorohanga 1h 46m 13s
4th Lauren Keaney Auckland 1h 48m 34s
5th Siobhan Griffiths Rotorua 1h 49m 19s