For 55 years runners and walkers of all ages, from all walks of life, have descended on Rotorua to participate in the Rotorua Marathon and yesterday was no different. With 5km, 10km, half marathon and full marathon options on offer, there is something for everyone. The elite runners in the full marathon provided an exhilarating day of racing. From those looking to defend the titles they won last year to ultramarathon runners using the event as preparation for much longer races coming up, the Rotorua Marathon was hotly contested and we caught up with some of the top performers.

Last year, Cambridge runner Alice Mason was the fastest woman at the Rotorua Marathon. Yesterday, the result was the same as she finished first in 2h 51m 17s to make it back-to-back titles but this year's win had added significance.

Mason moved from Cambridge to Rotorua in August so this year's Rotorua Marathon was her first as a local resident, a fact the home crowd were well aware of as they roared her home and across the finish line.

She finished 37s ahead of Hamilton's Cecilia Flori and says they had a good battle.

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"It was good, I was having a lot of fun and I had a great support crew - I had some friends on bikes and in cars, it was just a fun day out.

The elite runners in the 55th Rotorua Marathon put on a show.

"I was running for the title so [going for the win] was always the plan. I feel like I probably made the push on the hills, I quite like the hills so I was trying to make a gap there. I did the work during the middle and just tried to keep it going.

"Being a home win this year, it's pretty fun. You obviously see lots of people you know and you work with, plus it's pretty convenient when you live two minutes away and you can just nip down to the start line," Mason says.

Flori was pleased but surprised by her second-place finish. The Rotorua Marathon was her last event before she travels to California for the 160km Western States Endurance Run next month.

"I'm very happy and surprised, my aim was simply to do a sub-three hour marathon because this is a training run. This was like a speed workout.

"I like [the course], I like hills and this is quite hilly for a marathon - it's good because it changes, it's a great course.

"I managed to fuel properly and I was consistent, I kept a good pace and I felt strong. [Mason] was really good, the first 10km we were kind of running together, then she just went."

Alice Mason was the fastest woman at the Rotorua Marathon for the second consecutive year. Photo / Stephen Parker
Alice Mason was the fastest woman at the Rotorua Marathon for the second consecutive year. Photo / Stephen Parker

The overall winner of the marathon was Irishman Ciaran Faherty, who lives in Auckland, claiming his first Rotorua Marathon title in 2h 25m 38s.

He says he enjoyed winning "such an iconic event".

"I was here twice before and I think I finished seventh and third so it's nice to come back and get the win.

"I've got big dreams and aspirations so this is sort of a B goal for the year. The A goal is Berlin in September."

The defending champion Blair McWhirter, of New Brighton, was second in 2h 26m 40s, more than eight minutes faster than his winning time last year.

Rotorua's Michael Voss, a half marathon specialist, was roared home by the crowd as he finished third 2h 27m 35s. It was something of a fairy tale finish for Voss after being one of the lead runners last year before blowing out after about 30km.

Voss said it was a relief to cross the finish line.

"I started cramping with a few kilometres to go and just had to grind it out. We shared the lead for the first half or so, then the moves started to come. I tried to hold on as long as I could, to about the airport, and it was a grind from there back home."

Rotorua's Michael Voss (left) and Auckland's Ciaran Faherty lead the pack at the start of the Rotorua Marathon. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rotorua's Michael Voss (left) and Auckland's Ciaran Faherty lead the pack at the start of the Rotorua Marathon. Photo / Stephen Parker

He says a lack of knowledge around the nutrition required for a full marathon was what let him down last year but he had it figured it out this time around.

"I'm pretty happy with how much I got down, it didn't feel too funny on the guts, maybe some Coke or something next time for a bit of a boost.

"[Faherty and McWhirter] are next level, I have a lot of respect for them and that's the best way to learn - keep lining up, keep trying and hopefully I'll get there one day. The crowd was awesome, there was heaps of support round the whole course."

Rotorua Marathon Results

Marathon:

Men: 1st Ciaran Faherty (2:25:39), 2nd Blair McWhirter (2:26:40), 3rd Michael Voss (2:27:35), 4th Regan Bones (2:36:51), 5th Patrick McKenna (2:38:22).

Women: 1st Alice Mason (2:51:17), 2nd Cecilia Flori (2:51:55), 3rd Letha Whitham (3:04:31), 4th Frances Wardle (3:20:11), 5th Amanda Bethell (3:20:59).

Half Marathon:
Men: 1st Jonathan Jackson (1:13:44), 2ndMatt Kerr (1:22:13), 3rd Michael O'Sullivan (1:25:22), 4th Scott Van Dyk (1:25:29), 5th Martin Ferry (1:25:39).

Women: 1st Lisa Cross (1:22:30) 2nd Sabrina Grogan (1:30:37), 3rd Danielle Sansonetti (1:32:37), 4th Cath Cheatley (1:36:30), 5th Catherine Hauser (1:41:46).

Full results at rotoruamarathon.co.nz