The winners dais of the 2019 Pak'nSave 3 Bridges Marathon was the domain of the enthusiastic amateurs at Moutoa Gardens this morning.
There was a big turnout of well over 800 runners and walkers who tackled the course in overcast but warm conditions, with only a small breeze, allowing a couple of the leading runners to blitz through with very quick times.
In total, there were eight race length events for both racing disciplines on the 10.5km long course, with the headline 42.2km marathon run and walk races taking four laps.
Starting from Moutoa Gardens, they head out to cross the Dublin St Bridge, then do a loop back around Kowhai Park and head north before coming back over the Dublin bridge.
Competitors then run far south to cross the Cobham Bridge and come back up along State Highway 4 to cross at the City Bridge before heading for home.
After the 7am start for the run, Rotorua's Stephen Parker swept through the finishing bay shoot well before 10am for a comfortable victory in 2h 48m, easily a personal best, at the head of a 33-runner field.
In the 40+ division, Parker said he had joined a quick group early on in the race, which gave him a buffer in the first couple of laps, where he maintained a consistent pace.
"I fell off [the pace] in the last few kilometres," he said.
"Just happy they weren't too close behind me when I fell off."
"It's a flat, fast course, I was going for the time more than anything."
He had easily surpassed his goal of a 2h 50m finish, and as the fun marathon had been his personal challenge, rather than part of preparations for other events, Parker was now going to enjoy his Christmas food, feeling he'd earned it.
"I'll go back to 5km and 10km [races], tick this one off the list."
Coming in second and doing his first marathon as a personal test was the United Kingdom's Tom Hargreaves, born in Cambridge and now working near the other Cambridge in the Waikato.
"It's a bit of a chug down here and I'm glad I made it," he said.
Like Parker, the Whanganui course had appealed to him for completing a full marathon distance due to it's flat nature and being in laps allowed him to gauge distances.
Hargreaves had also overtaken the group that Parker was initially running with.
"It was a really good race, the four laps mean you hit that last quarter and know about it.
"I was just on my own, it's quite lovely out there, which means having the supporters and marshalls [encouragement] was just great.
"It's well organised...a good chance to see the town."
Parker and Hargreaves praising those who gave encouragement to them while they were out on the course was echoed by the 21.1km half marathon winner Michael Aish, a two-time Olympian and former national 10,000m champion.
Having lived for the last 20 years in the United States, Aish had come home to New Plymouth for Christmas, and despite having no current training, was delighted with his 1h 18.5m, at the head of the largest individual field of 114 runners.
"[That time] sounds fantastic. I wasn't sure I was going to finish," he said.
"Being the old man, and with the experience, probably helped me."
His cousin David Wells is currently preparing for ultra-marathon events, and so "conned me" into taking part.
Pulling an impressive double duty in the walking events was Whanganui's Lucas Martin, now a 3 Bridges regular.
Martin entered both the quarter marathon, or 10km race, starting at 10am, and completed it in just under 55 minutes, before turning right around and also entered the 5km walk, which began at 11.30am.
He had a little more competition for the latter walk, but still picked up another victory for the male division.
Marathon Run - Male: 1. Stephen Parker (Rotorua) 2:48.00.39; 2. Tom Hargreaves (Cambridge Great Britain); 3. Jon-Paul Heather (New Plymouth). Female: 1. Ellie Bowen (Whanganui) 3:57.42.34; 2. Nicky Scott (Whanganui); 3. Barb Carson (Washington).
Marathon Walk - Male: 1. Albie Jane (Stratford) 5:10.09.97; 2. Malcolm Gray (Auckland).
Half Marathon Run - Male: 1. Michael Aish (New Plymouth) 1:18.50.99; 2. Dean Cash (Whanganui); 3. Chris Lines (Whanganui). Female: 1. Lesley Graham (Mauriceville) 1:42.18.41; 2. Rachel McKinnon (Wellington); 3. Rosie McIntyre (Hunterville).
Half Marathon Walk - Male: 1. Derren Hutchinson (Napier) 2:20.19.52; 2. Mike Tennent (Rotorua); 3. Evan Davies (Palmerston North). Female: 1. Robyn Wolfsbauer (Napier) 2:28.22.8; 2. Leeann Lock (Whanganui); 3. Jean De Vries (Patea).
10km Run - Male: 1. Thomas Ditchfield (Whanganui) 38:43.61; 2. Liam Jones (Whanganui); 3. Aaron Sheehan (Whanganui). Female: 1. Baoshan Jiang (Whanganui) 55:21.03; 2. Sarah Huxley (Whanganui); 3. Debra Chase (Taihape).
10km Walk - Male: 1. Lucas Martin (Whanganui) 54:57.7. Female: 1. Kate Quigley (Whanganui) 1:14.34.65.
5km Run - Male: 1. Ben Conder (Whanganui) 17:52.62; 2. Keenan Spink (Whanganui); 3. Richard Stieller(Hawera). Female: 1. Poppy Rae (Te Horo Beach) 20:47.64; 2. Bridget Fry (Whanganui); 3. Jaime Crofskey (Palmerston North).
5km Walk - Male: 1. Lucas Martin (Whanganui) 27:51.02; 2. Anthony Bryne (Whanganui); 3. Bruce Cunningham (Whanganui). Female: 1. Pink Red (Whanganui) 25:25.39; 2. Sonia Hampton (Palmerston North); 3. Marnia Peacock (Whanganui).
Kids Run-A-Thon - Male: 1. Xavier Booth 4:15.51; 2. Mase Battersby; 3. Maximus Mathews. Female: 1. Carrie Rennie 4:13.88; 2. Teresa Rennie; 3. Sophie Crofskey.
Relay Run: 1. Stickman Family 1:40:18.09; 2. Craigs Road Runners; 3. Anonymous.
Relay Walk: 1. Neva Bean 1 2:39:34.5; 2. Neva Bean 2; 3. Neva Bean 4.