Polish runner Wojciech Kopec took home the win in this year’s Pak‘nSave Whanganui 3 Bridges Marathon, while attendance numbers smashed a record set at last year’s event.
Kopec finished the 42.2km course in a time of 2:38:37 on Sunday, while Waikanae’s Blair Coleman came second with a time of 2:45:18.
In the women’s marathon, New Plymouth athlete Emma O’Rourke won with 3:22:49, nearly 40 minutes ahead of second-placed Sophie Nabbs (Hamilton) who finished in 3:50:30.
O’Rourke also won the women’s marathon at the 2022 event, and this year beat her previous time by more than 20 minutes.
Event organiser Paula Conder said this year’s event went smoothly and they were particularly lucky with the weather.
“It was almost perfect ... it was good that it was just overcast for most of the morning, and then the light drizzle didn’t seem to bother anyone,” Conder said.
“It didn’t seem to start raining until we were packing up after the prizegiving.”
She said around 950 people took part in this year’s event, smashing the previous attendance record set in 2022 when around 800 people entered.
“Lots of people came up to us after the prizegiving and thanked us, and [there were] lots of people saying they’d be back next year.”
In particular, they mentioned how well-organised it was, how they enjoyed coming to Whanganui for the event, and the convenience of having the race hub in the middle of the city, she said.
“I think it’s the ease of it - at some of the bigger races that you go to, you have to be there at least an hour beforehand just to find a park.”
Sponsors of the event were also impressed.
“A couple of our sponsors that we actually didn’t go seeking ourselves - they just approached us during the year - spoke to us after the event,” Conder said.
“It was the first time they’d been to it, and they were saying they wanted to offer more next year.”
The event included the centrepiece marathon run and walk, half and quarter-marathon runs and walks, a 5km run and walk, a 1.2km kids’ dash and 20km running and walking relays for teams of three.
The course was laid out between the Dublin St bridge, Whanganui City Bridge and Cobham Bridge, with marathoners running four full laps while half-marathoners ran two and a half.
Other notable performances included Whanganui athletes winning the men’s and women’s half-marathons, with world-class masters runner Sally Gibbs winning the women’s event in a time of 1:27:55 and road cyclist Glenn Haden winning the men’s in 1:17:48.
Whanganui race walker Lucas Martin competed in the 5km and quarter-marathon walks and won both back-to-back.
Wellington’s Jenny Cheevers won both the women’s marathon walk and the overall marathon walk with a finishing time of 5:26:40, while Marton Salisbury (New Plymouth) won the men’s walk with a time of 5:44:56.
The finish of the half-marathon walk came down to the wire, with men’s winner David Jones beating women’s winner Donna Roderick by less than a second.
Conder said it was great to see a lot of young runners take part in the 1.2km kids’ dash.
“There were so many kids in it this year, and lots of them dressed up in Christmassy clothes and things like that, with big smiles on their faces as they crossed the finish line.”
With the event going from strength to strength in recent years, she said the Whanganui Harrier Club would look to put it on again in 2024.
“There’s always hiccoughs every year, but hopefully we can have it running smoothly and things going to plan.”
Full list of winners:
Wojciech Kopec 2:38:37
Emma O’Rourke 3:22:49
Men’s marathon walk:
Marton Salisbury 5:44:56
Women’s marathon walk:
Jenny Cheevers 5:26:40
Glenn Haden 1:17:48
Sally Gibbs 1:27:55
Men’s half-marathon walk:
David Jones 2:23:47
Women’s half-marathon walk:
Donna Roderick 2:23:48
Hayden Zervos 36:54
Jalana Smith 44:11
Men’s quarter-marathon walk:
Lucas Martin 1:01:50
Women’s quarter-marathon walk:
Shannon Wright 1:17:00
Men’s 5km run:
Karl Kalders 20:18
Women’s 5km run:
Aimee Elliott 23:46
Men’s 5km walk:
Lucas Martin 31:00
Women’s 5km walk:
Ange Cox 42:12
Boys’ kids’ dash:
Adam Larkin 4:40
Girls’ kids’ dash:
Ohana Lambert 5:32
20km relay run:
Legs for Days
20km relay walk:
Neva Beans 1
Finn Williams is a multi-media journalist for the Whanganui Chronicle. He joined the Chronicle in early 2022 and regularly covers stories about business, events and emergencies. He also enjoys writing opinion columns on whatever interests him.