A cool winter’s day on Sunday meant that keen competitors were very eager to get underway at this year’s Monaco/Nelson Mid-Winter Marathon. The rain that threatened for the day never eventuated and competitors enjoyed near perfect marathon running conditions this year.
Now in its sixth year the full marathon field saw finishing times ranging from under 3 hours to more than 7 hours. Around 60 entrants toughed out the 42.2km marathon course, with a fantastic dozen of these participants taking on, and completing, the marathon distance for the very first time! Welcoming and celebrating first time marathoner’s has now become a key focus of the event!
The male marathon looked likely to be a solo show, after the late scratching of some fast, local, marathoner’s! A solo show it certainly was with up and coming 18 year old George Varney, of Blenheim, prevailing in 2 hours 50 minutes, more than half an hour clear of second placed local runner Byron Munro and third placed Havelock resident Graeme Lear.
However, Varney had plenty of company amongst fast paced relay runners for much of the outward leg, with 2 relay teams also sneaking in under the 3 hour mark. In the end though, Varney prevailed to be the first to cross the line.
This year’s marathon could well have been ‘all about the girls’ with several female entrants more than capable of prevailing in the 42km race. In the end though the women’s marathon race was won by local runner Klaartje Van Schie, in 3 hours and 20 minutes, coming in second overall in the full marathon, and coming close to breaking the existing women’s race record,.
VanSchie would certainly have broken the women’s record were it not for a navigational mix up near Richmond on the outward leg that unfortunately saw several entrants running up to an extra kilometre!
Marlborough’s ‘Ironwoman’ Jess Barnes looked set to be on VanSchie’s tail but a tough racing schedule and winter ills saw Barnes have to pull out at the 30km mark leaving second place to existing record holder Colette Read in 3 hours and 32 minutes with third placed Sarah Grimes nine minutes behind.
This year’s marathon also saw 8 participants race walking the 42.2km with this year’s winner, local race walker Tania Gardner, recording a time of 5hours 11 minutes for the distance, narrowly missing out on the race record. Gardner is to be commended though as her failure to eclipse the record was largely due to rendering support and assistance to an ailing runner over the final few kilometres. Second placed walker was Steve Doughty just 4 minutes behind with Malcolm Gray a further 10 minutes back.
The 2 person relay event was as keenly competed as ever with the race record being smashed this year. The local duo of Daniel Bullock and Chris Sharland finished well to record 2 hours and 51 minutes and take 8 minutes off the record. However, it was the girls who showed their mettle in the relay (with 2 person teams not separated by gender) and the all girl team of Candice Riley and Britta Martin came in strongly in second, and also eclipsed the old record, to record 2 hours 58 minutes with the team of Julia and Braden Lawson a further 6 minutes behind.
In the 6 person marathon relay running event there was some great team building and family bonding taking place. The local team of ‘Have we earned a Speight’s yet?’ prevailed in 3 hours 07 minutes, with youngsters team ‘O Sim’ in 2nd placed 10 minutes behind and 3rd place going to ‘Team B-Bod’ a further 4 minutes behind. Race walker’s team ‘The Walking Stix’ took out the walking event in just under 5 hours!
With the youngest competitor being just 7 years old and the oldest being over 75 there was a wide spread of ages and abilities taking part in yesterday’s event! Competitors came from as far afield as Australia and the U.S.A with the marathon being a key feature of many New Zealand based marathon runner’s calendars. A special mention must also go, again, to regular competitor and super veteran, 67 year old, Michael Stewart of Naenae, who has completed close to 600 marathons and finished yesterday in a very credible time of just over 5 hours! He remains, by far, the Southern Hemisphere’s most prolific marathon runner!
Around 350 participants from places as far afield as the U.K and the U.S.A. took part across the event’s various categories. This year a large number of work and social teams dusted off their running gear to take part in the growing 6 person relay, which provides an easier pathway into taking part. The event started and finished at The Honest Lawyer, Monaco, with participants running or walking to Rabbit Island and back via the ever improving Great Taste Bike Trail. Event entry has always been purely by a voluntary donation to charity with the recipients being The Mental Health Foundation and The Heart of Biking Cycle Trail Trust. Over the 6 years of the event these charities have received over $15,000 between them! The huge array of spot prizes, which were voluntarily donated by entrants, have also become an ‘iconic’ part of the event with no entrant going home empty handed. Next year’s date is set for Sunday June 21st June 2020!