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Rotorua Marathon - Locals romp to historic victories

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Local runners toasted double success at the rescheduled 2020 Rotorua Marathon today as Michael Voss and Alice Mason secured historic victories in the men’s and women’s marathons with a pair of dominant performances.

On a symbolic day in which the iconic race was one of the first mass participation road race events in the world to take place since the outbreak of the global pandemic, it was left to a pair of athletes with a strong connection to Rotorua to steal the show.

In the men’s race, Lake City Athletics Club member Michael Voss was the class of the field, stopping the clock at 2:31:13 to become the first home winner since two-time Olympian Jack Foster secured the fourth and final of his Rotorua Marathon victories 45 years ago.

Voss, 23, who finished third in last year’s race, made his decisive move shortly after halfway, kicking clear of the 2018 champion Blair McWhirter of Christchurch.

Although going through the odd ‘rough patch’ in the second half of the race, Voss, who clocked a slick marathon personal best of 2:22:34 in Auckland last year, continued to extend his advantage and nothing would deny him a memorable win.

McWhirter secured a third successive Rotorua Marathon podium spot in second (2:33:48) with Feilding’s Nick Johnston grabbing third in 2:37:28.

"I love the atmosphere of the event and how the whole city gets behind the race," said an elated Voss, who first ran the half-marathon component of the Rotorua Marathon as a schoolboy.

"To win the marathon has always been the goal, this is my third attempt, so I’m pretty stoked to finally get the win."

Voss admitted an Achilles injury disrupted his build-up to the event and he was forced to carry out a significant chunk of his preparation training on the bike.

But coach Kim Stevenson instilled a belief that the months of hard training prior to the injury would hold him in good stead today.

"I can’t really remember too much of the last 10km, I was just running on adrenaline," Voss admitted. "My legs started to cramp in the latter stages and if the race was 1km longer, I don’t think I would have made it. I was right on the red line.

"At the moment, I’m just trying to recover, but I’m sure what it means to win here in Rotorua will sink in soon."

Alice Mason also played her part in history, producing a commanding display to match Nyla Carroll and become just the second woman to secure a hat-trick of Rotorua Marathon titles.

The Cambridge Harrier dominated from the outset and by halfway held a lead of more than two-and-a-half minutes before going on to cross the finish line in 2:50:45.

In a close scrap for the other podium places, Mel Aitken (2:57:36) repelled her fellow Wellington-based athlete Ingrid Cree by just a 19-second margin.

Mason, a 33-year-old doctor, lived in Rotorua for two years but relocated to Tauranga in June to live with her fiancé.

However, having spent the early phase of her marathon preparation training in the Redwood Forest and Government Gardens, it felt very much like a home win.

"Today was a nice reminder of what it felt like to run 42km but, to be honest, I just wanted to go out and have fun," Mason said. "I went out at quite a good pace and I was lucky that I was running with a strong group of men until around 32-33km, that was awesome.

"It has been such a long time between races (because of the pandemic), I’m stoked to win. It was nice to make it three-in-a-row, although I have some unfinished business to get to Nyla Carroll’s level."

Carroll is the only other woman to win a hat-trick of Rotorua Marathon titles and still sits third on the all-time New Zealand lists for the 10,000m.

The 56th edition of the Rotorua Marathon, originally slated for 2 May, was postponed because of the strict lockdown restrictions but the rescheduled event proved a big success.

The race attracted 2000 starters, who each competed in a range of distances - full marathon, half marathon, 10km and 5.5km - in ideal spring conditions.

The experienced Aaron Pulford (Tauranga) secured an impressive victory in the men’s Red Stag Timber Half Marathon with the former national champion revealing his class to cross the line first in 1:15:22.

Sarah Morrison (Paeroa) triumphed in the women’s Red Stag Timber Half Marathon, completing the distance in 1:35:25.

There was further local success in the women’s 10km race with Rotorua-based Hannah Gapes crossing the line first in 37:19 while Ben Bidois (Putaruru) was fastest of the 10km men in 34:58.

Another local, Shane Ruri, came out tops in the men’s 5.5km fun run in 23:57 while Ella Smart (Waikato) romped home in 24:02 to claim the female honours.

For the full results from the 2020 Rotorua Marathon please click here

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