Long-distance runner Sarah Biss has defended her Rotorua Off Road Half Marathon title.
The athlete battled jet lag and hot conditions to go back-to-back at the event held at Whakarewarewa Forest on Sunday.
Biss flew in from a training camp in Kenya on Saturday night to take part in the event. Although she crossed the time well ahead of her nearest rival, she admitted it was one of the hardest races she has competed in.
Biss, from Rotorua, finished in a time 1:30:22, nearly four minutes ahead of Cambridge runner Bridget Deverell 1:33:51. Rotorua's Erin Leahy was third with two Tauranga runners, Judith May and Danielle Lee, rounding off the top five.
Despite it being announced Biss was using this event as a build up to qualify for the Commonwealth Games, the runner said she hadn't thought that far ahead and was just looking to build to the New Zealand running champs later in the year.
The men's race crowned a new champion in Hamilton's Garit Read. He crossed the line in a time of 1:18:55, followed by Auckland's Nicholas Johnston 1:19:41, with Read's Hamilton Hawks team-mate John Crane third in 1:20:15.
Read said he was happy to pick up the win in his first attempt at the race. "I was pretty stuffed. I was hurting the last little bit. I haven't raced a half marathon in a long time. It was good [to win] but it was hard out there. It was nice and cool in the shade under the trees which was good. But it was a whole other story under the sun. It was awesome running on the trails but when going across the road you started to feel it in your legs a bit."
Tauranga's first man home was Denis De Monchy in seventh place. De Monchy said he'd used the event as a build up for an ultra marathon in two weeks time in Otago.
"This is my last hit out before I do 100 miles in two weeks in Northburn. So this was just a good fast hit out and then a complete rest for two weeks.
Half marathon 21.1km
Men: 1 Garit Read, Hamilton, 1:18:55; 2 Nicholas Johnston, Auckland, 1:19:41; 3 John Crane, Hamilton, 1:20:15; 4 Tony Broadhead, Rotorua, 1:21:38; Bruce Edwards, Rotorua, 1:21:42.
Women: 1 Sarah Biss, Rotorua, 1:30:22; 2 Bridget Deverell, Cambridge, 1:33:51; 3 Erin Leahy, Rotorua, 1:35:50; Judith May, Tauranga, 1:36:15; 5 Danielle Lee Tauranga, 1:38:56.