The province’s leading mountain runners were in record-breaking form on Sunday.
Several race records were shattered during the annual Mt Vernon Grand Traverse, contested in the Wither Hills, south of Blenheim.
Both the previous male and female marks over the undulating 18km Grand Traverse course were broken.
Marlborough Boys’ College student George Varney, 18, set a new time of one hour 12 minutes and five seconds, breaking the previous overall course record of 1.13.24, set by Jeremy McKenzie in 2012.
Megan Graham was also in top form, breaking her own record in the female category with a time of 1.21.37. She set the previous mark of 1.23.04 in 2016.
MGC student Lucy Harman underlined her running abilities by breaking the female record in the 11km Fun Run/Walk. The 16-year-old’s time of 58.50 eclipsed the previous mark of 59.43 set by Emily Marfell last year.
The men’s section and overall winner was Blenheim’s Phil Taylor in 50.33.
Nine-year-old Katherine de Zwart won the 2km Kids Challenge event, prevailing in a close finish with 10-year-old Katie Pugh.
Varney, who also won last year, was pleased to claim the race record and also happy to enjoy a well-earned ice cream immediately afterwards, especially given his post-event problems of the previous year.
After injuring an ankle on the final stages of the run, Varney was whisked straight away to Wairau Hospital.
“I reckon I could have got the record last year but I injured myself with about 5ks to go … so I was a bit slower. I ended up being out for about two months after that.”
There were no such dramas for Varney on Sunday though as he led all the way, hanging on for a comfortable win over Sam Hansby, winner in 2015 and 2016 who also broke the previous record with a time of 1.13.23, although Varney admitted he had a few doubts in the early stages about his race plan.
“I thought I went a bit hard at the start,” he said. “I hit a massive wall but just pushed through it … the second runner was closing in on me so I hung in there.
“[Sam] was right on my tail most of the way, it was a good race.
“A couple of times on those last few hills, they are just so steep, I felt like walking. It was so hard to push through, but now I am just so glad I did … it was so worth it.”
Graham admitted she had a love/hate relationship with the gruelling course, knowing the pain is going to come, but relishing the challenge.
“That hurt like hell,” she said. “You think you are on the downhill and then you realise you have the whole Mapp Track to go around.
“I feel pretty good. My running feels strong at the moment, maybe having a baby has made me tougher out there … I run a lot with the [baby] buggy so I feel light in this sort of event, running without the buggy.”
Graham says he was happy to break her record, suggesting she wasn’t chasing a new mark but merely set out to enjoy the run and, “it just came off”.
Next up for the former double NZ women’s squash champion is a return to the national squash scene. She will take on the nation’s best at the NZ champs to be staged in Auckland during late June.
18km Grand Traverse (76 entries)
Overall: 1 George Varney 1.12.05 (new record), 2 Sam Hansby 1.13.23, 3 Harry Carrick 1.20.18.
Women: 1 Megan Graham 1.21.37 (fifth overall – new record), 2 Katie Malthus 1.36.20, 3 Janette Landers 1.40.36.
11km Fun Run/Walk (66 entries)
Overall: 1 Philip Taylor 50.33, 2 Lucan Orchard 56.31, 3 Lucy Harman 58.50 (new record).
2km Kids Challenge
1 Katherine de Zwart 9.36, 2 Katie Pugh 9.36, 3 Cashel King 10.32.