AND THEY'RE OFF: Nelson Half Marathon contestants take off at the start of this year's event at Saxton Field on Sunday. Photo: Barry Whitnall/Shuttersport.

Festival of Running super popular

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Five hundred and eighty-five runners and walkers of all speeds and ages converged on Saxton Field Athletics track on Sunday for the Nelson Half Festival of Running.

Although Appleby’s Paula Canning and running’s answer to the Energizer battery Phil Costley injected some genuine class into the event, the speedsters were outnumbered by hundreds of fun runners and walkers. And the festival was a perfect event for all abilities with a run or walk in half marathon, 10km, 5km and 2.5km courses around the cycle trail.

The age of competitors was almost as varied as their speed with schoolchildren running or walking alongside veterans like M70-plus Tony Cutten who recorded a respectable 2hr 08min 38sec in the half marathon won by Phil in 1hr 13min 45sec.

Multisport star Elina Ussher won the women’s half marathon run in 1hr 32min 6sec with Dave Leahy winning the men’s half marathon walk in 2hr 32min 4sec and Terri Grimmett winning the women’s in 2hr 32min 4sec.

Paula won the women’s 10km run in 39min 47sec, just 11 seconds behind men’s winner Luke Clatworthy. Paula and Luke entered the stadium together with Luke producing the stronger sprint down the track to win.

Barb Pauling won the 10km walk in 1hr 9min 21sec with Paige Cregeen winning the 5km walk in 34min 34sec and Matt Bowen winning the 5km run in 18min 14sec.

The 2.5km walk finish was a family affair with brother and sister Yula and Bertie Van Eck finishing first and second respectively ahead of their grandmother F70 plus walker Flos Van Eck. Flynn Mackie won the 2.5km run.

The event’s Give back to Schools initiative, where entrants nominated a school to receive a portion of the entry fee, resulted in over $5000 being raised for schools, kindergartens and playcentres throughout Nelson and Tasman. Richmond School, Waimea College, Henley School and St Joseph’s School proved to be the most popular.