AFTER two previous second-place finishes, Mackay runner Mark McFadzen finally claimed a much-sought after win in the PRD Hilly Half Marathon held on Hamilton Island on the weekend.
Pacing himself beautifully, McFadzen passed his fading competitors and went on to take the title in 1hr 58min 05sec.
In a testament to the toughness of the course, McFadzen would normally clock around 1hr 20minutes for a standard half marathon, but the relentless climbs to Passage Peak, Resort Lookout and back up from Coral Cove and South East Head guarantee a test of physical and mental strength, rather than just raw speed.
Unusually the race saw a number of positional and lead changes as fatigue and different skills played their part; some runners handling the ascents better than others, while the fearless and fleet-footed descended quickly and made up any lost time.
With defending title holder Ryan Palazzi unable to participate, there were a number of reluctant leaders early on, with Dean Jones, McFadzen, Luke Creighton and eventual runner-up Josh Dyke all attempting to force their will on the contenders, but in the end it was McFadzen and Cannonvale runner Fred Fiedler who made the most of their previous experience, pacing themselves through the middle portions and running home strongly.
Dyke battled on bravely, and separated the two in easily the closest of finishes in the event's four year history; less than fifteen minutes separating the top 10.
In fact, rounding out the top 10 was the first female; Townsville's Monique Flores, who was made to work for her win.
Defending champ Michaella Trigg and Mackay legend Janelle Tilse, were all within sight of each other and Flores for the majority of the race, with the flat road speed of Flores over the final kilometres proving the difference.
Again, the quality of the women's field was highlighted by the closeness of the result; Flores just 2 mins ahead of Tilse, Trigg a mere 2 mins further in arrears and the top six females all within 10 minutes of each other.
For the teams, it was a case of local knowledge paying off as the Last Minute Legends, comprising Brooke Evans, Nicholas Dunn and Andy Trigg, stormed away from the competition, to win in 2hrs 07mins from two Step into Life teams from Mackay.
In addition to the arduous Hilly Half and Relay, was the PRD Fun in the Sun Run; which saw 35 children participate, with an emphasis on enjoyment.
The running communities of the region now turn their attention to Ayr, for the Sugar Rush on May 16 and The Mackay Marina Run on June 6.
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