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Iconic events ready to roll

Malcolm Taylor at his beloved Tauranga Domain. Photo: Peter White.

A unique event that severely tests the amount of Christmas pudding eaten by contestants has been held at Mount Main Beach since 1945.

The King of the Mountain race to the top of Mauao and back to a sprint finish along the sand to opposite Mount Drury has been held every year since except for 1982.

The Queen of the Mountain women’s race has been held together with the men’s run since 1987.

The event was originally held on the first Saturday after Christmas Day but in recent decades has become a Boxing Day institution.

This year’s edition will again be held on December 26 but organiser Malcolm Taylor says a December 27 date is likely in the future.

“It’s just too hard on the people organising the event getting the water up to the top of the Mount on Christmas Day evening. That’s actually the toughest part of the race, taking water up,” he says.

Runners race along the beach past startled sunbathers to then roar up the steep face to the top of Mauao and back down for a long beach sprint in remarkable times. The men’s record is 18min 32sec set by Whakatane’s Daniel Jones.

Last year two new champions were crowned in unseasonably wet conditions.

Te Puke’s Bobby Dean, 30, and Mount Maunganui’s Courtney Pratt, 32, both won their first titles after the closest sprint finishes in years.

Bobby had previously competed in five Boxing Day races with three second places behind Daniel Jones, who was after his fourth consecutive title.

Daniel is in red hot form after three major performances in the last six weeks. He won both the Kepler Challenge 60km mountain run in Te Anau and the Queenstown Marathon, and was second at the Auckland Marathon.

Last year the Junior Mountain races for 15-and-under athletes were won by William Bourne, 13, and Gemma Baldrey, 15.

Racing gets underway for the Junior Mountain at 10.30am and the King and Queen of the Mountain from 11am.

Another iconic athletics event will follow on New Year’s Day with the NZ Windows 2019 Tauranga Twilight Track and Field Meeting.

The event, that once featured some of the world’s greatest middle distance athletes in John Walker, Rod Dixon and Dick Quax, begins at 2pm with the children’s 10-14 grade before the open 15-years plus competition from 4.25pm to 8pm.

Malcolm Taylor says the children’s meeting is a great chance for those younger athletes competing at the Colgate Games in Hamilton on January 4-6 to get some big event experience.

He says the 3,000 metre races should be highly competitive and is also hopeful that New Zealand’s fastest man in Joseph Millar from Papamoa will contest the sprints.

“Joseph did indicate he will be running the sprints so everyone loves to run Joseph Millar. He has moved to Auckland to be closer to his coach but we hope he competes here.”

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