Among the 11,000 runners and walkers who made their way to the finish line of Saturday’s Queenstown Marathon was a lady in red, with a smile a mile wide.
Clasina Van der Veeken, of Whangarei, was the oldest competitor in the 2020 event, completing the half-marathon with members of her family, including four of her grandchildren, in 3hr 35min.
The octogenarian athlete, who represented New Zealand at the 2018 World Masters Athletics Championships in Spain, winning gold in the hammer throw and triple jump and silver in the 100m, 400m and shot put, first did the Queenstown Marathon in 2018 with her grandsons Matt and Kurt Davies.
Originally from the Netherlands, she came to New Zealand in the 1950s and was a farmer’s wife.
She started exercising when she was in her 60s to combat the effects of arthritis, initially taking up cycling before branching out into athletics, and had since done many half and full marathons.
Granddaughter Jennie Hawker said Mrs Van der Veeken still managed to jog down all the hills thanks to her daily training of walks and stretches.
Also crossing the finish line on Saturday was New Zealand singer-songwriter Anika Moa, who completed her first official half-marathon in 3hr 5min.
In a post on Instagram, Moa said she felt “sweet” during the first 5km, “but then the hills that [TV and radio presenter] Mike Puru said weren’t there came”.
As the day progressed, athletes also had to battle a strong headwind coming down Lake Wakatipu from Glenorchy, which added to the challenge.
The lake became a sea of white caps and the wind buffeted and at times helped runners over the final 5km around the Queenstown Gardens, through the CBD and to the shelter at the Queenstown Recreation Ground.
Resort streets were heaving from Friday night as the runners and their support crews made their way to the Wakatipu.
Numbers this year were only down by about 1000 compared with 2019.
The event was expected to inject about $10million in to the local economy.
Article first published in 23rd November 2020 in Otago Daily Times.
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