ROTORUA, New Zealand — More than 4,000 runners pounded the picturesque tracks around Rotorua Lake on Saturday in one of the oldest sporting events in New Zealand.

Home favorite Michael Voss became only the fourth man in history to claim back-to-back Rotorua Marathon victories as he ignited the 57th edition of the iconic race by storming to an emphatic win in 2:29:30.

Through intermittent showers, Voss hit the front within the opening kilometer and by halfway had opened up a three-minute advantage on his nearest challengers before further extending his advantage in the second half of the race to claim a memorable win.

Mum-of-two Ingrid Cree added her name to the roll call of women’s Rotorua Marathon champions to clinch the biggest win of her career so far.

The 38-year-old Wellington-based athlete finished third at last year’s event and improved on that performance, stopping the clock in 2:54:11.

Earlier in the day, around 4,000 participants – the highest number since the historic 50th edition seven years ago – set out in a light drizzle to take on either the full marathon, half-marathon, 10km or 5.5km distances.

“This event means a lot to our community, including our local businesses, so it’s really great that in today’s uncertain times, we are able to host thousands of visitors from all around the country,” Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said.

And with the trans-Tasman travel bubble now open, a number of Australians came from across the ditch to take on the challenge.

Rotorua, one of North Island’s top visitor destinations, is well-known for its fascinating geothermal activity, Maori culture, hot springs and mud pools.

This year’s edition of the event – which is famous for its stunning scenery across the various race options around Lake Rotorua, the beautiful Whakarewarewa Forest, Sulphur Flats and Government Gardens – is of further note as, with the entirety of New Zealand now at alert level 1, entrants from all regions are able to take part.