Inaugural Rotorua Marathon winner takes home a suitcase and a barometer

Dave Heine will return to the Rotorua marathon this weekend with the event a far cry from when he won the inaugural race in 1965.

The 82-year-old will help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the iconic New Zealand marathon with a number of the original field gathering ahead of the 42.2km race.

The official records are not extensive for that first race in 1965, it is believed that 16 runners started and only 12 finished.

Heine won in a time of 2:35:03.

While the 1965 field only had a few names, the event grew quickly and the likes of Jack Foster and Mike Ryan were competing in subsequent years.

Details of Dave Heine's win in the first Rotorua Marathon in 1965

Heine had only just graduated as an engineer and was assigned to Rotorua by the Ministry of Works.

He had been running for the Onehunga club in Auckland and decided to join the Rotorua Harrier and Athletics Club.

It was the era of Arthur Lydiard and his stars Peter Snell and Murray Halberg, and like many following in their footsteps, Heine and his mates were were running up to a 100 miles a week.

“Essentially I saw myself as a reasonably good amateur middle distance runner and concentrated on the mile,” he told RNZ.

“There was a keen group of long distance runners and they’d occasionally go for a run around the lake.”

In 1965 the Rotorua marathon changed from being a club event to an Open race and sponsorship was found, not that Heine benefited too much from that, he won a barometer and a suitcase for coming home first.

His victory was a surprise. He was told by his club coach that he should just use the race as a training outing.

“I did, it was a bit like a Sunday run and I just happened to feel good on the day and managed to win the thing.”

It was a good day for Heine as his coach was also the handicapper and he ended up winning that also.

“I was treating it as a training run but half way round I started catching up to some of the front-runners and I thought oh well I’ll have a go at this and I took the lead between Ngongotaha and Rotorua and so I was pretty chuffed with it.”

In those days the Rotorua marathon was run anti clockwise.

He went back to the city as a 72-year-old to celebrate the 50th anniversary and had hoped to run, but his knees were not in good shape and instead managed to walk around.

“The contrast from that first race to the 50th was amazing, from a couple of spectators in 1965 to almost wall-to-wall 10 years ago.

It was the only time he seriously ran Rotorua as his engineering career took over.

Michael Voss on his way to winning the 2022 Rotorua Marathon.

Heine was hoping to run the 10km event but a recent bout of Covid means he is unlikely to line up.

The Rotorua Marathon has been run almost every year since 1965, with the exception being 1999.

In the 24 hours prior to the 1999 event 200mm of rainfall was recorded and some parts of the course washed out overnight.

There were 3200 participants lined up in the chute, then five minutes before the gun the race was cancelled and Rotorua was declared in ‘a state of emergency’ just hours later.

In the following week, the event t-shirts were sent back to the printers, and labelled with ‘cancelled’ and a big rain cloud. They were then couriered all over the world.

The first year the event had been postponed was in 2020 due to Covid-19.

Heine and a half a dozen of that 1965 field will get together to celebrate the 60th anniversary.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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