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The 37-year-old, who established a challenging course record on the former Dunedin Marathon course in 2010 of 2hr 19min 17sec, pulled out last year because of ill health.
His plan was always to return to the Dunedin course this year, but he left his options open until the last moment.
Wreford made a conservative start to his tilt. But around the 5km mark he found his main rival, Daniel Balchin, was breathing a little heavily, so decided to make his play for the title.
"Once I got a gap, I just tried to slot into a good rhythm," he said.
National titles have tended to elude the 35 year-old appliance technician over the years. Yesterday’s victory was just his second, to go with one he won in cross-country.
Wreford, whose winning time of 1hr 7min 10sec will take some beating, said he was in really good shape earlier in the year.
He took a massive 4min 30sec off Phil Costley’s Buller Marathon record in February. But just as things were going really well, a foot injury forced him out of the London Marathon.
Wreford is targeting a quick marathon sometime before Christmas.
"I’m just taking a new approach to everything, assessing things on the day and if you’ve done the training, the results will come, without any time-based goals beforehand. And just enjoy it."
Finishing in the silver medal position was Balchin (Alexandra) in 1hr 9min 23sec, and Isaac Murphy (Palmerston North) claimed bronze in 1hr 9min 39sec.
A conservative start paid off for Alice Mason (Cambridge) when she ran across the Forsyth Barr Stadium finish line well clear of the field to win the national half marathon senior women’s title in 1hr 17min 38sec.
"I think it’s the only time I’m going to run on to the pitch at Forsyth Barr Stadium. It’s pretty cool," she said.
Mason (31), an accident and emergency doctor at Rotorua Hospital, won the national marathon senior women’s title in the Rotorua Marathon earlier this year in 2hr 46min. She has a personal best for the marathon of 2hr 43min and aims to get significantly faster.
Second to finish the women’s section of the half marathon was Hannah Martin (Christchurch) in 1hr 25min 14sec, but third and second in the New Zealand half marathon championship section of the event was Charlotte Cahill (Dunedin) in 1hr 29min 38sec. Fourth-placed Julie Edmunds (Dunedin) clinched the bronze medal in the national championship section, clocking 1hr 30min 39sec.