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Distance runner Portenski dies of cancer

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 1/02/2017

Bernie Portenski shows her delight in winning the womens BMW Auckland Marathon in 2001. © Michael Bradley/Getty Images/Getty Images Bernie Portenski shows her delight in winning the womens BMW Auckland Marathon in 2001. Remarkable Wellington distance runner Bernie Portenski has died of cancer at the age of 67.

The holder over numerous age grade world records over different distances, Portenski continued running competitively until learning last May she had contracted ovarian cancer.

That diagnosis ended her plans of contesting a 34th Rotorua Marathon, an event she won three times - part of a long list of achievements.

Portenski famously began running in her early 30s, choosing to end a self-described "smoking and partying" lifestyle.

She went on to become a celebrated figure not only in masters sport, but also very nearly at Olympic level.

She ran a qualifying time for the 1992 Barcelona Games at the age of 42 but missed selection for what she said was age reasons.

One of her most notable recent runs was a 65km haul in Wellington to celebrate her 65th birthday.

Portenski's running club Scottish posted a tribute to her life on its website, describing her as the "Iron Woman" of New Zealand marathon running.

It said she died peacefully at a hospice, surrounded by family.

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