In amongst a high powered and well credentialled international field lining up in the Tarawera Ultramarathon 100 Miler, few gave Vlad Shatrov a chance of winning. Plenty had him in the mix for the top five, but not many would have been brave enough to project a win for the Australian, plenty of respect yes, but a possible winner – unlikely.
On Saturday morning in near perfect trail running conditions with overhead cloud cover and cooler temperatures, Shatrov went about proving those doubters wrong in a performance for the ages, not only taking out the 100 Mile event, but in the process smashing the race record of Jeff Browning (16:18:54 in 2019) by going sub 16 hours, stopping the Garmin at 15:53:30 to be precise.
Known for his fast starts that often lead to a struggle to the finish line, 41-year-old Shatrov surged to the lead early but on his perfect day, not only held his form, but extended to leave a world class field trailing in his wake, with runner-up Yoshihiko Ishikawa (Japan) and Adam Kimble (USA) finishing well behind the flying Aussie.
“This is number one, a massive achievement. Most of you know the way I run, I tried to modify that today. I started a bit slower – I thought. I just ran comfortable and felt good and just kept going. It was tough and there was 30k’s there when I was giving it to my poor pacer, they poor guy couldn’t do anything right! I was just not in a good spot for a while but I kept going, all the people on course and the volunteers they made it special and helped me get to the end and I will cherish this forever. It has been hard, I have had a few tough runs, it is good to get the monkey off the back.
“I feel that connection, when I saw the city over the right running to the Redwoods about 5k before the finish, I remembered two years ago doing the 100k in the rain and it wasn’t such a good race, but today I thought the people from New Zealand are awesome. I feel really welcome and appreciate it, so thanks so much to everyone.
“I think I have to do a few more of these big ones, maybe a 200 miler in America so maybe one of those next year, I will do Cape Town again at the end of this year and I want to win that as well. But I take nothing for granted, I am very lucky to win, very privileged to run well most of the time. I work hard but I am grateful, and I hope everyone here can take something from that.”
Japan’s Yoshihiko Ishikawa was another to fly under the radar coming into the race but proved consistent throughout the day to run home second just under an hour behind the blistering pace of Shatrov.
Big American Adam Kimble hung tough for third in the men’s and had nothing but glowing praise for the race, the location and the people.
“I am pleased, the interesting thing about ultramarathon running is that even if you are in the best shape of your life and very fit, you never know what the race is going to bring. For me at the start of the race I didn’t feel bad, but my legs just felt a little heavy and required more work than I was hoping to run at a casual pace.
“So I settled in and hoped that with good nutrition and hydration things would bounce back and sure enough at about 100k I had been running with Zac Marion for a while and I felt good and took off and in the next 10 miles caught two guys ahead of me and really felt good heading to the finish.”
“In ultrarunning the community is not just those doing the race, it is the locals who are part of a really cool experience and in turn give the runners so much through their participation. Going to the powhiri welcome was just absolutely incredible, being part of that was so unique for me, it just goes to show when you put on a really good event, the community extends beyond those participating. It is the race staff, volunteers, everyone coming out to the race, the locals and it is truly a family experience and that means so much to me.”
In the women’s race it was a similarly dominant and somewhat surprising performance from winner Ailsa MacDonald (Canada), with the 39-year-old upsetting her more fancied rivals to finish third overall and a clear winner in the women’s race.
Like Shatrov, British born Canadian MacDonald has form and is hugely respected since starting her ultra-running career in 2016, but by her own admission had not factored on such a huge day in such a quality field.
“It is pretty amazing, I am pretty happy I wasn’t expecting this today, this is a surprise.
“I had a good build coming into the race and I always race really well at this time of the year, I thought I had a good shot coming in but to place top three overall was beyond my dreams.”
Perhaps part of that success came down to a very relaxed game plan, putting little pressure on herself to perform.
“I didn’t have a plan other than to go out and enjoy the day and take the punches that were thrown at me. I had lots of low moments during the day like everyone I am sure, but I had lots of high ones too. The crowd was amazing, the crowds, scenery, aid stations, everything was just amazing.”
MacDonald was very clear on her immediate plans and they don’t involve running shoes.
“Definitely a long break now, before I head into Western States in June.”
The field was left in MacDonald’s wake as leading contenders first fell off the pace and then for many, withdrew from the race altogether, but competition for the other spots on the podium was intense, with Caroline Sebert (France) just doing enough to hold off an amazing performance from Rotorua local Sue Crowley (New Zealand), with just 14 minutes between the two.
50-year-old Crowley put in a performance to inspire the locals in what is clearly a ‘one and done’ effort over the 100-mile distance.
“It was very cool in what is a one only miler for me, but it was very enjoyable. I thought I was done at the Blue Lake with about 17k to go so there was a lot of shuffling from then, but when I got to the last aid station my friend got alongside me and just said ‘let’s go’ and we actually ran home a lot faster which surprised me!
“When we got to Miller Road my friends were there and told me third was not far ahead, so we put on a burst then and that was fun, I tried to catch the second lady but that was just too much, but it made it fun having someone to chase.”
Crowley has experience over the 100km distance but really didn’t know what she was heading into yesterday.
“I have done the 100k a couple of times but there is so much more logistically to a Miler, you have to east all the time so your stomach doesn’t shut down and because I haven’t done it before you just don’t know what you are going to want to eat.
“It is a beautiful course though, it is all a place you would want to run anyway, it is a cool course and there were heaps of family and friends around us saying hurry up!”
While the action has concluded for the leading runners in the grueling 100 Mile event, for many that effort continues long into today, with the 4pm (36 hour) cut off time the big goal as runners look to reach the finish line at the Lakefront Reserve in time to receive their Pounamu.
Temperatures cooled dramatically overnight, especially for those in the cover of the forests, but the day has dawned beautifully clear and warm to bring as many home as possible ahead of that cut-off time in what will as always be an emotional finish line setting.
1 Vladimir Shatrov, AUS, 15:53:30 (new race record)
2 Yoshihiko Ishikawa, JPN, 16:48:47
3 Adam Kimble, USA, 18:23:27
1 Ailsa MacDonald, CAN, 18:10:29
2 Caroline Sebert, FRA, 22:14:21
3 Sue Crowley, NZL, 22:28:28