The first champions at the 2021 Tarawera Ultramarathon have been crowned, with new course records being set in the women’s 50km and men’s 21km races.
Runners from across New Zealand have taken to the trails around Rotorua for the 13th edition of the Tarawera Ultramarathon, the country’s largest trail running event, with competitors greeted by stunning conditions.
First underway was the 100-Miler at 4am, followed by the 102km which is a part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour, the 50km and finally the 21km.
Jonathan Jackson claimed victory in the 50km, ahead of Caitlin Fielder, with David Haunschmidt winning the 21km and Talia Copestake taking out the women’s race.
The 102km and 100-Miler runners are continuing to make their way around the course, with the 102km winner expected to cross the line later this afternoon and the 100-Miler champion this evening.
Auckland’s Jonathan Jackson took out the 50km race, with his win all the more impressive as it was his first ever trail running ultramarathon.
Jackson crossed the line in 3:46:52, almost 13 minutes ahead of second place finisher Caitlin Fielder, and 26 minutes ahead of the second male, Daniel Shaw.
Jackson, who was getting his first taste of trail running at this distance, has spent much of his running career on the road.
“I’m pretty knackered to be honest,” said Jackson. “It felt pretty normal until 40kms, as a marathon is normally my top distance. And then at 40kms there was a huge hill and it was pretty tough from then on in but I had enough of a cushion that I could cruise to the finish.
“If I felt good I was going to have a crack at Michael Voss’s record from last year but I was in survival mode to be honest through the Redwoods so I was just trying to save my legs,” he said. “I was actually by myself from the gun essentially, so it was kind of a bit lonely in some places. But when you came through the Blue Lake and all the 21km runners hadn’t started yet it was crazy, a huge crowd, which was pretty cool. You just had silence, silence, silence and then a big crowd and then nothing again. It was beautiful out there, I usually race out on the roads, you don’t really take in the views but today I tried to enjoy myself.”
Caitlin Fielder capped off a challenging 12 months by winning the women’s 50km title, finishing second overall and setting a new women’s course record of 3:59:12 along the way.
The Rotorua-born runner underwent serious hip surgery a week after winning last year’s event, with seven months of rehabilitation hampering preparations for the 2021 Tarawera Ultramarathon.
“It’s amazing, this past year has been particularly rough for everyone, and for me I’ve never had to do that kind of intense rehab before and it’s pretty hard mentally,” said Fielder. “It means a whole lot more to be able to come back and do this with all of my friends here. I never usually race with that much support, I just tend to go out and do my own thing, but it means so much to have all my mates here, it’s pretty special.
“I’d have been gutted if I just got over four hours to be honest. If it’s not now to go under four it’s not going to happen,” she said. “It was pretty painful but I just had to put that aside, the first few hours I was going under the time I did last year so I was a little concerned so I backed off a little out the back and it worked out really well.”
Daniel Shaw was third over the line, and second male, with a time of 4:12:40, with Matthew Payne the third male less than three minutes behind.
Tamara Clarke was the second placed female, half an hour behind Fielder, with Genevieve Coffey eight minutes behind in third.
Almost 900 runners took to the start line of the 21km race at Lake Tikitapu, with 734m of elevation between themselves and the finish line at Lakefront Reserve in Rotorua.
David Haunschmidt made it back-to-back 21km victories, setting a new race record in the process.
Haunschmidt finished in 1:24:51, taking almost four minutes off the record he set in 2020, with Jake Wilkinson second and Mike Robinson third.
“I love that course, they’re amazing trails, you can’t beat this for trail running worldwide,” said Haunschmidt. “We’re so luck to be able to race again, you just have to pinch yourself, well done to the organisers it’s an incredible effort to run the event.
“It was pretty amazing to see so many people out there,” he said. “I managed to come first last year and thought about upping the distance this year but I’m doing IRONMAN New Zealand next month and don’t want to put 50km or 100km through my legs.”
It was almost a sprint finish for the women’s 21km victory, with Talia Copestake winning with a 1:51:18, just 19 seconds ahead of Ewa Wystepek, with Angela Hancock 12 seconds further back in third.
“It was good, a really nice day out on the trails,” said Copestake. “It’s good to be out of the heat now, it was brutal this last bit to the finish.
“I didn’t think I was going to hold out towards the end,” she said. “The win means a lot, I’ve been running for five or six years, first it was something I felt I was reasonably good at but when I got my first half marathon under two hours I thought I need to get under that half hour mark on a trail and still striving for that.”
This year marks the 13th running of the Tarawera Ultramarathon, with runners from across New Zealand taking part in either the 21km, 50km, 102km or 100-Miler race, with the 102km event a part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour.
Tarawera Ultramarathon – 50km
1st – Jonathan Jackson – 3:46:52
2nd – Daniel Shaw – 4:12:40
3rd – Matthew Payne – 4:15:19
1st – Caitlin Fielder – 3:59:12
2nd – Tamara Clarke – 4:33:17
3rd – Genevieve Coffey – 4:41:15
Tarawera Ultramarathon – 21km
1st – David Haunschmidt – 1:24:51
2nd – Jake Wilkinson – 1:30:48
3rd – Mike Robinson – 1:35:49
1st – Talia Copestake – 1:51:18
2nd – Ewa Wystepek – 1:51:37
3rd – Angela Hancock – 1:51:49
For more information on the Tarawera Ultramarathon, visit www.taraweraultra.co.nz.