2019 is proving to be the year of the Ultramarathon right here in New Zealand with a record 2000 eager runners already signed up for the Tarawera Ultramarathon with weeks still to go until race day. This makes it by far the largest ultramarathon to ever to take place in New Zealand.
The Tarawera Ultramarathon, the vision of Kiwi Paul Charteris, is 11 years old this year and features a range of distances which including a 20km adventure run, a 50km, 100km and 100 mile trail race. All the races travel through the amazing landscape around Rotorua and beyond with the looming shadow of the volcano Tarawera a presence throughout all the races.
2018 saw the addition of the 100 mile to the race distances as ultramarathon running continues to grow in strength with runners looking to challenge themselves. This year it sees a competitive field up there with the world’s best.
Overall last 2018’s entries topped out at 1500 runners so to already be ahead of that number with weeks left to go shows that trail running and ultrarunning really are taking off.
This year the 50km race is proving the most popular distance with 800 competitors lining up to take on the Tarawera trail which uniquely features an aid station at the Buried Village on the shores of Lake Tarawera serving traditional scones and cream tea.
Trail running is clearly not just another male dominated sport with a 50:50 split on genders taking part and competing together.
The Tarawera Ultramarathon is also not just a Kiwi affair, with runners from over 35 countries descending on Rotorua to compete and relax together celebrating trail running culture. As well as being a truly global event this year’s race has attracted more elite athletes than ever before with over 20 elites from around the world competing at various distances to try and take the win. The world’s top two women in ultrarunning, Courtney Dauwalter and Camille Herron, the current 100 mile world record holder, are lining up in the 100km and 100 mile races respectively. In the men’s running Jeff Browning and Ryan Sandes, arguably two of the best ultra runners in the world, are set to compete in the 100 mile and 100km race respectively.
But Tarawera isn’t just about the elites. The race is firmly fixed in the minds of all Kiwi trail runners and elites rub shoulders with regular runners all focused on their own personal challenge in a relaxed, celebratory atmosphere.
Paul Charteris, race organiser, says:
“We are quite simply blown away at the response from athletes signing up for Tarawera this year. We knew, when sales during week one surpassed months of sales last year, that we were seeing something big happening but to be so far ahead and not even at race day is truly exciting. We are also seeing many, many first time Tarawera entrants and many of those are taking on the 50km distance to challenge themselves to go beyond the traditional marathon and prove they can do this. We will be out on course with them every step of the way.”
Images by Graeme Murray.