Marokopa Munter 12/24 Hour Adventure Race

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The Gnarly Adventure Race That Will Leave You Munted!

Annabelle Latz / 26.11.2020See All Event Posts Follow Event
Team NPBHS/NPGHS student teams
Team NPBHS/NPGHS student teams / © Annabelle Latz

The fourth edition of Marokopa Munter 24 Hour Adventure Race took place at the weekend, wrapping up the New Zealand A1 Series for 2020.

Not many people live in the quiet rural seaside settlement of Marokopa. It’s nestled on the west coast of the North Island in the Waitomo area, Waikato Region, home to around 70 (if that) permanent residents.

But once a year adventure racers travel from all over New Zealand to get there and all agree it’s an amazing place, remote and with fantastic scenery and challenging terrain.

This race began as a training ground for a couple hard working adventure racing friends Matt Lash and Nev Wells, and morphed into perhaps the gnarliest single day adventure race in New Zealand.

Marokopa Munter lives up to its name: “You will be munted by the time you cross the finish line,” is a promise by these two Race Directors. 

‘From Waitomo Caves, just keep heading west until you reach the Tasman Sea,’ as the website states.  Cell phone reception is pretty much nil, and there’s one little shop, so bring everything with you. It’s absolutely wonderful.

Mountain biking at Marokopa Munter
Arriving in transition 

Matt and Nev live in New Plymouth, Taranaki, and they knew what a great resource they had for GODZone training. (With Leah Barnfield and Paul Rust they are Team MacPac).

A handful of teams graced the start line four years ago for the inaugural race, and it has kept growing since then. This year, thirty-six 12 hour teams, twenty-six 24 hour packrafting teams and ten 24 hour non-packrafting teams signed up, toeing the start line on Saturday morning, November 21st 2021.

The course covered steep terrain, with more than 5000 meters of vertical height gain. The 24 hour race started with a short, sharp and fast bike ride, then stage 2 was a trek over the Herangi Range (and packrafting on the Awakino River for some teams). Stage 3 was a second bike ride, taking teams through steep, winding farm tracks on the coast, which could not be taken lightly as this took place at night and tested compass skills. Stage 4 was a trek/rogaine where teams collected in as many points as their remaining time on the clock allowed, given they had the Stage 5 bike ride to complete to get back to the finish in Marokopa.

Marakopa Munter is a slightly different format from most adventure races; teams need to be back within the 12 hour or 24 hour time limit to avoid penalties.

Matt and Nev were expecting a good tight finish as teams would be maximising their time on the rogaine. However, foul weather whipped through from 10pm until the small hours of Sunday, creating some changes to the race plan for the majority of teams as they trickled into TA4 off the trek/packraft leg.  It was a challenging stage, taking teams up to 12 hours to complete, with navigation requiring some critical route-choice decision making, tricky packrafting due to lower than desired river levels, and teams were dealing the encroaching cold.

Packrafting team ‘Fighting Over The Map’ (Stu Lynch, Theo Wordsworth, Will Hand, Georgia Whitla) was first into TA4 just after 9pm, a solid lead of more than an hour, which had been gradually increasing throughout the race.

Night racing at the Marokopa Munter
Difficult navigation in difficult weather

Teams ‘Out For The View’, ‘Highland Events’, ‘Sneaky Weasel Gang’, ‘Sock Puppet Picnic’ and ‘Tiger Adventure NZ’ were amongst the mix of the first few teams reaching TA4.

Only a handful of teams took the offer of the stage 4 bike ride over the farm tracks towards the coast, with many opting of the short course option of biking the 10km on the road straight back to TA5 for the rogaine/trek.  By daybreak the sun was breaking through again, the final teams making it through to their bikes at TA4.

After a stint on the rogaine to collect a few points on foot, teams made their way back by bike to Marokopa Community Hall.

Although not first across the line, team ‘Fighting Over The Map’ had the top CP Score of 2800 points, followed by ‘Out For The View’ with 2400 points, and ‘Highland Events’ finished in third place with 2250  points.

Stu Lynch of ‘Fighting Over The Map’ said it was a big day out.  He’s very familiar with the way this race rolls as he was on the winning team (Tiki Tour) last year, alongside this year’s Sneaky Weasel Gang’s Bobby Deans.

“A good honest day, which is expected in the Munter,” said Stu. He added that they pushed themselves hard in the challenging terrain and were happy with their route choices.

“We mostly had a really good time. It’s a solid, honest race, not dumbed down, with steep proper country and good nav. It’s a really worthwhile race to do if you want to test yourselves.”

First placed non packrafting 24 hour team was the youngsters of ‘Trout Squad’, who looked strong throughout, followed by ‘What Time Is It then Duck Duck Gooseberry’.  School team ‘Sacred Heart/Francis Douglas Memorial College’ team had a great race, despite the challenges it threw up and took 4th place.

24 hour non packraft winners - Team Trout Squad
24 hour non packraft winners - Team Trout Squad

In the 12 hour race school teams were also a feature.

Makayla Wells is Nev Well’s daughter, and was racing with seven Frances Douglas Memorial College team mates.  “I like that we got mashed, but could keep going, because that’s what we do,” she said, adding she also raced last year in her first year at high school.

Nev said getting youngsters into the racing scene is about fostering youth development, stepping them up from three and six hour races to something a bit bigger. “It’s about giving it a go, taking it to your limit.”

Once everyone was safely home, Matt and Nev could reflect a bit on the fourth event they had sent  their daring adventure racers on.

“Marokopa Munter is about as rugged as New Zealand terrain gets, and it’s called The Munter for a reason,” said Nev, adding a massive thank you to the support from the adventure racing community throughout New Zealand.

The race is a big feature on the Marokopa community event calendar because it’s a major fundraiser for the Community Hall and Matt said what makes this race so unique is the community aspect. “The local farmers and community are right behind us. The farmers are awesome at offering their land, and showing us the caves. You can’t do it without the local community who are absolutely incredible. That’s what small community New Zealand is about, and we often lose track of that. A little place like this exists only because of its amazing people, doing amazing things.”

He described this year’s race as big, with the weather keeping things interesting, especially the torrential rain which “the punters got for free.”

“They had a big day, a big night, and it stretched pretty much everyone. The top teams and mid pack battlers, and the ones at the back all realised it was ‘big boys stuff’, and some know they will have to come back fitter and stronger next year.”

He said, “The good weather for the 12 hour race was great. They had spectacular views as there are some pretty big farms out there.”

Matt said Marokopa Munter will be back again for 2021, perhaps even bigger.

You can find out all about the race and see the full results at; https://www.marokopamunter.com

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