The Tarawera Ultra Marathon has Unsung Heroes of all Kinds

Annabelle Latz / 22.02.2021
The start of the 100 Miler
The start of the 100 Miler / © Tarawera Ultramarathon

There’s as much joy in seeing the 100 mile runners cross the line just on the right side of 36 hour cut-off, as there is cheering on the elites as they float in.

Sam Ellis has just tipped his hat to his first Tarawera Ultra Marathon as Race Director, and he couldn’t have wished for a better inaugural event.

From enjoying the epic 4am start line and the twinkling headlights at Te Puia, to seeing the race unfold through the stunning geography that is weaved together thanks to 36 land stakeholders, Sam said there were so many reasons to be chuffed.

“The geographical scale of the area, the relationships, and ensuring everything joined up intricately; everything went super well, and we were so grateful.”

Sam said a massive thanks to his predecessor Tim Day for establishing these relationships and networks, and he is aware it will take a few years to really get to know the area.

The tricky section for the 'Miler' runners through the night as they navigated the technical and steep western Okataina, was a big step up for many who’d previously run the 102km course.

“Runners can really help each other through that section by sticking in groups. That can really make or break you.”

Running the Tarawera Ultramarathon

Sam said that for those runners who were trying to make the cut-off time, after the night section they could make a bit of ground up around Blue Lake. He admitted the near 7km stretch from The Redwoods aid station to the finish line was a deceivingly long haul.

“It’s always tough for those who just miss out. But they now know more about the challenges and will look forward to coming back next year.”

Due to a new community case of COVID-19, the Auckland region was put back in Lockdown Alert Level Three, while the rest of New Zealand was bumped to Alert Level Two, just hours after the 36 hour gun sounded near the waterfront in Rotorua. Many runners would not have been unable to attend the race if this had been just a day earlier.

Of course, everyone was well aware of those eyes from all around the globe tuning in to TUM.

“We received a lot of comments from those who wished they lived in New Zealand or could just race. We look forward to having them here again.”

Sam noted the domestic entrant numbers really boosted this year, from traditionally overseas-based elites, to Kiwis looking for more adventures and challenges closer to home.

Running the Tarawera Ultramarathon

“This included some traditional road runners too.”

The success of TUM would not happen if it wasn’t for the great team support, from Rotorua Lakes Council, to the whole event crew based in Rotorua.

“And a special big thank you to those who spent days marking the track and preparing the trail, they are the unsung heroes.”

Sam managed one day to recharge the batteries, but now it’s straight into the next IRONMAN event in Taupo on March 6, where he’ll be Venue Manager.

“It will be another great weekend.” He said.

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