Running or RACING Tarawera Ultra

In any race there are two approaches,

  • Complete
  • Compete

Depending on your intention the run can take two different forms.

How to Complete the Tarawera Ultra

For many, the day is really just about ‘getting through’ (and having fun!).  Here’s our top-tips on how to get through the Tarawera Ultra.

  • Avoid cut-offs.  Know where they are, and when.  They’re more relaxed than ever and I’ve tested walking on open terrain and I can easily manage under 11min/kms which is plenty to avoid the cut offs however – never ride them.  Give yourself a good buffer to allow 10-15min you might take at an aid station or if you have to stop somewhere unintentionally (toilet etc).
  • Fuel right. Your intensity should be pretty low since you’re not pushing yourself super hard.  As such your ‘burn rate’ won’t be too high and food/fuel/fluids should go in easy enough and not be lost at any significant rate.  You will be out there for a long time so think about all the things you might need.  Lubricant, Sunblock etc.  Plan ahead and anticipate ‘need’ by putting gear in your drop bags.
  • Run if you can, walk if you must, crawl if you have to. Walk anything you wouldn’t run in training.  There are only a handful of gradual climbs but if you want to ensure you’ll get through, walk every ascent, run every descent, and walk/jog anything that’s flat.  That strategy alone should have you well ahead of cut offs.
  • PACE YOURSELF.  I’ll cover this off a little later in this post however it’s important that if your primary objective is just to finish, there is no point trying to run a 5km PB from the race start.  Spend yourself evenly.

How to Compete the Tarawera Ultra

If you’ve ever said “I want to run my best” or “I want to have a good race” then chances are you’re actually after your best performance and you’re there to compete.  Not necessarily for a podium but you’re looking to get the best out of yourself.  That’s competition.

The fields at Tarawera Ultra are super deep and in all likelihood it’ll be the most competitive 100km trail run of the 2023 calendar.  So run as hard as can and have the race of your life and there’ll almost certainly still be people on the podium ahead of you.  And that’s bloody cool.  No matter how hard you run you are only actually running against 3 things – yourself, the distance and the clock.  It’s a little complicated but if you were racing other people (people like Jim Walmsley) and not yourself/distance/clock you’d run a totally different race.  Since you’re not in a 2-person battle for the top spot let’s skip “that” kind of racing and focus on the other kind of race.

You can’t cheat physics and there’s no magical formula that will see you have some freak run.  The smartest thing to do is to get the basics right.  Quality fuel, efficiency, and PACING.



Knowing what intensity is right at any moment in the run is the difference between getting the best out of yourself and putting yourself out of the race.  Have a pace plan and know how you should feel at any time on the course.  If you’re smart you will have tested your intensities and know what it should feel like to maintain race pace and intensity while out on the course.  Pace in min/km wont be of much use and your HR only really relevant from 15min through to about 90 minutes at which point other factors will come into play that skew that as a guide.  Far better to write key times on your wrist and refer to them at each aid station.
RUN AN EVEN SPLIT BY EFFORT!  A 10hr TUM doesn’t necessarily mean 5hrs at 50km as the last 50km are considerably harder than the first 50.  Half way into an ultra typically isn’t the half way point by distance either.  The rough guide is “aim to be half spent near the Okataina aid station”.


…and speaking of ‘the tank’ – don’t leave it until the orange petrol light comes on to think about how you should be spending your fitness.  One of the most apparent differences between you and the pro’s is how you move.  Look at our mate Jim Walmsley moving down a straight stretch of road.

Do you look at all like Jim? Crazy fast speed aside, his movements are clean and efficient. His arms don’t cross his centreline and his body is upright. Come the Whakarewarewa Forest chances are you’re hunched over shambling from aid-station to aid-station. When you’re at your worst you need efficiency most of all but not only then. You need to move efficiently from the very first step to the last. Spend your fuel wisely throughout the day. If you do nothing else, research the basics of proper running form and ensure you have the concentration to maintain it for as long as you are able.

Proper actual real fuel

I’m always surprised by the number of athletes that decide to deviate from what now is the accepted norm.  Simple carbohydrates, electrolytes and water.  Fat isn’t fuel and protein has limited value outside of satiation.