130 years ago Mt Tarawera erupted killing an estimated 120 people and closing what was one of New Zealands first major tourism journeys from Te Puia Guyser – Rotorua, through the now buried village or Te Wairoa, on to the world famous ‘Pink and White Terraces. It is in memory of this tourist sojurn and volcanic event, that around 1100 runners will complete a 42km or 50km trail run to the remote shore of Hot Water Beach, Lake Tarawera.
The Tarawera Marathon and 50km now includes the
Tikitapu 23km ‘adventure run’ and 13km fun run to the Blue
Lake where a further 400-odd runners will arrive at Lake Tikitapu (aka The Blue Lake).
While Event Organisor Paul Charteris and Event Director Tim Day are adamant that the all courses are merely a celebration of trail running there is and will always be a ‘main event’ in the shape of the 50km Ultra course.
“If we wanted course records and fast times we wouldn’t add little secret bits to the course every year” – Tim Day
Despite ‘additions’ to the course, all eyes will be on ‘big guns’ Andrius Ramonas (TheNorthFace) and Kiwi marathon legend Craig Kirkwood (CK Coaching). Kirkwood possibly the underdog with an Ultra marathon debut and only two weeks since his impressive 2:34 Auckland Marathon
“Legs feel really good, but that might change at 35km…Auckland Marathon might come back to haunt me. Plus the thought of another Marathon in 2wks…Mt Fuji Marathon in Japan” – Craig Kirkwood.
Andrius who holds the Ultra-Trail Australia 50km course record will be in his element and this race will also be a stepping stone as both prepare to tackle the 100km distance next year. Kirkwood at the Tarawera Ultra (Feb2017) and Ramonas at Ultra-trail Australia (May2017).
Elsewhere in the 50km mens race final top-5 placings will likely go to the fast charging Rhys Johnson (SQUADRUN), 2nd TaupoUltra 50km, legend Chris Morrissey, World 24hr Rogaine Champion Dennis de Monchy (SQUADRUN), and the ever-consistent Doug Moore.
No shortage of ‘athletic prowess’ in the woman’s field either with Cecilia Flori (Altra Running New Zealand) 4 weeks on from her incredible 100km win at the inaugural Taupo Ultra who won’t have it all her own way with Rotorua local Sue Crowley (SQUADRUN) in great shape following another dominant run at National Road Relay Champs. The two will probably escape the competition of Wellingtons Emma Bassett (SQUADRUN) who, following her win last week at Taniwha 60km Ultra, will likely step down to the Tarawera 42km event.
While the day will be a celebration of Trail running, much of the community will be running in memory of Steve Neary who died earlier this week in a motor vehicle accident. His passing leaves a significant hole in the close-knit trail running fraternity. Steve was well known for his huge smile, his epic runs, and his words of encouragement to everyone that he met. For the runners that knew him, and are running for him on Saturday it will be a celebration of life’s achievements, and the awesome people that are encountered on their many wonderful journeys. It seems like it would be a fitting tribute.