Anything less than an outstanding success would be an unfair description of the inaugural Taupo Ultra-marathon with beautiful spring conditions giving over 500 entrants some of the best trail running the North Island could offer. The course proving to be fast and runnable with quick times and almost a 100% completion rate. The event would feature a stunning mix of lake-edge trail and remote farmland from the Waihaha gorge through to beautiful Whakaipo Bay.
The main-event, men’s 100km, saw the Grant Guise head-to-head with Whenuapai’s Nick Johnston while women’s trail-veterans Jo Johansen and Jean Beaumont in a classic tussle with the fast charging Cecilia Flori.
Nick Johnston would emerge the victor finding his groove early and relentless charging toward the finish line to cover the course in a staggering 8:55 with Grant having to settle for second with an impressive 9:15.
“The plan was for Nick to beat me down, so it went perfectly” – Grant Guise
Excellent indicators for both men who have a full summer season of racing ahead with a possible rematch on the cards at Tarawera Ultra in February.
Richard Coughlan would arrive 3rd male (1st Master) in 9:55.
“The trail, views, even the farm land was really cool green, rolling hills and I enjoyed mixing it up over that” – Grant Guise
The women’s 100km proved to be a closely fought affair with Jo Johansen hanging tough with Hamiltons Cecilia Flori before open terrain played to Cecilia’s strengths where she made a decisive break and increased the pace all the way to the finish clocking an amazing 9:22 debut 100km. Jo would fade but hold out Emma McCosh 10:11 and 10:15 respectively.
“My aim was to run and have fun hopefully finishing the race but I got much more than I expected. I really liked the course with its undulation and amazing views. Managed to keep smiling all the way, just loving being able to run and meeting amazing like-minded people. Now that I know I can run a 100km my next mission will be Tarawera Ultra in February” – Cecilia Flori
American visitor Matthew Schaar lead all the way in the 74km to win in 7:08 with Michelle Donnell taking the woman’s title in 8:23.
“It was a beautifully laid out course with some smiling and supportive crews along the way, which made for a fantastic experience all around!” – Matthew Schaar
The 50km race was well attended with plenty of names in the mix and some serious speed being shown on the trails from Kawakawa Bay, passed Kinloch and over to Whakaipo Bay. The pool of talent in the men’s race was deep and the battle evident from the 1st km with Andy Good setting a cracking pace to lead chasers by 8mins by the 26km mark. Taking off to Whakaipo Andy wasn’t to know that newcomer Rhys Johnston (SQUADRUN) would run an perfect negative split to close the gap to within seconds heading into the final few kms. The battle to the line would go Andy’s way and he finished less than 30s clear of Rhys in 3:48. Kunaal Rajpal would battle out for a 3rd place almost 30 minutes adrift of the flying 1st and 2nd place getters.
Taupo Ultra also featured a 24km run and a 100km 4-person relay and pacer options in the long courses to enable a wide variety of athletes young and old to be part of the event.
The finish line buzz resonating through the trail community and the ongoing hype an indicator that Taupo Ultra is here to stay. Congratulations to all who participated and the seamless execution by debut event director Will Samuel.