The Tarawera Ultra-Marathon began in 2009, offering competitors the chance to sample the amazing off road running and walking trails of the Rotorua region. The event takes place in the heartland of New Zealand tourism, with a strong cultural element to the event enjoyed equally by local and international competitors. Now in its 12th year, the 2020 event will streamline the events on offer, with race distances of 20km, 50km, 102km and the famed 100 miler (162km).






The 12th edition of the Tarawera Ultra Marathon on February 8 and 9 will be the biggest ever, with an incredible 3,000 plus (entries are still open) set to turn out across the four race distances on offer, bringing with them many more family, friends and supporters into the region, providing a huge boost to the local economy.

The number of entrants represents an increase of 50% on 2019 (and over 100% on 2018), as the event continues to build its reputation based on the wonderful Kiwi hospitality and welcome, and the beautiful courses through the Tarawera and Rotorua regions.

Race Director Tim Day has been involved with the event for most of its 12-year history and is over the moon at the response for next week’s races and can’t wait to start to welcome runners and their supporters into town. “The buzz around the event team is real as we get closer to race week especially as so many of our entrants are coming in from out of town. This is our chance to show off our region and push out our chests a little and be proud of our stunning trails and attractions,” said Day. “Key to that is our incredible volunteer crew, we have over 600 signed up to support the event, with many of them long term in their roles and so crucial to the success and reputation of the event. But we are always looking for more, so if anyone is keen to share some very special moments and help our participants get to that finish line, please get in touch!

The event is indeed hugely popular with international visitors, with 45% of the total field made up of overseas athletes, representing an amazing 59 counties in total. The greatest representation outside of New Zealand comes from Australia (646), Great Britain (91), USA (90) and France (65). That growth is partly driven by the Tarawera enjoying an increasing presence on the world stage. The 102km race is part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour and the 50km, 102km and 100 miler offering qualifying spots at the UTMB, the world’s largest trail race while the 102km and 100 miler also offers qualifying spots at the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run, the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race.

But the heart and soul of the event lies in the incredible stories of achievement that are common and yet somehow unique to each participant, regardless of distance or ability, with Day’s favorite part of the job handing out the finish line hugs. “Regardless of the chosen race distance, the Tarawera Ultra-Marathon is an endurance event that will see every competitor test themselves to the limits. Each has their own story, some are shared publicly, many are kept private, but seeing that sense of achievement and fulfilment at the finish line fills me with joy and reminds us why we do this, it truly is one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can have, to greet runners and walkers at the finish line.



Those inspiring stories are many and varied, with many runners referencing health battles, inspiring family members, dealing with a midlife crisis or simply looking to enjoy some ‘me’ time away from the daily grind of kids and work.

Here are some of those stories that will play out on the trails of the Tarawera and Rotorua region on February 7 and 8.

Bill Bardsley, Australia, 100-Miler: At 66 Bill is the oldest competitor in the 100-Miler and describes himself simply as a ‘determined old man’ enjoying ultra-marathons.

Sandie Barsdell, Waimana, BOP, 50km: Sandie is one of those many parents out there looking to inspire their kids, a mum of four looking for her fitness motivation in the Tarawera Ultra.

Warren Bavister, Rotorua, 102km: Warren registered in 2018 but a dislocated shoulder saw him drop down to the 50km race, he finished despite subsequently finding out the shoulder was broken. Warren is back to finish what he started and looking to share the day with a mate who is a first timer over the distance who has been a big support these past 18 months.

Debbie Bradley, Napier, 50km: Debbie is on the recovery trail from significant preventative surgery as she carries a cancer gene called Lynch Syndrome, giving her a high chance of getting cancer. The surgery identified the first signs of cancer so may well have saved her life and she is now the oldest family member with the gene (at just 39 years old). Running is her way of staying strong mentally and showing her children what can be achieved, this will be her first Ultra.

Lucy Broughton, Dunedin, 100-Miler: Three years ago Lucy could hardly run between power poles but was inspired by a friend with cancer (who has since passed away) to take up running. Started with a 10km event and now takes on her first 100-Miler.

Guy Dinmore, Great Britain, 50km: Guy is running to raise money for a charity called Future Hope which helps slum children get housing and education in India.

April Duggan, Christchurch, 50km: April is using trail running to get that much needed escape and some time of her own, the inspiring mother of four is taking on the 50km to get that peace and quiet!

Andrew (Jandalman) Fifita-Lamb, Manukau, 102km: Andrew is an inspiring and somewhat unorthodox trail runner, running in his home-made jandals and often takes on events for great causes, showing that it is the runner, not the equipment that is most important!

Anna Grayling, Rotorua, 50km: Anna stopped running after her first child was born and Anna was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. A stem cell procedure worked wonders and encouraged Anna to get back out running. She is a returning original too, having taken part in year one back in 2009 and is back for more!

Ngan Harwood, Australia, 100-Miler: Ngan is a former refugee into Australia out of Vietnam. She and her mother were granted visas into Australia as boat refugees back in 1983. Inspired by her mum’s resilience and determination, Ngan wants to over-achieve in her life and to inspire others in turn. Now a mum of three kids and business owner, Ngan mentors migrant and refugee women who also want to own their own business.

Nicole Leslie, Rotorua, 50km: Nicole is on a weight loss journey and loving every challenge that she is overcoming along the way, including her participation in this year’s Tarawera Ultra. Incredibly this 44-year-old has lost half her bodyweight so far on the way to the start line!

Ryan Turei & his Father Mitchell Turei, Auckland, 50km: Ryan is inspired by his father Mitchell and both will share their first Ultra-Marathon event together at Tarawera as they celebrate Mitchell’s battle to overcome a cancer diagnosis. Ryan describes Mitchell as an old-school endurance runner who was diagnosed with cancer in December 2018. Months of gruelling treatment and an incredible desire to get well has seen Mitchell make it to the start line alongside his son, with race day marking one year since Mitchell’s final chemotherapy treatment. In Ryan’s words “it will be an honour to share this moment alongside my Dad.

The joy and sense of achievement for the participants might be even more special this year, with the event hub and finish line moving to the Lakefront, as part of the 40-million-dollar redevelopment set to transform that area and attract visitors and locals to the area.

Racing gets underway on Saturday morning, with the 100-Miler field setting off from Te Puia at 4am, the 102km race from Firmin Field Kawarau at 7:00am, the 50km at 7:00am from Te Puia, and the 21km race is also hosted on Saturday, starting at 10:00am at Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake). All events head to the finish line on the Lakefront Reserve.






2020 Tarawera Ultra-Marathon Trail Running Festival

  • February 5 to 9, 2020
  • Rotorua, New Zealand
  • 21km, 50km, 102km and 100-Miler (165km) race options
  • 48% female, 52% male
  • Courses through the Rotorua, Tarawera region and enjoys the cooperation and support of local Iwi
  • The 102k race is part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour
  • The 50km, 102km and 100-Miler are qualifying races for UTMB, the world’s largest trail race
  • The 102km and 100-Miler see runners vie for qualifying spots at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race
  • International competitors predominantly from Australia, Europe, Asia and the USA


Tarawera 20k (21.3km and +794m/-869m): just almost over the half marathon, the race will be a point-to-point trail run featuring Lake Okareka, Lake Tikitapu, The Redwoods and steamy sulphur trails to the finish line. A combination of trails and forestry roads with native bush, conifer forest, parkland and thermal landscapes. It starts at Lake Okareka, towering redwoods, steam alongside the trail at Sulphur Point, run alongside Blue Lake and Lake Rotorua, finish at historic Government Gardens, Rotorua.



Tarawera 50k (50.7km and +1833m/-1865m): Combination of trails and forestry roads with native bush, conifer forest, parkland and thermal landscapes, the isthmus start and scenic boatride, the Tarawera Trail alongside the lake, fresh scones at the Buried Village aid station, run under a waterfall, towering redwoods, steam alongside the trail at Sulphur Point, run along four lakes, finish at historic Government Gardens, Rotorua.



Tarawera 102k (102km and +3089m/-2843m): Second race of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, the most international running race in New Zealand and one of the most competitive trail ultras in the world. Point to point, combination of trails and forestry roads with native bush, conifer forest, farmland, parkland and thermal landscapes. A very similar course to 2018, but with possibly 1km less distance.

Single track 60% | forest track minor forest route 23% | farm/park 5% | forest road 7% | public road 5%

Start line at Haka, the solitude of the Tarawera Forest, waterfalls on the Tarawera Falls track, twists and turns on the Eastern Okataina track, towering redwoods, steam alongside the trail at Sulphur Point, run along five lakes, finish at historic Government Gardens, Rotorua.



Tarawera 160km (160km and +5132m/-5134m): A challenging ultra-distance race in the Rotorua and Tarawera regions. Completing an anti-clockwise loop, the event starts and finishes at Government Gardens in Rotorua. Runners start in the dark on Saturday morning and many will run for 24 or more hours – finishing on Sunday.
The course features eight lakes, streams, rivers, native bush, planted forests, farmland and volcanic areas. A boatride takes runners across Lake Rotomahana.









Info by Abel de Frutos for Trailrunningspain