vibram tarawera ultra. course

the course

Above: Aerial photo courtesy of Graeme Murray Photography. 1. The track between the start and Blue Lake (Tikitapu), 2. Lake Tikitapu, 3. Lake Okareka, 4. the hills of the Western Okataina Walkway 5. Lake Okataina, 6. Lake Tarawera.

The Tarawera Ultra is a point to point run from Rotorua through to Kawerau. The vast majority of the run is on singletrack trails through native bush or forestry roads with less than 10% being on a sealed public road (between Blue Lake - Tikitapu to just past the Okareka Aid Station). In the Tarawera Forest you will be on deserted forestry roads, some of it, alongside the river. This is a trail run - not a road race.

It is a net downhill with a 357 metre (840 foot) elevation loss. The running surface is excellent with free-draining volcanic soils with some technical roots and rocks on the Oaktaina and Tarawera section of the course from Humphries Bay to The Outlet. The is a river, lakes and creeks for you to cool off if you start to feel hot during the run.

Total evelvation gain for the 100k is estimated to be 2776m or 9100 feet. 

60, 85, 100km with elevation profile
race map

course 3D view
race map

100 course with detailed elevation
100km with elevation profile

related .gpx file

first 5km of the race only
first 5km tarawera ultra

related .gpx file

detail final 30km of course: 100km runners only

final 30km tarawera ultra

related gpx file

for spectators and crew

Google Earth flyovers on YouTube (note: first two files do not correspond to relay change-overs, the second two do).


stage 1
Start to end of Blue Lake

tarawera flyover
Blue Lake to Okataina

Tarawera Ultra stage 3
Okataina to Tarawera Falls
(the 60km finish-line)

tarawera ultra
Tarawera Falls to Kawerau
finish (85km) and relays

tarawera ultra
Tarawera Falls to Kawerau finish-line
(for the 100km course).




From a runners point of view: here is the course (in four sections)


Runner 1Start to Okareka 18.5km 
The start is a decent uphill to Tokorangi Pa Road (really a walking track) which continues to climb in a series of rollers before plunging down very sharply. There's some flattish forestry road before you hit Blue Lake at exactly 10km. Just before Blue Lake you run through dense native bush. You run 7/8th's of the way around Blue Lake on well-formed walking tracks. The road to Okareka (and little beyond) is sealed but there's pretty interesting landscape and houses so it's not boring. 

Runner 2:
 Okareka to Okataina: 17.5km
This section starts with some gradual uphill on Miller Road for just under 3km. The Western Okataina Walkway is a series of long gentle ups followed by shorter downs. These uphills just Depending on your fitness, they are all perfectly runnable. "I actually find this section kind of boring since you cannot see the lake and the bush is not that spectacular". As a test of fitness it is superb. (as an aside, I have contacted DoC to put in a major hit on the gorse that has crept up in the past 12 months) From the trig turn-off at the top (you stay on the Western Okataina Walkway) it is a really fun downhill to Okataina. This track is pretty poorly maintained in sections, there are no rocks or roots - just uneven ground. 

Runner 3
Okataina to Tarawera Falls: 23.8km
This is the toughest leg. It starts off OK, with the Eastern Okataina Track throwing some short steep uphills and gentler downs. It's al in the bush so you need to be nimble. There are some nice views of the lake in places. The short track between lake Okataina and Tarawera is smooth and easy. The Northern Tarawera Track is tough. There's zero net elevation gain/loss but the overgrown nature of the track and abundance of roots make this section tougher than most bargain on. You will need trail running skills to negotiate this well. Nice views of the lake and Mt. Tarawera in places. (I'll try and clean up the track a little before the race to make it more easily negotiable)

Psychologically, the Tarawera Outlet is the turning point for the entire race. You change direction and the running becomes easier. You'll be well-rewarded for the tougher Northern Tarawera Track with the best section of the course. The Tarawera Falls Track is once of the nicest walks in NZ with a smooth track, net downhill and river flowing (plus cascades) next to you the whole way.

Runner 4:
 Tarawera Falls to Finish (important new update for 80k, 100k and relay runners) 

About 400 metres past the Tarawera Falls Aid station, you'll turn right down an unmarked forestry road. Taking the first right (again - another no-name road), there's a decent uphill to a point where you'll cross over Tarawera Road to Titoki Road. Titoki is a net gentle downhill all the way to the aid station at the end. 

The Aid Station is where Titoki meets Edwards Road, there is a major intersection. 85km runners turn left. It is 1km to the river and you essentially follow the river along River Road from here to the finish (passing the Fisherman's Bridge and River Road Aid Stations along the way). 

The River Road section is simply beautiful running on a deserted forestry road next to the river. The new lower Tarawera River Track will take you alongside the river almost the entire way to Kawerau.

For 100km runners. You'll turn right (at Titoki & Edwards) and then left down Puhi Puhi Road. This is a nice quiet road with good tree cover. There are rolling climbs to the Awaroa Road Aid station. At Awaroa Road you'll do a loop of just over 5km that takes in a grunty steep (arse-biting steep) uphill and a long-sweeping downhill (with nice views). From Awaroa, you'll continue a net downhill along Puhipuhi until the Mangawhio turnoff. Mangawhio is a tree-lined forestry road (again mostly all downhill) that will take you all the way to the Fisherman's Bridge (on your left) where you'll join the 80km runners. note: The Awaroa loop and surrounding areas are exposed. If it's a hot day - be prepared.

the course

Image Heading

The lakes of the Tarawera ultramarathon. The start is at the Redwoods in Rotorua (top right-hand corner). You'll run from there around Blue Lake (barely visible) and over a small hill to Lake Okareka (also barely visible). Following the north shore of Lake Okareka, you'll enter the Okataina scenic reserve, around Lake Okataina. From Okataina you'll crest a small hill to Lake Tarawera at Humphries Bay (just below the double arrows >> in this image). You'll run the northern Tarawera Track (alongside the lake on the RHS of this photo).  Not part of the course, but visible on the left of this photo are the foothills of Mt. Tarawera (foreground) and Lake Rotomahana (far-left in the background).

Lake Okareka (foreground) and Lake Tarawera and Mt. Tarawera (background). The run proceeds along the foreshore of Lake Okareka from right to left as you view this image. The second aid station of the course (and first relay change-over) is on the beach at the bottom left-hand corner of this image.

the course


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