Media Releases: 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon.

11 Feb. 2017. Walmsley smashes 102km Tarawera Ultra record with speed off the mark

Everyone knew about Jim Walmsley’s incredible speed right off the mark, but with an average pace of 4 minute 20 second kilometres in the 102km race, the 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon winner blew everyone – and the record – away.

Finishing in a time of 07:23:32 and slashing 21 minutes off the previous record, the American said he made the most of the knowledge other runners would just let him go with his fast start strategy.

“But it was a hard way to run that race and I was alone most of the way,” said Walmsley.

“It was extremely hot, but beautiful out there. I really soaked it all in. I’m from the desert in Arizona so this is completely different from home. There were cicadas chirping all day, the tree canopy is so green out there, I wish I’d dunked in some rivers.

“I wanted to start the year with a bang so to come out here and win a round of the Ultra Trail World Tour is a great start. I don’t think there has been a better field at the Tarawera Ultra than this year, and it’s going to be hard to beat that field anywhere in the world this year.

“My favourite part of the day – apart from the finish line – was the sponges at the aid stations. The aid stations were on point and the volunteers were great. Glorious weather, lots of running fans, it’s a really well put together race.”

Second place went to 2016 champion, Jonas Buud from Sweden, in a time of 8:01:11. He said he struggled with the hot conditions and a leg problem, but was satisfied with second place on the back of a terrible finish to the 2015 season.

Kiwi Sam McCutcheon, from Wellington, completed the podium, finishing in a time of 8:12:37. McCutcheon said it was a tough race, but a great day and course.

In the women’s 102km race, Camille Herron (USA) took the finish line honours, and also broke the Tarawera Ultramarathon women’s record by more than six minutes in the process, coming through in 08:56:01.

Herron was followed by Magdalena Boulet (USA) in 09:20:15 and Hamilton-based Cecilia Flori (Italy) in 9:21:44.

Herron says the 102km event was simply a “wonderful day”.

“I really enjoyed the beauty of it all. The course had lots of technical sections which were extremely ‘runnable’, as well as lots of ups and downs which really played to my strengths as a runner.”

Herron said despite the fact that the course suited her strengths, she still had to draw on her mental perserverance to embrace all of the highs and lows of the ultramarathon.

However, the real secret to her success might have been the three beers she had in the last section of the race.

“Having beer in a race really gives me clarity and a push to the finish line. It really helped!”

Second place getter, Magda Boulet said the 20 kilometres between 70km and 90km was a particularly tough stretch, but she hung on to Flori, who she thanked for helping get her to the second place.

Meanwhile, coming third was a completely unexpected result for Cecilia Flori, who struggled to find the words to describe her finish. She said her last 10km was quite fast, as she continued to keep Boulet in her sights.

Race results:
Tarawera Ultramarathon 102km Results:

Jim Walmsley (USA) 7:23:32 1, Jonas Buud (Sweden) 8:01:58 2, Sam McCutcheon (NZ) 08:12:35 3, David Byrne (Australia) 8:19:56 4, Gediminas Grinius (Lithuania) 08:23:16 5.

Camille Herron (USA) 08:56:00 1, Magdalena Boulet (USA) 09:20:13 2, Cecelia Flori (Italy) 09:21:42 3, Kellie Emmerson (Australia) 09:42:03 4, Fiona Hayvice (NZ)


11 Feb. 2017. Man v Woman for the 62km win 

While most of the national and international focus at today’s Tarawera Ultramarathon is on the pinacle 100km event, its the 62km event that had people really talking earlier today, with a New Zealand woman coming close to taking out the overall win from the 339-strong male and female field.

But it was Melbourne-based Majell Backhausen who narrowly edged out Taiwan-based Ruth Croft, taking the win in a time of 5:04:26. Backhausen has been a previous winner at the associated Tarawera events, taking out the 50km win at the 2015 Tarawera 50km and Trail Marathon.

Backhausen says he started running for pride once Croft overtook himself and two others at the 30km mark.

“I was actually running scared! Three of us were running together, not really racing, and just waiting to see who would put on the first move. Then Ruth rocks up, passes us and shows us out its done!

“Then I realised I was running for pride and I better get my s**t together. I definitely ate a bit of humble pie today.”

Backhausen says the “Ultra” is a world-class event and course. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Europe and at some of the biggest races in the world, and these guys [NZ Trail Events] have got it all sussed here.”

Croft, originally from the West Coast and currently living in Taiwan, took second place – and first female – in the 62km event in a time of 5:10:41 – just six minutes behind Backhausen.

Croft says her main goal today was to “see how it went”, but potentially taking out the whole event wasn’t on the cards.

“I stayed with them in the first part of the race and on the hills, but I found the flatter forest conditions a bit harder. I was feeling really good, but crashed a bit on the flat – and I didn’t enjoy that.

“I felt good and strong and I’m really happy with how it went.” Croft will now head back to Taiwan to compete in some Asia-based races, before taking on her next big race in Spain in May.

The winners of the 102km Tarawera Ultra event are due to cross the finish line from approximately 1:30pm today


February 2017. Small town fueling the Tarawera Ultramarathon

It’s gained a reputation as New Zealand’s most prestigious ultramarathon but the secret is finally out – the Tarawera Ultra is the ultimate party food banquet and it has some impressive figures to back it up.

On 11 February, 1400 athletes will toe the start line for the Tarawera Ultra, ready to cover a combined total of 103,000 kilometers, the equivalent of running around the earth two and a half times.

The massive distance means around 6.4 million calories will be burned on race day, requiring a significant amount of nutrition to complete the race.

Event organiser Paul Charteris says doing the food shop is a massive undertaking, and is enough to fill a reasonable sized truck.

“Spread across the 11 aid stations from Rotorua to Kawerau, there will be hundreds of litres of Tailwind sports drink, 33 jars of Pic’s peanut butter, 50kg of fresh fruit, 35kg of lollies, 200 bottles of Bundaberg ginger beer, 400 litres of coca cola and 240 bags of potato chips – and that’s just the beginning.

“The gastronomic delights at the Tarawera Ultra are a combination of Masterchef meets kids party,” says Mr Charteris.

“Sourcing our food locally is important to us, which is why we source the food from Kawerau New World – we love to involve the Kawerau community as much as possible with the Tarawera Ultra.

“All distances will be finishing at Firmin field in Kawerau, so it’s also important we have a supermarket near the finish line so we don’t get caught short.

“If it’s a hot day, runners could easily consume a hundred more watermelons than we allowed for, or burn through an extra hundred litres of coca cola.

“This year, for the first time, we won’t be using cups to serve drinks. All runners are required to bring a re-usable cup – saving the race 14,000 cups which cannot be recycled.”

The Tarawera Ultramarathon features 102km, 87km and 62km solo distances, as well as a two or four person 87km relay.

Athletes will journey through some of the Bay of Plenty’s best kept secrets. Along the way, athletes capture views of four lakes, as well as breath-taking waterfalls and crystal-clear streams.

Now in its ninth year, the Tarawera Ultramarathon has become a bucket list run for athletes across the world, with over 50 per cent of the field from overseas, representing 45 countries.

The event is also part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, a series of the most prestigious ultra-running races in the world.


January 2017. Blind Paralympic swimming champion Mary Fisher plans her first ultra marathon

Mary Fisher jogs over a rough trail in Wellington’s Aro Valley, holding a single white cane stretched out between her and her running guide.

Each week, for hours at a time, Marianne Elliott becomes the blind woman’s pair of eyes as she leads the 24-year-old by the cane, alerting her to every looming pile of stones, bumps on a trail, tree roots  and ascents and descents.

Fisher was born with a congenital condition which left her with 10 per cent sight as a child and saw her go blind in her teens. But her disability hasn’t stopped her determination to take on sporting challenges.

Swimming competitively from the age of nine, she has represented New Zealand twice in the Paralympics in London and Rio de Janeiro, winning five medals in the two events, including a gold last year for the 100 metre backstroke.

Running is the New Zealand Order of Merit recipient’s latest challenge, and on February 11, she will tackle her biggest run yet – Rotorua’s Tarawera Ultramarathon. She can only do the event because of the dedication and commitment of Elliott and two other running guides, Catherine Bennett, and Stephanie Bolland, all from Wellington.

They will take turns guiding her by her cane or a rope as they traverse 87 kilometre of trails between Lake Tarawera and Kawerau, pounding along with 1500 other course participants past four lakes, forest waterfalls and stunning scenery. Fisher has already tried 18 kilometres of the course, and came across some “tricky stuff” – slips she needed to sidle past, and parts of the path that had slipped away.

Many runners would feel daunted about running 87 kilometres in a single stretch, especially over rough terrain. Strategist for the not-for-profit group, Action Station, Elliott, a lawyer, says: “If you drove the route, it’s so far you would be like, “Oh my God”… I wouldn’t have signed up to do 87 kilometres if it wasn’t for Mary. She is pushing my boundaries.

“If we don’t turn up, then Mary can’t run either.”

But Fisher smiles. “I’ve always liked trying different things. I like to push boundaries and to see how far I can go with any kind of challenge.

“The women guiding me are all really inspirational. They’re all slightly older women and they have way busier lives than I do. They also give up their time to be my eyes on the track.”

Since October, the four guides have taken turns running with Fisher, often spending hours on trails together, linked by a single, white cane, or a rope when they’re traversing wider trails. While other runners can lose themselves in the zone, or reflect on work, relationships, and life dramas, Elliott says they must stay fully present or the run could turn hazardous. “There’s no headspace to think about anything else. I’m fully present. Mary will say something like, ‘I can hear a sheep,’ and I’ll tell her what is there. Through running with Mary, I have an attentiveness that I really enjoy.”

Over time, Fisher has learned that the running guides are different. Bolland is the fastest, but also the most cautious. “If Steph says there are stones, and Marianne says stones, I anticipate they’ll be different. There won’t be many stones if Steph says it!”

They’ve done a couple of long training runs together, recently running a marathon with a large amount of climbs in Belmont Regional Park. They all found it tough, and Elliott says she had moments of wondering why she has signed up for almost double the distance. “We get to know each other really well, and we learn how we all cope when we’re tired. Mary stays calm and sweet all the time.”

They’ve had a couple of accidents during their training, and Elliott has felt bad about that. Says Fisher: “It’s mostly when there is shingle or rocks, but there have been no major things. I’ve only come away with a couple of grazes.”

As she strides out confidently behind Elliott, it’s hard to believe that the university honours student was scared about running at primary school. She struggled to run when the light dimmed, and had to rely on fellow class mates. “I put everything into swimming instead, which is like a safe place, where you can’t crash into other people.”

Her running journey began when she strode out with Bennett, a friend who heads Access at Life Unlimited Charitable Trust, and is a keen runner. But Fisher needed something to aim towards, and in March 2015, they joined Wanaka ultramarathoner Malcolm Law on “an easy day” of his High 5-0 challenge – a rigorous challenge of running 50 mountain marathons in 50 days to raise money for mental health services. “We did a lot of walking and a bit of jogging,” smiles Fisher.

“I never thought I would be able to say that I went for a run and enjoyed it, but I really do.”


January 2017. Andrew Fifita-Lamb ready to conquer the gruelling Tarawera Ultramarathon

Andrew Fifita-Lamb is redefining the expression ‘going the distance’.

The Manukau-based endurance athlete, who was born in Tonga, is preparing to tackle the gruelling Tarawera Ultramarathon in the Bay of Plenty on February 11.

What makes him different to others entering the race is that he competes not in state-of-the-art sports shoes but in homemade running jandals.

Fifita-Lamb got into running in 2012.

He began suffering from sore knees so someone suggested he try it in footwear with flatter soles.

“I mistook this literally as running with no shoes on but my feet got worn down quite quickly from running on the road,” Fifita-Lamb says.

“One day I cut out the side of an old pair of gumboots and strapped them to my feet with my wife’s stockings.

“To this day, I run in my homemade jandals in all my training and events.”

Fifita-Lamb, who’s involved with the Faith City Church’s Temple Ministries in Manukau, says he sees it as his responsibility to live a healthy lifestyle as an example to other people.

“Running is now part of my everyday life,” he says.

“Completing the Tarawera Ultramarathon will be great, but it’s not the main reason I entered.

“I plan to do it every year as I love the outdoors, the trails that it traces, the camaraderie before, during and after the event.

“Also showing off to international runners and the world just how beautiful our country is.”

Fifita-Lamb is no stranger to covering long distances on foot.

He’s completed an impressive line-up of such events in the four years he’s been running and also helped to establish his homeland’s first ultramarathon.

Fifita-Lamb took part in that 116km race, called Run Tonga, with one other entrant the first time it was staged in 2014.

He plans to compete in it again this year on September 29.


January 2017. Hamilton woman with multiple sclerosis preparing for first ultramarathon

It’s not the typical deal you make with your husband: claiming first dibs on running an ultramarathon.

Hamilton couple Connie and Marcus Daws agreed on it after she had their two kids, Dylan, three, and Amelia, 14 months.

“I would get to do the first ultra after having the kids because Marcus got to do the first iron man and I never did,” Connie said. “With kids, you can train for one discipline as opposed to training for three – that’s harder.”

Then 31-year-old Connie was even more determined to compete when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis after Amelia was born.

A year before meeting Marcus, Connie had her first health scare. But doctors were unsure of what was wrong.

“It took my vision, which was really annoying. I was working for Transpower , putting up the power pylons, and I dropped a bolt on the grass. I couldn’t see it.”

She said a colleague asked her to grab a 14-inch spanner and she couldn’t read the numbers.

“It came on really quickly. I thought it was just the heat getting to me.”

A doctor said it wasn’t neurological and sent her to the optometrist, who found her eyes were fine. Doctors then ran some tests and she was given steroids.

At the end of 2015, she had another scan, showing more “activity” on the brain. She was then diagnosed with MS.

“I find my eyes do go foggy still. And I get tired a lot. It’s just one of those diseases where you don’t know if it’s ever going to take you out or not.”

The Tarawera Ultramarathon is on February 11. The race is from Rotorua to Kawerau, in either a 102km, 87km, or 62km distance, singular or in a team relay.

She aims to complete the 62km run in nine hours.

“The MS does worry me, because it’s the unknown. It does make me want to do things now, because you just don’t know how it is going to affect you in the future.

“Do what you can while you can.”


January 2017. Ultramarathon tips record for biggest international field

From Israel to Réunion, 42 countries will be represented at the Tarawera Ultramarathon, which has officially become the first major running event in New Zealand to attract an international field of more than 50 per cent.

On February 11, 1,250 athletes will toe the start line in the Rotorua Redwoods forest for the ninth annual event, which has the most impressive elite athlete line-up to date including defending Tarawera Ultra champion and 2015 100km world champion, Jonas Buud from Sweden.

The Tarawera Ultra traces a spectacular 102km point-to-point course from Rotorua to Kawerau and is part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour – a series of the 20 most prestigious ultra-running races in the world.

Buud says to win a race in the Ultra-Trail World Tour is “really big” and he’s aiming to defend his Tarawera Ultra title for another year.

“The quality of athletes in this year’s starting field is really good, and in particular, there are a number of talented American runners.

“For me, I see being the defending champion as an advantage over the other athletes – I know the course and I know how the event is run, so it only made sense to race again this year.

“I’m planning on racing in the same way as last year, spending several days in New Zealand beforehand to acclimatise from the current -20oc climate in Sweden, and ensuring I focus on myself and not the other competitors.

“I suspect that it’s going to be a battle all the way to the finish line, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Event organiser Paul Charteris says he is hugely excited to host close to 30 of the world’s most elite ultra-runners in Rotorua.

“Each year I find myself saying ‘this is the best field yet’, but it really is true – the Tarawera Ultra just keeps growing and we believe it comes down to the stunning trails we have to offer and the international work we have put in.

“Among many, standout names include Gediminas Grinius (Lithuania) – currently ranked number one in the world by the Ultra-Trail World Tour, Jim Walmsley (USA) – the 2016 UltraRunner of the Year, Camille Herron (USA) – 2015 50km and 100km world champion and Fernanda Maciel (Brazil) – currently ranked second in the world by the Ultra-Trail World Tour. USA Olympian Magdalena Boulet adds extra speed to the women’s field.

“This is the third year that the Tarawera Ultra has been on the Ultra-Trail World Tour, and it’s really starting to show with a 52 per cent international field.

“And it’s not just elite athletes that take part in the world tour – it’s also the crazy everyday runners who make a holiday out of their ultramarathon ambitions. They’re the ones that make our event so special,” says Charteris.


Elite athletes:


  • Camille Herron – US
  • Sally McRae – US
  • Magdalena Boulet – US
  • Fernanda Maciel – BR
  • Kellie Emmerson – AU
  • Claire Baudis – RE
  • Sophie Grant – UK
  • Fiona Hayvice – NZ, Wellington (2016 Tarawera Ultra defending champion)
  • Sue Crowley – NZ, Rotorua
  • Cecelia Flori – NZ, Hamilton
  • Dawn Tuffery – NZ, Hamilton


  • David Byrne – AU
  • Scotty Hawker – AU
  • Gediminas Grinius – LT
  • Jonas Buud – SE
  • Jim Walmlsey – US
  • Kyle Weise – AU
  • Andrius Ramonas – LT/ NZ
  • Michael Wardian – US
  • Yassine Diboun – US
  • Matt Flaherty – US
  • Sam Mccutcheon – NZ, Wellington
  • Craig Kirkwood – NZ, Tauranga
  • Romain Mirosa – NZ, Dunedin
  • Daryl Harding – NZ, Oakura
  • Andy Good – NZ, Palmerston North
  • Kristian Day-Muir – NZ, Napier


Dec. 2016. Tarawera Ultra course changes create festival finish line

An epic “festival atmosphere” is set to greet Tarawera Ultramarathon finishers on February 11 2017, with course changes that will see all distances including the 62km, 87km and 102km, finish together in Firmin Field, Kawerau.

With over 1300 runners already signed up to the event, race director Tim Day says the course changes improve the event not only for participants, but also for spectators, volunteers and contractors.

“The 62km distance historically finished at the Tarawera Falls, however in the past nine years of operation, the race has grown so much in popularity that this area is literally bulging at the seams.

“At the 2016 event, supporters battled for a spot to view their runners finish, and with limited access, the two kilometre walk to the car park added a cruel twist for runners who had just run one and a half marathons.

“By moving the 62km start line to the Western Okataina Walkway start, runners and their support crew will receive a well-deserved finish line celebration, with food, entertainment, ample parking and recovery facilities.”

Mr Day says the start line in the Redwoods Forest is a spectacle in itself, with the world’s best runners, lighting and cultural performances bringing the darkness of the forest to life.

“We don’t want the 62km athletes to miss out on this experience, so free shuttles will transport runners and supporters from the Redwoods to Okareka start line, once the 85km and 102km athletes start.”

In addition to capturing the best scenery of the region, the course changes have also increased the safety of the event by diverting runners away from sealed roads and vehicles.

Mr Day says by changing the course, a new 62km two-person relay is also now available, with entries opened today. The 87km and 102km courses have minor changes throughout, and take advantage of the new Lake Okareka trail that follows the lake edge.

“At roughly 30km each, the new relay is a great opportunity for runners to take part in one of the world’s most prestigious trail runs – without the crazy distance.”

Now in its ninth year, the Tarawera Ultramarathon has become a bucket list run for athletes across the world, with over 50 per cent of the field from overseas, representing over 40 countries.

The event is also part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, a series of the 12 most prestigious ultra-running races in the world.

June 2016. Camille Herron to race Tarawera Ultramarathon

Two-time ultramarathon world champion, Camille Herron, has signed up to tackle Rotorua’s Tarawera Ultramarathon on 11 February, 2016 and one of the fastest and most in-form woman to ever compete in the event.

The 34-year-old American will join nearly 800 other athletes from around the world who have already signed up for the 102km run from Rotorua’s redwoods to Kawerau township.

“I’ve had Tarawera on my bucket list of trail races since hearing about it a few years ago from our Kiwi friend and Oklahoma alum, Craig Kirkwood,” saysHerron.

“I’ve followed the race every year, and it looks and sounds like an amazing experience and I am excited to race against such an internationally competitive field.”

In September 2015, Herron led a powerful American women’s team to the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) World 100K Championship team title in Winschoten, Holland. In doing so, she also took home the individual title, with a time of 7:08:35 (the fourth fastest 100km time in history) and clocked a 50-mile split nearly two minutes under the current World Record for 50 miles.

Three months later, Herron proved that she had what it takes to compete with the fastest women in the world.  She led a stacked women’s field from the gun to the tape to bring home her second World Championship of 2015 at the IAU World 50K Championships in Doha, Qatar.

A relative newcomer to ultramarathons, Herron distinguished herself first as a road marathoner, qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials three times (2008, 2012, 2016).  In 2011, she represented the United States at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she finished 9th (1st American). She has 20 marathon victories to her credit.

In between her two World Championship titles, Herron managed to squeeze in a U.S National Championship title at the Door County 50 Miler, recording the fastest-ever 50-mile (80km) time by a woman (5:38:41).

Event organiser, Paul Charteris says he was “blown away” when he saw Herron’s name appear on the start list.

“Her road marathon and ultra marathon resume is unmatched in the world right now,” says Charteris.

“That said, I think Tarawera will be one heck of a test for her. She’s still very new to the trail ultra scene, so I think we can expect trail-running specialists to make up a lot of time on her in the technical parts of the course from 30 to 60km. If she manages to navigate the technical trails, we could see something phenomenal.

“We’ve seen a lot of talented women tackle Tarawera, but the Kiwi women have been so dominant in recent years. We have not had a foreign winner of the women’s race since 2012 when Canadian, Nicola Gildersleeve won the title.”

Tauranga-based running coach Craig Kirkwood has watched Herron’s career progress closely.

“Camille has come along way since we first met on the track and field team at the University of Oklahoma,” he said.

“She is now a coach and is married to my college training partner, Conor Holt. He has turned her into fantastic marathoner, but she really seems to have found her niche in the ultra distances.

“Her world titles were outstanding performances. She has proven she’s got the speed to run at the front of the women’s field at Tarawera, but she’ll need to run well on the technical sections, and run hard over the last 40km to contend with Kiwi legend, and defending champion, Fiona Hayvice.”

Now in its ninth year, the Tarawera Ultramarathon is no stranger to top overseas talent. This year’s 102k race was won by Sweden’s Jonas Buud in a time of 8:01. Buud is also the current men’s 100km world champion, winning the world title in the Netherlands last year.  For the first time, more than half of the Tarawera Ultramarathon field are expected to be international runners.

Starting at the Redwoods centre in Rotorua, runners will make their way through undulating terrain and arguably New Zealand’s best running scenery on February 11, 2017, before finishing in Kawerau in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

The event is part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, a series of the 12 most prestigious ultra-running races in the world.


For more information about the event, check out the Tarawera Ultramarathon website or contact event organiser, Paul Charteris at



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