Daniel Jones Wins 2023 TUM102 Title

11 February 2023

Daniel Jones has claimed an outstanding victory at the 2023 Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB, winning the TUM102 title and securing his long-term goal of qualifying for Western States.

Jones executed an almost flawless race to finish in a time of 7:27:55, the quickest anyone has ever raced over the 102km distance at the Tarawera Ultramarathon. American duo Hayden Hawks and Ryan Montgomery finished second and third respectively.

In winning the TUM102 – on his Tarawera Ultramarathon debut – the 32-year-old bagged a golden ticket to the oldest and one of the most prestigious ultramarathons in the world, Western States.

“I’m just over the moon, it’s been a bit of a work in progress, I’d say a long time coming not a super long time coming, I’ve had some good success anyway last year but in terms of 100 kilometres, this just blows my mind to finally getting this accomplishment, it’s unbelievable getting that golden ticket,” said Jones.

The Wellington-based, Whakatane-raised athlete beat his training partner and pre-race favourite Hayden Hawks (USA) by more than 14 minutes.

Jones was running in a chase pack for the first 40 kilometres until he reached the Redwoods, and from there began to wind up the pace alongside Hawks. By the 62-kilometre mark Jones decided to grab the race by the horns and put together a huge surge that took him away from the American to an unassailable lead.

“To be honest I’ve just been focused on making this my number one goal and really it just paid off having it as my primary focus, because I just went into this race knowing the competition was going to be superb and it just showed out there, we were running as a big pack for the first quarter or a third and then Hayden and I were working together and then battling it out, it was just hard work.

“The change of course in some ways added to it, the whole time you had people around so it was making sure you stayed alert the whole time and going past people was key and making sure they were aware of you as well so they didn’t run out in front of you, the course was running so nice considering all of that rain we had and it was pretty dry, just a couple of muddy bits, nothing much. Rotorua turned it on, what a day for it,” said Jones.

As is tradition at the Tarawera Ultramarathon, Jones, being the TUM102 winner, was received at the finish line by a haka and to the cheers of the hundreds of spectators who had flocked down to cheer him home – and the emotion it evoked in the Kiwi was clear to see.

“That being my number one goal, the haka at the finish line, the atmosphere of this event, even at the start it drives your emotions up, got the adrenaline up with the haka at the start line as well which was so cool having that, an international race, having the competitors coming here from all over the world. It’s such a unique experience having that,” he said. “Who else has that kind of thing at the start of a race and the end of a race? It’s just so humbling, it’s awesome. It’s that cultural aspect of being in Rotorua as well, it’s the cultural hub really.”

This win at the Tarawera Ultramarathon continues an incredible run of victories for Jones, having claimed wins at two Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Marathons, the New Zealand Sotheby’s International Realty Queenstown Marathon, two Kepler Challenges, and the Lake Sonoma Ultramarathon 100km in 2022.

Jones will now turn his full attention to Western States in June, a hard-earned goal that has been a year in the making.

“That is going to be the sole focus, there may be a couple of build-up races but that being the number one goal, I’ll try and get over to the US and get a bit of altitude training and heat acclimation, and yeah just really allow my body to recover from this and enjoy it. Ticking off that big goal, it’s one of those things, you’ve really got to appreciate the success as well, and I learnt from the failures last year so now to actually get that good ticket is so good,” said Jones.

American Hayden Hawks also ran an impressively fast time over the Rotorua trails to finish the TUM102 in 7:42:13.

“Fast, it was really fast. It was fast from the start, Dan and Sam McCutcheon were pushing the pace right from the start and I was just trying to hold on and stay as comfortable as possible and then we got into about 60, 70k into the race and Dan just threw the hammer down, I tried to keep with him but I just couldn’t stay on him today,” said Hawks.

“I ran 7:42, I’m super happy with that fast time, just there were somebody better today and that’s just how it rolls sometimes,” he said. “It was awesome, the aid stations were great, super helpful, they were on top of things every single time. I think it was actually kind of cool how the courses all ran together with the 50k, 102k and the 100 miler and everything. You get so much encouragement out there, I ran into so many people I know and other people I don’t know but they were just cheering us on, giving us encouragement and helping us get through that distance.”

Hawks will now begin his preparation for Western States, where he finished second last year and is focused on going one better this year.

“Right now I’m completely focused on Western States, and I’ll decide after what I do, probably some UTMB World Series races in Asia in the fall, but really I’m focused and dialled in on Western States, that’s what I’m really focused on now,” said Hawks.

“I’m moving out to Boulder, Colorado in March and Dan’s already kind of said that he’ll probably come out and do some training with me in Boulder. It seems like every time me and him have trained together we’ve had incredible performances so why mess that up. I’m sure we’ll get together and figure that out,” he said.

Ryan Montgomery (USA) was the TUM102 third place finisher and claimed the second golden ticket to Western States in June – due to the fact that Hawks already had his place on the start line.

Montgomery said they were delighted with the way their race turned out and loved their first Tarawera Ultramarathon experience.

“I am very stoked, after some failed attempts last month and just a saga of injury last year I’m just happy to feel like my body is back and performing, so yeah I’m really stoked,” said Montgomery. “I felt like I executed my race, I executed exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted to ‘hang out’ essentially for the first 50k and then slowly go into my next gears and flows and I feel like it really worked out in my favour today.

“New Zealand is amazing, it’s exactly what I anticipated in terms of culture, in terms of the people. I really was excited to just run in a jungle with amazing people. All day long people were saying ‘go Ryan, you’re doing great’, and just the energy is just like nothing compared to races I’ve done. Huge fan, huge fan of the community, can’t wait to come back maybe next year,” they said.

1. Daniel Jones (Wellington, NZL) – 7:27:55
2. Hayden Hawks (USA) – 7:42:13
3. Ryan Montgomery (USA) – 8:11:21