Nancy Jiang Takes the Tape in the 2023 TUM102

11 February 2023

Nancy Jiang (NZL) won her maiden Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB title as she took the tape in one of the most competitive women’s 102km races the event has ever seen.

Jiang, who is based in Queenstown, eventually wore down her competitors over the last few kilometres to finish in 9:26:08, with just four minutes separating her and the second and third place finishers Stephanie Auston (AUS) and Aroa Sio (ESP).

The 2021 New Zealand Mountain Running champion proved today that she can turn her hand to faster trail running just as successfully.

“I don't know what just happened. I wasn't expecting this at all, but I don't know, I had a good feeling. It just feels like the days leading up to the race things were working out for me. I can't explain it, but I had a feeling that I was going to have a good day and I just held on to that feeling. I don't know, maybe it was just gut feel and believing in yourself,” said Jiang.

The women’s TUM102 race was close from the start of the day to the end of the day, with the front runners bunching at aid stations and the leaders changing positions throughout the race.

“I thought Amanda (Basham) was ahead going up the first big climb through Okataina, I was behind her and then I guess we would all just group at the aid stations so the lead kept going back and forth between us, I think maybe sometimes I was fourth, third, but it's not over until it's over and I know it's runnable and I was just like, if I can just keep running, I'm just going to keep going and try and push,” she said. “I was just like, legs don't blow up, you're going to win Tarawera, it's life changing.

“The event was cancelled last year and now the women’s field is stacked, I don't know, I feel like this is probably the most competitive it's ever been, but it's so good to see everyone's coming back to Rotorua, it’s buzzing,” she said.

The top three female and male podium finishers in the TUM102 races qualified for the CCC (100km) race at UTMB Mont-Blanc in August, something Jiang say she’s delighted to have secured.

“I wanted to qualify for CCC. I did it last year and I didn't finish top three, so I didn't get the stone. That was my goal actually, to get into CCC,” said Jiang.

Australia’s Stephanie Auston was unable to hold onto the lead she held for much of the race, having to settle for the runner up spot just over a minute behind Jiang in 9:27:29. Spain’s Aroa Sio rounded out the podium in 9:30:41.

“I'm pretty stoked, I was really happy with how I went. The race was so fast at the start, I was like, 100ks is a long way, but I always think good competition makes you run really well. I felt pretty good, probably until about 70k and then I hit some rough patches, and then when Nancy went past the last eight ks I was gone. But I was really happy to hold on to second, get a golden ticket again, which will be really exciting and hopefully I’ll use it this time,” said Auston.

“I think the first 30k I was probably about sixth and then I caught people through the Redwoods and then I think I hit the lead just after the aid station by the finish, and then I felt pretty good,” she said. “At the last aid station I knew that I was feeling pretty rough and I was like, if someone passes me, I'm not going to be able to do much, but hopefully only one person passes me and that's what ended up happening. I rallied a bit at the end and the finish is really nice, seeing lots of people that you know is really good, so I think it was a good time out there.”

In the end Auston had to settle for second place, the same position she ended up when she last ran TUM102 at the 2019 Tarawera Ultramarathon. The 31-year-old says she was grateful to be back racing in New Zealand at the event.

“Everyone's so friendly. I loved the haka at the start, that was amazing. Everyone out there is always cheering you on, really positive, always willing to help, but everyone came and filled up my bottles and everyone you saw was cheering me and it was really great,” said Auston.

1. Nancy Jiang (Queenstown, NZL) – 9:26:08
2. Stephanie Auston (Newcastle, AUS) – 9:27:29
3. Aroa Sio (ESP) – 9:30:41