Second Time a Charm for Matt Urbanski

13 February 2021

Matt Urbanski has put the disappointment of 2020 behind him to come out and win the 100-Miler race at the Tarawera Ultramarathon, with Katie Wright beating Fiona Hayvice by the narrowest of margins to take home the women’s title.

Urbanski didn’t finish the 2020 race on the trails around Rotorua but overcame that disappointment to win the longest race at New Zealand’s largest trail running event by more than an hour.

Urbanski and his family are from America but have been in New Zealand since last year after their flight home was cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He put his extra time in New Zealand to good use and will now leave a champion.

“It was a great feeling to get it done, everything just went smoothly all day,” said Urbanski. “My motto is to just be patient and there’s a section between 93km and the top of the climb after Okataina where it’s just slow and technical and I just took my time and then I had legs for the climbs later on. That worked out well and then I just had this feeling of gratitude all day, I was just really thankful.

“I had some songs on my playlist that just had me feeling good about life, I have terrible singing but was just in a groove and feeling good,” he said. “Normally in a 100-Miler I feel you can have high highs and low lows but today I didn’t really have any low lows, I was just steady all day, it was awesome.

“It feels like today was fate, I wasn’t in shape last year, I was injured but I just wanted to try and then I was moving up into the top 10 and ran like an idiot,” said Urbanski. “This year I’m fit, I was ready and had a good plan and it feels good. Out of the two different 100-Milers I’ve ever DNF’d I’ve been able to go back and get it done so the odds of me coming back to do this one again were really low after not finishing last year so it feels pretty crazy that I actually got to do it again.” 

Urbanski’s Tarawera Ultramarathon victory came in his 15th 100-Mile race, with the course around Rotorua suiting his strengths.

“It wasn’t the fastest one, it wasn’t the slowest one, I managed a couple of other races probably a little better but this one was right up there with some of the better ones I’ve done,” he said. “It was a pretty course and I love some of the sections along the lakes even though they were slow. I love the forest part where it was smooth dirt roads, it’s a course that’s really built for me. I’m good at smoother, faster trails, the technical stuff I’m not really good at so I’m glad it was less technical and more smooth.”

Urbanski crossed the line in 18:04:34, ahead of Doug Moore in 19:11:33 and Louis Schindler in 19:42:54.

The women’s race came right down to the wire with Katie Wright edging out Fiona Hayvice by just over a minute, an incredibly close margin after more than 20 hours on the course.

“Gosh the last 30kms since I passed Fi, halfway between Millar and Blue Lake, I was looking around constantly the entire way,” said Wright. “I didn’t realise quite how close she was, but I was running just as hard as I could and knowing how close she was probably wouldn’t have changed that. I was running as if she was right behind me.

“I knew that Fi was going to be quicker than me on the flatter stuff in the middle section so I was trying to not keep up with her and just run my own race,” she said. “I really like technical trail running so I knew as soon as I got to Outlet that was where I could start putting the hammer down and then when I picked my pacer up I knew she would give me a kick up the bum.”

Wright last raced at Tarawera two years ago, with the 2019 race her first 100-Miler.

“It was completely different this time around, last time I had no idea what to expect,” she said. “I had a 20-litre tramping bag and all I wanted to do was run under 24 hours and I didn’t really know that running under 24 hours was really quite a big thing until I got here so kind of not knowing helped me there, I had no expectations and I just finished in 23:45.

“This time I thought sub-22 was definitely within my reach and I’d kind of done the numbers for a sub-20 as well if there was a bit of magic on the day but my GPS completely malfunctioned so I had no idea what I was doing,” said Wright. “I looked at the navigation and it was in the lake so I was running blind for the entire race which perhaps didn’t hurt.

Wright built her pace up throughout the day, working her way through the field before taking the lead in the final third of the race.

“The win is just completely unexpected, it’s huge,” she said. “Particularly coming back and seeing the production over two years, I’m a much stronger athlete than I was two years ago and I’ll have to try and come back in two years’ time and see if I can take another three hours off.

“I don’t think I’ve ever run a race as a race, I know that Fi’s a really experienced competitive runner, she has a competitive head,” said Wright. “My other races are competitive but they’re not really a race, they have a completely different mentality, it was neat as it was the first race that I’ve actually had a race with someone. I can see why people enjoy it.”

Fiona Hayvice, who was racing at Tarawera for the 10th time, was supported by a crew including son Spike and spent the entire day in the top two, duelling with Wright for much of the race.

Wright crossed the line in 20:19:19, with Hayvice just behind in 20:20:42, while Dawn Tuffery was third in 22:28:55.

This year marks the 13th running of the Tarawera Ultramarathon, with runners from across New Zealand taking part in either the 21km, 50km, 102km or 100-Miler race, with the 102km event a part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour.


Tarawera Ultramarathon – 100-Mile


1st – Matt Urbanski – 18:04:34

2nd – Doug Moore – 19:11:33

3rd – Louis Schindler – 19:42:54



1st – Katie Wright – 20:19:19

2nd – Fiona Hayvice – 20:20:42

3rd – Dawn Tuffery – 22:28:55