Fire risk makes Saturday’s ultramarathon tougher



14 March 2013

Dry conditions and extreme fire danger means New Zealand’s Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon 100 kilometre-long run will be even tougher to complete for the 430-strong field.

The event is on this Saturday (March 16) and was scheduled to run from Rotorua to Kawerau in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty. However, because of a prolonged drought the fire risk is so high the last 40 kilometres of the course has been closed to the event organisers.

Instead of finishing on relatively easy forestry roads in Kawerau, the runners will turn-around at the 60km mark of the race – right next to the Tarawera Falls - and run another marathon over rugged, hilly trails. 

The Tarawera Ultramarathon has a reputation as being relentlessly tough – but achievable – even for a first-time ultra runner.

“I’m afraid this new course is going to break some of those runners,” says event organiser Paul Charteris. “It’ll mercilessly eat them up and spit them out.” 

For those who risk getting “chewed-up” on race day, the Tarawera Ultra has shorter options with an 85km and a 60km distance. Both will be run on many of the same trails as the 100 kilometre distance.

“The choice to re-route the course was an straightforward one,” says Charteris. “The safety of runners, spectators and volunteers is always the number one priority.”

For the runners, the last minute curve ball throws in some new challenges. With more of the route being covered by rocks, roots and hills, runners will need to conserve more energy for later in the race. The winner of the 100km event is expected to finish in a little over eight and a half hours. The final finisher is expected home just before midnight.

Many of the world’s best off road distance runners will be racing Tarawera. For the European and North American favourites, this is their first clash of 2013. The world’s ultra-running media are keen to see how they fare against the best from down under, including top runners from Australia. 

"Christchurch’s Vajin Armstrong will be defending Kiwi honour in the men’s race and 21-year-old ultra ‘phenom’ Ruby Muir in the women’s 100k race,” adds Charteris. 

Armstrong has been running an astonishing 250km per week to prepare for the race, while Muir has continued her habit of winning every race she’s entered.

Rotorua is renowned for hosting a number of international sporting events. In 2006 the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championship were held in Rotorua and the Single Speed World Champs held in the Whakarewarewa Forest in 2010.

On race day, running shoes will replace wheels on many of the same trails.

“With this sort of fierce competition, there will be a large national and international media following for this race,” adds Charteris. “It will be a big week for the region.”

More details about the race are available at


The Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon:

  • A 100, 85 or 60km trail ultra-distance run from Rotorua to Kawerau.
  • 60, 85 or 100km running distances.
  • 430 runners from 20 countries
  • The race started in 2009 with 67 runners from four countries
  • The 5th Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon is on Saturday March 16, 2013.
  • An adventure, an endurance event, a 100km-long scenic buffet.
  • Runners pass through exotic forestry, native bush, lakes, waterfalls and follow the river.
  • Most of the run is on single-track trails or forestry roads.
  • Runners can compete as a solo athlete or in a relay team.
Page reviewed: 14 Mar 2013 10:00am