12 February 2021
More than 3,000 athletes, plus their coaches and supporters, are in Rotorua for tomorrow’s 13th running of the annual Tarawera Ultramarathon, the largest trail running event in New Zealand.
As part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, Tarawera Ultramarathon has always attracted some of the world’s best elite trail runners prior to COVID-19. While this year will see only New Zealand residents compete, the event organisers are over the moon with the 40% increase in New Zealanders signing up, almost fully making up for the loss in international competitors.
This is a fantastic result for Rotorua in many ways. Not only does a strong events industry play a key role in the city’s economy, a domino effect sees the support continue through to other business sectors.
Destination Rotorua interim chief executive Andrew Wilson says events add to the vibrancy of Rotorua and attract visitors from out of town who also spend money on accommodation, hospitality, retail and attractions while they are here.
Tourism New Zealand research indicates that up to one third of domestic travel is primarily driven by people looking to participate in events. Considering that 65% of this year’s runners are first-time Ultra participants, there’s a strong chance that they and their families will take advantage of their time here and get out to enjoy some Rotorua activities and attractions.
Additionally, the event organisers will be donating nearly $50,000 to the volunteer groups that take part in supporting the race.
Tarawera Ultramarathon race director Sam Ellis says this year’s event will involve more than 4,400 volunteer hours covered by a team of volunteers who come from at least 20 core community groups, with many of these having other groups working alongside them.
“We were thrilled this year to welcome two new groups to the event – TUKAHA Rotorua and the Rotary Club of Rotorua Passport – and we look forward to having them with us on the trails around Rotorua across the weekend.”
Community clubs and groups use event incentives to fund various initiatives such as cost-covering for travel, equipment, competitions, operational expenses and, in the case of one of the Rotary clubs, local projects within the community.
“The Tarawera Ultramarathon receives incredible support from the local community every year and 2021 is no different,” Sam Ellis says.
“Over the last 13 years the Tarawera Ultramarathon has grown to be the largest trail running event in New Zealand and that wouldn’t have been possible without the ongoing support of our volunteers who go above and beyond each year. Every year our runners comment on the great community spirit at the event, from our course marshals right through to the incredible aid stations which keep the athletes going throughout the night.”
Well-attended events showcase our region’s assets. Competitors will traverse geothermal parks, pass waterfalls and eight different lakes, and run through forests. They will also experience first-hand the manaakitanga that Rotorua is known for, and once they cross the finish line, the memories of their time spent in Rotorua will hopefully bring them back.
Competitors had a choice of distances – 21km, 50km, 102km and the 100 Mile Endurance Race.
Photos by Graeme Murray