This is one of the most "runnable" trail ultra marathons in the world, offering athletes of all abilities the opportunity to be part of the Ultra-trail World Tour. Since its inception in 2008, the Tarawera Ultra has been massively popular with athletes from around the globe, and typically hosts over 1000 athletes from around 40 different countries. Runners will enjoy 102km of stunning scenery and beautiful lakes, mountains and rivers, in an epic journey from Rotorua, New Zealand's tourist mecca, to the finish in Kawerau.
This is an accessible run with relaxed cut-offs (around 11:30min/km throughout). Runners typically need no mandatory equipment.
New Zealand has no bears, snakes, or dangerous creatures. Risks are typically environmental (cold) or self-inflicted (navigational). The track is well marked and runners are well catered for with abundant aid-stations.
Pacing "long course" runners is optional, free, and recommended. Check the race website for details.
The trails and running surfaces are free draining. Generally at the time of racing, the course is dry, and runners are able to run in road shoes.
The race starts from the Redwoods Information Centre (Long Mile Drive, Rotorua) at 6am sharp following a short Haka performance (challenge) by local Maori.
Once underway, athletes will ascend briefly on Nursery Rd before turning left on to Tokorangi Pa Rd. At around 5km, the course descends from Tokorangi Pa to 'Lynmore Link Track' crossing the a small bridge and turning left to join Windy Road. Windy Road continues for several kilometers before gradually petering out and forming 'Feeder track' (Blue Lake Track Connector
), some NZ typical tree fern singletrack for a brief distance upon reaching Tikitapu Blue Lake. Runners then circumnavigate Blue Lake Track
anti-clockwise to the Blue Lake aid-station (15km).
From the aid-station, the course crosses the road and descends towards Okareka township in singletrack parallel to the road. Exiting the singletrack, athletes arrive at Okareka, a quiet village of mostly lakeside holiday accommodation. Remaining on road and footpath through the township, runners complete a couple of kilometers through the sleepy village onto Boyes Beach and some new singletrack along the northern shore of beautiful Lake Okareka.
Leaving the lake the course joins Millar Rd (public/gravel), climbing gradually over 2km to the Western Okataina Walkway and the second aid-station for the day. The Western Okataina Walkway is around 16km of undulating singletrack through regenerating bush and patches of scrub on a long disused 4wd track now enclosed by various varieties of small fern, Blackberry and Gorse.
The trail splits around it's highest point, and runners must turn right to begin a long descent to Okataina Lake. This downhill is sharp in places and care should be taken as the trail is rough at times.
On the shorefront of Lake Okataina, runners will come to the third aid-station. Departing this, the lake's only boat ramp and car park, runners enter Eastern Okataina Walkway
which is a beautiful section of gently rolling singletrack benched along the lakes remote eastern edge. A short climb through a low saddle separates Okataina and Lake Tarawera. Descending this to meet Lake Tarawera, runners will find the Humphreys Bay aid-station, a basic aid-station for resupply in a remote spot serviced only by boat.
Here the trail continues along Lake Tarawera, heading inland briefly before emerging back out on the water's edge in a run along the lakefront to the Tarawera Outlet aid-station. Approximately 5km of downhill on beautiful singletrack links the Outlet to the Tarawera Falls
car park. This sequence of trail offering some of the most beautiful scenery of the day alongside the crystal clear headwaters of the Tarawera River and the spectacular Tarawera Falls
The Falls car park serves as the 62km mark and another aid-station before runners embark on the remaining 25km of exotic pine forest to the Kawerau finish line. The first 10km following Tarawera Falls
to Titoki is enclosed mature pine. With soft pine needles underfoot and a cool environment beneath the shade of the trees, this is excellent open running.
At Titoki, 102km runners will turn right to head toward Te Awaroa along Cumins Rd. The Te Awaroa aid-station represents the start and finish of a 5km loop which includes a noteworthy climb, and, as such, this section is colloquially referred to as the "Loop of Despair."
Leaving Te Awaroa for the second time, the running becomes a mental battle on long stretches of closed commercial forestry road before turning off onto Mangawhio Rd., where the course becomes once again effectively singletrack on disused forestry roads. Shortly before the Fishermans Bridge aid station is the conflux of all Tarawera Ultra courses.
After the Fishermans Bridge aid station, all runners continue on Mangawhio Rd, onto Cumins Rd before crossing the Tarawera River and joining River Rd for the final 8km run into Kawerau. After crossing "Pipe Bridge", a short sequence of grass track is completed to deliver runners to the finish line on Firman Field, Kawerau.
The race began in 2008.