The sights, sounds and natural environment of the TECT All Terrain Park beckon runners of all ages and abilities to next week's Smiths Sports Shoes-sponsored Tauranga Trail Run.
Last year's inaugural event was a huge success with nearly 500 entries taking on the 14km and 28km challenges with runners loving the native bush trails, astounding views to Mount Tarawera and the astonishing 60-metre Te Rerenga Tunnel, which was hand-dug in the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Last year's winner of the main event over 28km, Russell Lake, is back to defend his title over the extended 30km distance in the fundraising venture for the Tauranga Boys' College cross-country team.
He is in great form after running a personal best of 2hr 44m 23s at the recent Auckland Marathon where he came second in the 40-44 age group category.
"It is certainly a challenging course and is tough in certain places but has nice flowing tracks in a lot of other places," Lake said.
"There was a bit of mud, gravel roads but, overall, it was really nice and I think the guys did a great job to get the course looking as good as they did.
"I am certainly back this year and my wife and two daughters are competing in the shorter run/walk. What distance people compete over depends on how confident you are about running off road. I think the shorter event is a great introduction to trail road running and, if you have run half marathons, then the two-lap event will be challenging but not impossible.
"The key is to pace yourself and not go out too hard as there are a lot of hills."
The distances have been amended this year to a 5km children's course, and 10km, 15km and 30km off-road walk/run options. Event organiser Scott Furness said this was due to demand from competitors.
"Online, after last year's event, a lot of people asked for a 10km event so we took that on board.
"The good thing is that all events cover the Te Rerenga Tunnel that was hand-dug to divert the stream under what is Pyes Pa Road. It is pretty cool and there are wetas and glow worms in there."
The work done by the Tauranga Boys' cross-country team has made quite an impact on the TECT All Terrain Park, located 29km from the Lakes on SH 36.
"We plant a native tree along the course each year for every participant. There is a grove of trees along Te Ara o Raho Rd, that's 500 plants so far, and we will have additional trees planted after this year's event.
"We regularly head up to the TECT Park to work on the trails, making them better for users of the park. We were up there last week spreading 'gap 40' shingle on a track that has been named the TBC Trail after all the work we've done on it.
"We cut it through a gully by the Adrenaline Forest last year and have continued working on it this year with the help of the TECT Park staff who have modified the lines it ran, made a smoother gradient and added in a bridge over a small stream."
For information on how to enter go to taurangatrailrun.co.nz