The world's trail running royalty are descending on Rotorua and the wider Bay of Plenty, with seven international race directors part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour in New Zealand for the first time to attend the Tarawera Ultramarathon.
Being held on Saturday, the Tarawera Ultramarathon is a world-class 100km trail run from Rotorua to Kawerau and is also part of the Ultra Trail World Tour.
Directors and representatives from four of the 12 world tour races, including the world's largest ultra race, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in France, are in Rotorua to learn more about what makes the Tarawera Ultra so unique.
Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc directors Michel and Catherine Poletti are founders of the Ultra-Trail World Tour, with Michel also president of the International Trail Running Association.
"We approached the Tarawera Ultramarathon three years ago to be part of the world tour because we thought it was important to add to the community of beautiful, truly unique races around the world. All the races are different and it's important to learn from each other to create the best races possible," Mrs Poletti said.
"While each runner has their own goals, they are all connected by a common goal of travelling to new places, exploring by foot, making new friends and finishing the race. That is what trail running is all about."
Other international race directors are visiting from Hong Kong, Australia and the United States.
Tarawera Ultramarathon organiser Paul Charteris said it was a fantastic opportunity for New Zealand and the Tarawera Ultra to have international directors present.
"It's a huge amount of kudos for us that other World Tour directors are coming to find out how we do things here. The Tarawera Ultra was relatively unheard of a couple of years ago, but has built up a unique international reputation.
"This year marks the Tarawera Ultra's eighth year and the third year of being part of the World Tour. When Michel and Catherine Poletti first approached us to be part of the tour we were quite a small race. So it will be exciting for them to see first-hand what the race has become as part of the tour."
Directors from the Vibram Hong Kong 100 race, Steve Brammers and Janet Ng, will be running the Tarawera Ultra 100km event, with Alina McMaster from Ultra-Trail Australia running the 60km event.
As well as World Tour race directors, researcher for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run, Dr Marty Hoffman, is also in Rotorua to work alongside Waiariki Institute of Technology in researching recovery times and methods of endurance runners.
"It comes back to what makes Rotorua and New Zealand so special - our ability to host guests and make them feel completely at home," Mr Charteris said.
"The Tarawera Ultra has both the personal touch as well as the big race feel - which is a rare combination. We couldn't have done it without the investment of NZ Major Events funding, so it's a big tick all round to have the directors joining us."