If you are feeling down in the dumps this time next year, go and spend some time at the Tarawera Ultramarathon finish line.

Watching runners from all walks of life grin from ear to ear as they cross the line and embrace their supporters, seeing the emotion overcome them as what they have accomplished sinks in, you cannot help but smile. You might even shed a tear.

There were the elite runners, pushing themselves right to the end and collapsing over the finish line, the mums and dads who picked up and carried their children across the line with them and the couples who ran the whole way together and finished holding hands.

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I see some pretty cool moments as a sports reporter, but the Tarawera Ultramarathon at the weekend was right up there.

The elite runners are incredible, finishing a 102km race in under nine hours, but so are the everyday battlers, there purely to prove to themselves that they can do it.

The Tarawera Ultramarathon men's 102km winner Dylan Bowman is crossing the finish line!

Posted by Rotorua Daily Post on Friday, 9 February 2018

This year's event included a 100 mile (160km) race for the first time which, to me, is incomprehensible. Some runners were out there, in the rain and the mud, for 36 hours. I would struggle to stay awake that long, let alone run.

That sort of achievement does not just happen, it takes months and months of training and discipline. Even when you've done all the training and your body is ready, any form of ultramarathon is a long, hard mental battle. The mental strength required, as your mind tries to take you to dark places, is incredible.

Being at the finish line also showed me part of why this event is so popular and well respected by athletes from all over New Zealand and the world. Race director Tim Day and organiser Paul Charteris, who along with a dedicated team of volunteers, had very little sleep in the lead-up to the event, doing all of the behind the scenes work to ensure it ran smoothly.

The lack of sleep, however, did not stop them being at the finish line to personally greet and congratulate each runner as they came in. It is that kind of personal touch that makes New Zealand, and indeed Rotorua, so unique. Long may it last.