Rotorua elite runner Michael Voss will be seeking redemption as he takes on the 2023 Tarawera Ultramarathon this weekend.
The three-time Rotorua Marathon champion will be among a record 5000-plus runners expected to hit the trails as the 2023 Tarawera Ultramarathon by UTMB returns to Rotorua on February 11 and 12.
After a two-year hiatus, the event will welcome the most participants in its 14-year history, with runners taking on four distances including 21 kilometres, 50km, 102km, and the 100-Miler (165km).
On the back of winning the 50km in 2020, 26-year-old Voss hoped to add the 102km title to his running résumé after only being able to complete about 70km of the race in 2021 when the event was last held.
“I think it was a mixture of problems ... I went out there a bit too hard and didn’t relax and take it easy. Hopefully, I will put that learning to the test this time around,” he said.
“I am feeling confident.”
Going into the event, Voss said he had “A, B, and C goals”.
“My A goal is to get the win, B is to make the top five, and C is just to finish strong and enjoy it,” he said. “It will be cool to be one of the first Kiwis home.”
In preparation for the 102km race, Voss said he had been “hitting 200km weeks” with a few 80km runs, as well as focusing on recovery, eating right, and stretching.
“I have trained hard over the last four weeks and have come out the other side in one piece,” he said.
“I have got no injuries, no sickness. I think I will get to the start line in one piece - half the time that is the biggest challenge.”
Voss - who won the 2022 Hawke’s Bay Marathon and 2021 Auckland Half Marathon (held in January 2022) - said training for an ultramarathon was much different than a marathon or half-marathon.
“You just have to tackle it in a different way. In a marathon, you are running to your watch and get into a rhythm, and hold that for the race. But in an ultra, you have to adapt to the terrain.”
The Tarawera Ultramarathon is the first UTMB World Series event of 2023, part of a circuit of the best trail running events in the world offering runners the only opportunity to begin their quest to UTMB Mont-Blanc – the UTMB World Series Final and the pinnacle event of trail running.
Race director Mitch Murcott said he was excited to reunite the trail community in Rotorua for what will be the biggest Tarawera Ultramarathon to date.
“It is great to see the event continue to grow each year, with 75 per cent of athletes taking part in the event for the first time in 2023, and the more than 5000 runners and their supporters will provide a welcome boost to the Rotorua region.”
The event begins with the 100-mile race at 4am on Saturday, with athletes given 36 hours to complete the course that runs through the Whakarewarewa Forest and finishes at the Village Green by the Rotorua lakeside.
However, a landslip and trail damage that has closed the entire Eastern Okataina Walkway trail section following the recent thunderstorms has forced organisers to move to contingency courses in the 100-mile and 102km events, which will now start at Lake Okataina and will follow the usual courses until they reach the Village Green in Rotorua, where they will turn around and head back towards the Whakarewarewa Forest.
Athletes in the 102km will then complete one lap of the 50km course, while athletes in the 100-mile race will complete two laps of the 50km course.
This year, the event will welcome runners from outside of New Zealand for the first time since 2020, with international competitors making up 40 per cent of the field.
“It is exciting to be the first event on the calendar of the 2023 UTMB World Series and helps the event attract runners from all over the globe. The Tarawera Ultramarathon is a great way to kick off the trail running season.”
Murcott said the ultramarathon event sees many runners and supporters staying in the area for several nights and spending “meaningful amounts” per day on non-event expenses.
“Consequently, the event contributes strong economic impact to the region, estimated to be around $10 million in 2023.”
A pōwhiri will welcome competitors and supporters to the event on Friday, February 10 at Te Puia.
2023 Tarawera Ultramarathon facts and figures
· Over 5000 athletes are taking part across four distances
· An almost even gender split with 51% male and 49% female taking part
· 75% of those participating are taking part in the event for the first time
· International competitors make up 40% of the field
· Tarawera Ultramarathon runners represent 76 nationalities
· The most represented nationalities outside of New Zealand are Australia, Great Britain, the United States, France, Canada, Ireland, and Japan
· The oldest male competitor is 83-year-old Ivan Beale in the 21km event
· The oldest female competitor is 82-year-old Eileen Odgers taking on the 50km
· There are multiple youngest competitors at 16 years old, all taking part in the 21km