This iconic mountain race will celebrate 64 years in 2019 and brings upon the dawn of the significant milestone - 65th 'Sapphire' anniversary. The moment this year's race is done and dusted, plans will commence for next year.
Widely considered as the true kaumatua of all-mountain races, it is not for the faint-hearted! Even the curtain-raiser race; Pūtauaki Prince & Princess of the race, is a mighty challenge for adults, let alone the 9-13-year-olds boys and girls which enter.
The event really sits at the heart of the Eastern Bay of Plenty and in particular, the people of Kawerau, with all ages and various community organisations assisting with race day operations.
Pūtauaki (Mt. Edgecumbe) is the most revered natural landmark in the region, Tangata Whenua has a strong connection to the maunga and the sheer size and magnitude of the mountain are a remarkable sight, let alone being one of the brave souls to attempt to race up and down it.
Incredible athletes have plied their trade in this event, many of which have gone onto international successes, with the current record holder Shay Williamson's 45:31 time set in 2016, likely to be a time hard nut to crack for many years to come.
Race Director Lee Barton (Kawerau District Council's Events Manager) said "While the elite athletes achieve legend status, it is the rest of the field that gains the rewards and contributes to the success of the race."
"It really doesn't matter how fast you go up and down, the benefits to anyone participating are so valuable. The race day atmosphere, the stunning views, challenging conditions and the race being broadcast on the large screen, all makes the entrants experience something to truly treasure." Lee highlights.
This year local enthusiast (and father of multiple Coast to Coast winner) Bill Clark, has donated a carved taonga to the race collateral, named the 'Old Tom'. This will be presented annually to the oldest competitor on race day.
As with everything entwined within the fabric of this race the 'Old Tom' carries a story of its own. Retired local school teacher, Tom Bayliss ran his last race in 2017 at the age of 83, in a respectable 3:20:19 time, and on finishing he stated, "The day I came last, will be the last time I enter"! He has kept to his word and will now be recognised for his amazing achievement.
Race day starts with the Radio 1XX School Relays start at 8.30am with laps around Waterhouse Street Reserve. Then the curtain-raiser, Pūtauaki Prince & Princess of the race will start at 11am.
The main race will start at midday.
There are still places available to enter and anyone looking to fulfil a special day out should go to - www.kaweraukingofthemountain.co.nz if they would like a slice of – that something special.
Athletes should be mindful of their preparation, race to the weather conditions and ensure they are well hydrated.
Down Hill is Easy! Well - maybe.