The 12th edition of the Tarawera Ultra Marathon will be the biggest ever with an incredible 3000 plus people set to turn out across the four race distances on offer next weekend.
With many bringing family, friends and supporters, the local economy is set to receive a huge boost.
The number of entrants represents an increase of 50 per cent on 2019, and over 100 per cent on 2018, as the event continues to build its reputation based on the wonderful Kiwi hospitality and welcome, and the beautiful courses through the Tarawera and Rotorua regions.
Race Director Tim Day has been involved with the event for most of its 12-year history and is over the moon at the response for next week's races and can't wait to start to welcome runners and their supporters into town.
"The buzz around the event team is real as we get closer to race week especially as so many of our entrants are coming in from out of town. This is our chance to show off our region and push out our chests a little and be proud of our stunning trails and attractions," he said.
Day said the key was their incredible volunteer crew with over 600 signed up to support the event, many of them long term in their roles and so crucial to the success and reputation of the event.
"But we are always looking for more, so if anyone is keen to share some very special moments and help our participants get to that finish line, please get in touch."
The event is indeed hugely popular with international visitors, with 45 per cent of the total field made up of overseas athletes, representing an amazing 59 counties in total. The greatest representation outside of New Zealand comes from Australia (646), Great Britain (91), USA (90) and France (65).
That growth is partly driven by the Tarawera enjoying an increasing presence on the world stage.
The 102km race is part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour and the 50km, 102km and 100 miler offering qualifying spots at the UTMB, the world's largest trail race while the 102km and 100 miler also offers qualifying spots at the Western States 100-mile Endurance Run, the world's oldest 100-mile trail race.
But the heart and soul of the event lies in the incredible stories of achievement that are common and yet somehow unique to each participant, regardless of distance or ability, with Day's favourite part of the job handing out the finish line hugs.
"Regardless of the chosen race distance, the Tarawera Ultra-Marathon is an endurance event that will see every competitor test themselves to the limits.
"Each has their own story, some are shared publicly, many are kept private, but seeing that sense of achievement and fulfilment at the finish line fills me with joy and reminds us why we do this, it truly is one of the most rewarding experiences anyone can have, to greet runners and walkers at the finish line."
Those inspiring stories are many and varied, with many runners referencing health battles, inspiring family members, dealing with a midlife crisis or simply looking to enjoy some 'me' time away from the daily grind of kids and work.
Racing gets underway on the morning of Saturday February 8 with the 100-Miler field setting off from Te Puia at 4am, the 102km race from Firmin Field Kawarau at 7am, the 50km at 7am from Te Puia, and the 21km race is also hosted on Saturday, starting at 10am at Lake Tikitapu (Blue Lake).
All events head to the finish line on the Lakefront Reserve.
2020 Tarawera Ultra-Marathon Trail Running Festival:
February 5 to 9, 2020
Rotorua, New Zealand
21km, 50km, 102km and 100-Miler (165km) race options
48% female, 52% male
Courses through the Rotorua, Tarawera region and enjoys the cooperation and support of local Iwi
The 102k race is part of the Ultra-Trail® World Tour.
The 50km, 102km and 100-Miler are qualifying races for UTMB, the world's largest trail race.
The 102km and 100-Miler see runners vie for qualifying spots at the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, the world's oldest 100-mile trail race
International competitors predominantly from Australia, Europe, Asia and the USA