For hundreds of participants, Rotorua's Tarawera Ultramarathon was their first trail-running event, including this year's 102km race winner.

Australian Reece Edwards finished strong in a time of 8h 22m 51s to hold off America's Cody Reed (8h 29m 44s) and Britain's Harry Jones (8h 30m 35s).

Edwards has made a habit of strong debuts. Last year, in his first marathon, he finished 21st in the Chicago Marathon in 2h 16m 43s. He decided to take on the Tarawera Ultra in search of a new adventure and to challenge himself physically and mentally.

"It was an incredible day, in October I had a real good marathon debut and now this. It's been a whirlwind four or five months - epic day and I'm really happy," he said

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"The distance, obviously you pace yourself, but the trail is the big difference - the technicalities of it. Cody [Reed] kind of schooled me on the technicalities of trail running, I was just fortunate there was enough road where I could do some pure marathon work."

It is the second consecutive year in which Reed has taken the silver medal. He led for much of the race on Saturday but could not hold off Edwards who powered home.

"At the 58km mark I was struggling, but all of a sudden they were saying he's four minutes ahead," Edwards said.

"I started moving along a bit better and then it was three minutes, two minutes, 90 seconds, 30 seconds. Within the space of 10km everything just changed."

Australia's Reece Edwards sprints across the finish line to win the Tarawera Ultramarathon's 102km race. Photo / Stephen Parker
Australia's Reece Edwards sprints across the finish line to win the Tarawera Ultramarathon's 102km race. Photo / Stephen Parker

He has no specific plans for future running events, but now he has had a taste of ultra running, predicts there will be more to come.

"I can tell you, at 40, 50, 60, 70, 80km, I was thinking 'I'm never doing this again', but crossing the finish line changes your mind doesn't it? I imagine I'll be on the start line of another ultra at some point."

In the women's 102km race, trail running superstar Courtney Dauwalter, of America, was billed as the favourite and did not disappoint, storming home to win in 9h 28m 3s.

Australia's Stephanie Auston was second in 9h 49m 22s and Angelique Plaire, of New Caledonia, was third in 10h 39m 47s.

Dauwalter is the reigning Ultra Runner of the Year, having picked up wins in the Western States 100 and Ultra Trail Mt Fuji 100 in 2018. She led from the outset on Saturday.

"It was so cool to be out on those trails with that group of women and athletes - I was running scared."

The fastest woman in the 102km race, American Courtney Dauwalter, is welcomed over the finish line in true Rotorua style. Photo / Stephen Parker
The fastest woman in the 102km race, American Courtney Dauwalter, is welcomed over the finish line in true Rotorua style. Photo / Stephen Parker

She said, while racing, she made it a priority to take in as much of the scenery as possible.

"It was so green and beautiful - the lakes were incredible. I was trying [to keep a steady pace]. I definitely slowed down on some of the climbs, but I tried to just keep pushing."

When asked what was next, Dauwalter replied "a beer".

In the 100 mile (160km) race, which attracted a strong field of elite athletes after being included in the event for the first time last year, it was another American, Jeff Browning, who won despite a navigation error meaning he ran closer to 102 miles.

The Oregon native took a wrong turn before recovering to run down fellow American Camille Herron in the final stages of an enthralling race, finishing in a new course record time of 16h 18m 54s.

On his first visit to New Zealand, Browning accidentally completed a 4.5km loop of the Green Lake before rejoining the race proper.

"I wasn't paying attention at the Green lake and took the 50km course and did the whole loop around, that put me 42 minutes back from Camille. I then spent the rest of the day playing catch-up.

"I knew I was top 10 still but not sure exactly where. I caught a bunch of guys at the Buried Village and moved into third after the boat ride, with Zac [Marion] and Camille in front of me. I caught Zac after all the road sections, after the climb on the dirt, and caught Camille at Okataina, on the top of the climb."

Herron finished second in 17h 20m 52s and Kiwi Grant Guise finished third overall in 19h 24m 8s.

Tarawera Ultramarathon Results
102km
Men: Reece Edwards 8h 22m 51s, 2nd Cody Reed 8h 29m 44s, Harry Jones 8h 30m 35s.

Women: Courtney Dauwalter 9h 28m 3s, Stephanie Auston 9h 49m 22s, Angelique Plaire 10h 39m 47s.

100 Mile
Men: 1st Jeff Browning 16h 18m 54s, 2nd Grant Guise 19h 24m 8s, 3rd Akio Ueno 19h 51m 12s.

Women: 1st Camille Herron 17h 20m 52s, 2nd Katie Wright 23h 43m 26s, 3rd Lesley Park 24h 7m 38s.