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UTMB World Series kicks-off with Tarawera ultra

It’s UTMB time. This weekend, February 17 and 18, the UTMB World kicks off with the Tarawera Ultra-Trail, in Rotorua, New Zealand.

The main event is the TMiler, 165,2 kilometres long, with 5.470 metres of altitude. The Frenchman Victor Guerdin (UTMB Index 778), the Japanese Hajime Mamba (824), the American Adrian MacDonald (881), Australian Mike Carroll (833) and local hero George Murray (827) are among the favourites.

Japanese fight

In the women’s race it might turn out to be a Japanese fight between Konoka Azumi (672) and Kimino Miyazaki (688), with the South African Naomi Brand (711) as an outsider.

Alongside the TMiler are the T102 (102,3k, 3.089m+), T50 (51,5k, 1.572m+) and T21 (21,8k, 734m+) races.

Inspired by Western States

The T102 comes closest to the original race that was established precisely 15 years ago in 2009 by local Paul Charteris. After returning to New Zealand from northern California, where he lived close to the trails that make up the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run course, he looked around, saw not a lot of ultra marathons, and decided to start his own. Charteris: ‘I saw the growth of the sport in the United States and what a great community it was. I knew that we had some pretty amazing trails and scenery in the Bay of Plenty that would fit the bill.’

Charteris started with a 85 kilometres race from Rotorua to Kawerau, his hometown. Now there are four races, attracting a total of 4.400 trail and ultra runners. If it’s up to Paul Charteris they don’t only come to run: ‘Tarawera with its Pink and White Terraces is the birthplace of the Te Arawa people. For many hundreds of years they’ve been on these trails. If you run around Lake Tarawera and in the Tarawera Forest near Kawerau, you feel how special this area is. I hope that when people leave Tarawera they don’t leave with just a medal, I hope they leave with a feeling that they can achieve anything and that somehow their heart grew a bit bigger.’

Photo Graeme Murray

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