Event Preview: Crater Rim Ultra NZ

TrailRunMag 31.08.2018

There’s nothing like running the rim of an extinct volcano!

Yes, the Crater Rim Ultra delivers on its label promise, with trail runners taking a point to point journey around the crater that makes up the impressive Christchurch Port Hills in New Zealand, encircling Lyttelton Harbour. 

2018 sees event double as the Athletics New Zealand Trailing Running Championships, so there’s extra kudos on the line.  

From a low-key beginning back in 2001 when 31 runners finished, the event has grown to a capped field of two hundred, including many top local and international trailites. Sign up while you can! 

Being within koo-ee of downtown Christchurch (that’s the city you can see to the north when on course, plus the Canterbury Plains to the west) it’s super accessible, even for global blow-ins with an international airport not far.  

Trails are a mix of private farm land, 4WD tracks and graded trail, so it’s a great introduction outing for roadies or beginners, with a selection of shorter distances on offer beyond the primo 52 ultra, including 30km, 21km and 10km distances.  

The inaugural New Zealand Trail Running Championships is incorporated within the annual Crater Rim Ultra event October 14.

Here are ten good reasons to enter the event to be staged in Christchurch’s scenic Port Hills.

1 – Novel transportation
With athletes gathering at the Port Hills AC clubrooms at Hansen Park and then making their way to Diamond Harbour they’ll require a bus (not so novel for a run event) and then a boat ride (more novel!) to make it to the start of the 52km test.

“From Lyttelton Port runners will take a boat across to the start at Diamond Harbour. The combination of bus and boat makes it a unique way to begin a running race,” says race director Jamie Hawker.

2 – Book a World Championship spot
The New Zealand Trail Running Championships has been officially designated as a trial race for the 2019 World Trail Running Championships, which take place in Portugal next June.

“It gives an added incentive for those who are good enough to make a World Championship team,” adds Jamie, whose son, Scott, is a leading international trail runner.

3 – International flavour
The event not only hosts the New Zealand Trail Running Championships but also

incorporates the Oceania Trail Running Championships – which has ensured a guaranteed interest from the Pacific countries.

“The event gives us a bit of prestige and recognition and is an attractive international event for people from outside of New Zealand to come and compete,” he adds.

4 – Something for everyone
The 52km ultra-distance run from Diamond Harbour to Hansen Park is the championship distance event, but for others wishing to be part of the festival of trail running they are races over 10km, 21km and 30km. The latter distance is a new innovation for the 17-year-old race, which it is hoped will attract more runners to the event and to trail running in general.

“We have introduced the 30km race as a potential stepping stone on the road (trail) to one day completing the full ultra-marathon (anything at 50km or more) distance,” explains Jamie.


5 – Spectacular views
There is no question running at up to 1000m vertical along the extinct volcanoes of the Crater Rim affords some spectacular views of the Banks Peninsula, Lake Ellesmere and Christchurch for both participants and marshals alike. However, as the race organisers have required special permission to run the race route through around a dozen landowners’ property – the Crater Rim Ultra offers a truly unique experience.

“By entering this race you will have access to some stunning views that typically only the landowners would usually have,” remarks Jamie.

6 – Compete against the elite
With the race holding New Zealand Championship status it gives the chance for runners to rub shoulders with and test themselves against the cream of trail running talent. One of the early entries is Mel Aitken, a former national marathon bronze medallist.

7 – Age group incentive
The New Zealand Trail Running Championships has the additional motivation of age-group awards (in five-year divisions) for competing athletes.

“We compete because we enjoy it but secondly the competitive nature in many of us, means we like to compare our own performance with other in our age-group. This offers an extra incentive under the fair formula (of age groups),” adds Jamie.

8 – Embrace a challenge
Running 52km on the mountainous trials is not for the faint-hearted and represents a supreme physical test.

“It pushes runners out of their comfort zone and forces them to dig deep to finish the race,” he adds.


9 – Family fun
All the family can come along and enjoy a taste of trail running on the day as both a 1km and 2km Kids’ dash takes place around Hansen Park.

“These are the trail runners of the future,” adds Jamie.

10 – Enjoy the camaraderie
The tight-knit ultra and trail running community share a common purpose and, according to Jamie, a close bond played out in a wonderful spirit.

“I compare the trail running community as being similar to golf in the way that when a golfer is over the ball their rivals are often willing them on to put the ball in the hole,” he explains. “It is exactly the same with trail runners. We don’t care whether they are fast or slow, we just encourage people to get off the couch and enjoy the experience.”

Crater Rim Ultra 
Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand
14 October 2018
52km, 30km, 21km, 10km

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