Tarawera Ultra pumped for Ultra World Tour

American champion trailite Sage Canaday from the USA, Brendan Davies of Australia, Japan’s Yoshikazu Hara and Brazilian runner Manual Lago are just a few of the international trail stars lining up as favourites in next year’s Tarawera Ultra, which is now only three months away.

With its new status as part the inaugural Ultra Running World Tour, Tarawera is set to cement itself as one of the bucket list races worldwide for both elites and weekend warriors alike.

For Tarawera Ultra Race Director, Paul Charteris, the World Tour status is an amazing opportunity for the Rotorua-based event, which “started as ‘crazy dream’ six years ago with a field of just 67 runners.”

In 2014 the numbers of entries will be close to 1000.

“Being invited to be part of the Tour is a real honour,” says Charteris. “As the Tarawera has grown we’ve attracted really quality fields and next year the very best international runners will be on the start-line.”

Sage Canaday (pictured right), who won the event in a blistering performance in 2013, reckons the Tarawera is worthy of a return Down Under.

Screenshot 2013-12-17 09.54.32“Paul Charteris really knows how to put on an amazing event, with a talented field of international runners,” says Sage. “His vision to grow the sport of ultra running both in New Zealand and on a world-wide scale is very inspiring to me and many others.”

Defending Kiwi honour in 2014 will be Vajin Armstrong and Marty Lukes. The standout runner in the women’s field is Napier’s Ruby Muir. She’s the defending Tarawera Ultra champion and recorded four wins in four countries in 2013.

Charteris says the Tour is all about bringing runners together in the spirit of friendship, adventure and competition. With less daunting 60 and 85km distances to choose from and family-friendly relay team options (where each runner tackles a half marathon) the Tarawera Ultra also appeals to a wide range of runners.

The other races on the Ultra World Tour are all successful, well-established events with long histories, big race fields and massive media interest. They include the Hong Kong 100k, Australia’s TNF 100 in the Blue Mountains, The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run in the USA, the Marathon des Sables in Morocco, The North Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in France, Italy, and Switzerland, the Ultra-Trail Mont Fuji in Japan and Grand RaiScreenshot 2013-12-17 09.56.13d on Reunion Island.

Being part of the Tour and with Eurosport TV coverage to over 100 million viewers across Europe and Asia guaranteed, the Tarawera Ultra will showcase Rotorua and New Zealand to a worldwide audience.

“A beautiful environment and superb athletes – it really is a recipe for a fabulous day of racing,” says Charteris.

“The international runners who have raced in the Tarawera Ultra have all loved being here. Our beautiful lakes and the forests, spa and geothermal features and Maori culture are a unique and seductive combination.”

For more information and online entry: www.taraweraultra.co.nz


Screenshot 2013-12-17 09.53.29



Skyrunning for Australia: the Stampede

You’ve all seen the term bandied about: Skyrunning. And you’ve seen the world’s best smash themselves up the steepest of steep mountains, towards said sky, with pained expressions on their face. That’s because the courses are usually brutal in their ‘up-ness’. Now, Australia has its very own Skyrunning challenge with the launch of the new Buffalo Stampede, an outing that also represents a foundation stone in the planned Australia-New Zealand Skyrunning series.

Buffalo Blue 02Featuring a 75km Ultra SkyMarathon and a 41.4km SkyMarathon, The Stampede will take place on Victoria’s Mount Buffalo, at the gateway to the state’s high country. Hopes are that it will join the hallowed ranks of other Skyrunning World Series events the likes of Mont Blanc Marathon in France, Speedgoat 50 in the USA and the Mount Elbrus Vertical Kilometre in Russia.

Skyrunning as a recognised discipline traces its roots back to Italian mountaineer Marino Giacometti and fellow enthusiasts who started pioneering races and records on famous European peaks like Mont Blanc in the 1990s.

Buffalo Green  06“[It’s] the purest form of mountain running … getting to the top of a mountain and back down again as quickly as possible,” says newly anointed President of Skyrunning Australia/NZ, Marcus Warner. “It’s the athlete versus the mountain. It’s not for the faint‐hearted. It’s definitely a significant challenge and the athlete needs to know what they are doing.’’

“Nearly 5000m [of elevation gain] over 75km is up there with some of the best races in the world. [Elite overseas runners] are going to go away pretty sore and pretty beat up from this race.’’

So, too, will Regular Joe runners, it’s assumed. Which is exactly the attraction, isn’t it?

The Buffalo Stampede is expected to attract a bumper field of talented local and overseas runners and will, says Warner, finally “put Australia on the map’’ of Skyrunning because it will finally convince overseas runners that Australia possesses the terrain to stage a serious mountain running challenge.

Buffalo Green  02“Elevation is really what drives the difficulty of it. [The organisers] have really sought out the most extreme mountain in Australia that really embodies Skyrunning because of how steep it is.

The Buffalo Stampede has been organised by Sean Greenhill from Mountain Sports.

A passionate trail runner himself, Greenhill already stages popular trail running events like the Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon and the Sydney Trailrunning Series. He chose Mount Buffalo National Park in Victoria as the venue for the Buffalo Stampede Ultra SkyMarathon (75km) and Buffalo Stampede
SkyMarathon (41.4km) because it is one of the few areas in Australia where he could satisfy the exacting Skyrunning rules about vertical gain.

Buffalo-Blue-01No other runs in Australia over similar distances will have as much climbing as the Buffalo Stampede Ultra SkyMarathon (4545m) and the Buffalo Stampede SkyMarathon (2924m).

“I can’t think of a marathon in Australia that comes within 500m of gain of the Mount Buffalo SkyMarathon,’’ Greenhill says. “They are, in terms of elevation gain over distance, the most difficult events of their kind in Australia.’’

And because it is the eroded magma chamber of an extinct volcano, Mount Buffalo boasts a spectacular granite terrain like no other peak in the Snowy Mountains. [Trail Run Mag can attest to the striking landscapes of Buffalo as a unique trail playground – on a recent outing to audit and rate trails across seven alpine peaks, we came away feeling Buffalo had that extra dose of trail magic that made it really stand out in terms of pure enjoyment of terrain – the chamber run through a huge rock slot the stand out feature, and apparently included on the Skyrun course].

Greenhill also chose Mount Buffalo because it allows him to start the Buffalo Stampede events in the beautiful town of Bright, which he loves for its alpine scenery, fine food, local produce, boutique beer and outdoor sports culture. [Trail Run Mag again attests to the beer in Bright – that was the nightly ‘audit’!].

Buffalo Blue 04Clayton Neil, the manager for economic development with Bright’s Alpine Shire Council, said: “We see the Buffalo Stampede as a really strong addition to our events calendar that really aligns with where we are heading. It embraces being active in nature and living life outside. Bright has always been a popular place for people who love the outdoors and this event takes that to another level.’’

Although the Buffalo Stampede races will be among Australia’s toughest, they are open to entry from anyone, with no qualifying needed.

Up for grabs in the Buffalo Stampede are tickets to the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships to be held next June in the famed French alpine resort of Chamonix, at the foot of Mont Blanc.

A three‐day Buffalo Stampede training camp based in Bright will be hosted by top Australian trail runners Brendan Davies and Hanny Allston from January 17 to 19.

Davies raced in the Skyrunning Mont Blanc Marathon this year and will be competing in the Buffalo Stampede Ultra SkyMarathon in April in the hope of winning a ticket back to the slopes of Mont Blanc for the Skyrunning World Championships.

“The Skyrunning label brings with it a lot of credibility,” said Davies. “It puts [Australia] on the world map as a destination for the world’s elite trail runners. For Australian runners, it gives us the capacity to dip our feet into the Skyrunning series without having to travel overseas. It’s just a plus for the sport. I see it as a real positive for everyone. I’m going to be going all out for that race.’’

Buffalo Stampede
5-6 April 2014

That mountain glow: the worm has turned

In 1907 the police at Newnes arrested a local who was running naked through the bush shouting he was Jesus Christ come to deliver justice to the bustling little mining community in the wild Wolgan Valley, in New South Wales, Australia.

68 (2) Never heard of Newnes and its nudie run? Apart from the old pub, which still operates as a kiosk serving campers and bushwalkers on weekends, old Newnes is now a collection of haunting industrial ruins abandoned to nature. In the towering cliffs above the town, the legacy of a railway line bravely built into the valley is a 600m tunnel that is now home to a colony of glow worms so brilliant it looks like a subterranean Milky Way.

It is a place where nature now utterly dominates man, part of the vast Wollemi National Park that is part of the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

But back when Ted English made his naked bush bolt, it was home to many hard-working souls. Beneath the narrow valley’s sandstone escarpment, they manned the Wolgan’s oil-shale mining and refining operation, which was established in 1906 and continued until the 1930s, producing products like paraffin and kerosene.

That same wild valley, with its stunning scenery and fascinating industrial history, is now the host of a unique trail running weekend in 15-16 June. Sean Greenhill, from Blue Mountains-based Mountain Sports, loves the way the Glow Worm Tunnel Running Weekend combines his passions for tough trail running, unique landscapes and fascinating history.

And in honour of Ted English – ”a prime example of a pioneer of trail running in the Newnes area at the turn of the century” – Greenhill is now offering the inaugural Ted English Bolt as part of this year’s Glow Worm Tunnel Running Weekend: a 6km fun run through the extensive industrial ruins of Newnes, where you can see the likes of the beautiful old coke ovens and the brick terracing needed to house the industrial complex on the steep valley side.

The Ted English Bolt is a way for runners to see the sights and stretch their legs ahead of the nexTake Offt day’s marathon and half marathon.

Greenhill organised the first Glow Worm Tunnel Running Weekend in 2012, attracting 276 runners. It is back again this year with a bigger program of events (see the breakout on the Mystery Mountain Dash). The marathon – which starts and finishes at the Newnes Hotel – is a magical run through the bush on narrow tracks including the bed of the old Wolgan Valley railway, through the glow worm tunnel and across the high Pipeline Pass along a track which follows the old pipeline route to another oil-shale industrial relic, the town of Glen Davis.

Glen Davis lies in the neighbouring Capertee Valley, a giant canyon recognised internationally as one of the world’s top bird-watching places.

Brendan Davies, one of Australia’s (and now the world’s) top male trail runners having just won The North Face 100 (and beating Kilian Jornet’s record time), said of last year’s Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon: ”This is definitely one of the most beautiful and physically challenging courses I’ve ever done.”

The marathon course, however, has changed. Last year’s runners found the race beautiful but brutal in parts and this year the punishing passages of Pipeline Pass will come at the start of the race rather than at the end.

”We’re turning the marathon around,” Greenhill said. ”Last year the marathon ran up through the tunnel first then the second half of the marathon was up over Pipeline Pass to Glen Davis. Pipeline Pass is extremely steep and hard and we found that people who were slow or were injured were coming back down Pipeline Pass and it was already almost dark because it’s winter, so for safety reasons this year we’ve turned it around so first they are coming up over the pass and back and then they run up to the tunnel afterwards. Pipeline Pass is now the first thing they’ll tackle rather than the last thing.”

Runners must carry a head torch with them to tackle the glow worm tunnel and can only walk through it, not run, to ensure they don’t disturb the thousands of glow worms that line its walls. There’s a 10-minute time penalty for anyone breaking the rule. If the weather turns bad there is other compulsory gear runners must also carry with them because they will be in a remote mountainous region in winter.

glow worm runnersAnd some people don’t like being told what to run with.

”You hear plenty of people complain about it … people saying ‘we don’t have to carry all this stuff, we’re serious runners’,” Greenhill says. But he doesn’t agree with them. “The compulsory gear is to keep people warm and dry and alive when something goes wrong and they are forced to stop running.

”In the mountains, once you get a sweat up on a cool day, once you stop [running] you could get cold really easily and become incapacitated quite easily. I’ve gotten hypothermic in mountain runs a couple of times and let me assure you at that point you are glad you are carrying [protective clothing].”

Luckily Ted English did his naked bolt in April, when the weather is more balmy.

For more information about the Glow Worm Tunnel Trail Running Weekend (June 15-16) and to enter go to www.mountainsports.com.au/glow-worm-trail-marathon/

It was the fabled Greek soldier Pheidippides who ran the 42.195 kilometres from the Battle of Marathon to Athens to establish the ancient legend that made the distance the most celebrated in world running. Horizontal running, that is.
These days in the trail running scene the ”vertical” kilometre is developing its own mystique. It involves a course that rises by an elevation of 1000m in as short a horizontal distance as possible. In other words, the steeper the better. While some vertical kilometre (VK) races in Europe and North America cover as much as five horizontal kilometres, the prestigious VK race at Fully in Switzerland boasts just 1920m of horizontal distance.

The Australian landscape doesn’t have the topography necessary to stage a decent vertical kilometre race, but the Glow Worm Tunnel Trail Running Weekend boasts a pretty good compromise. When you stand on the wooden balcony of the Newnes Hotel – the last building from its industrial heydey still standing – you look across the Wolgan River and need to crane your neck to see the top of Mystery Mountain, an imposing edifice that rises steeply from the river bank. Running the rough trail to the top from the pub balcony represents a 370m elevation gain over a horizontal distance of just 2.4km. The fastest recorded time for running the mountain is 22 minutes. Runners will tackle the course two at a time and the fastest male and female to get from the hotel to the top and back will win $200 each.

Record torn up at The North Face 100

It was a huge weekend of trail running achievement up in the Blue Mountains on the weekend, with records and PB’s smashed all over the Blue Mountains at The North Face 100, Australia’s biggest trail event outing. There were a few good runs had by the Trail Run Mag crew, too [Roving Ed Mal Law snagging a silver buckle in the TNF100, co-publisher Adrian Bortignon registering a handy time in the long one too; our AU editor cracking his first TNF50 and Asia Editor Rachel Jacqueline over the line for fifty fast ones]. But because we’re pretty confident you’re more interested in what transpired at the pointy end, rather than the midpack where we were plodding out some fantastic trails, we’ll pass you over to Daniel Lewis who reports from the front line of trail running.

_MJW0888Brendan Davies was in tears as he approached the Leura finish line in The North Face 100 on the weekend, then fell to his knees when he crossed it, so emotional was he to have won such a prestigious event in his own backyard.

‘It means a lot to me, this race, being a local guy,’ he said. ‘I train on this course a lot. It’s a dream come true to win a local event. This will always mean the world to me. It’s the biggest win of my career.’
The 36-year-old school teacher from the Blue Mountains didn’t even realise at the time that he had also managed to set a new race record of 9 hours 16 minutes 12 seconds.

Flat batteries meant his watch stopped working towards the end of the gruelling 100km trail running event  that takes in Narrow Neck, Nellies Glen, Megalong Valley, Jamison Valley, Kings Tableland, Kedumba Pass, The Six Foot Track and Echo Point, so he had no idea he had run the final sector of the race so strongly that he had broken the 2011 record of celebrated Spaniard Kilian Jornet (9.19.06) by more than two minutes.

Davies’ victory was greeted warmly by the trail running fraternity. ‘What a great performance from such a humble, friendly guy,’ was one Facebook comment.

It was only three weeks ago that Davies achieved a brilliant fifth place in a star-studded 100-mile (161km) race in Japan that boasted 9000 metres of elevation gain.

North Face second-place getter, New Zealander Vajin Armstrong (9.42.22), said it was classic Brendan Davies that the Australian had never sought to use the race in Japan as an excuse not to do well in The North Face.

‘A lot of people would have said, ‘I’m coming in a bit tired’. He made himself believe that [the Japanese race] was going to help him out there. He felt strong and fit and fast and he just took it to us all day. I was shocked a couple of times when we came to the aid stations and heard how far ahead he was. I was never upset about it because he’s a fantastic bloke. It couldn’t happen to a nicer person, to run a performance like that.’

Andy Green | NF100Going into The North Face 100, the hot favourite had been defending champion, South African runner Ryan Sandes. But Sandes started to feel unwell about five kilometres into the race. His stomach started churning and his food and drink started going straight through him, forcing him to repeatedly go to the toilet. The stomach bug saw Sandes  pull out at check point two, 38 kilometres into the race at Dunphy’s Camp in the Megalong Valley.

In his presentation speech Davies offered his commiserations to Sandes and said he hoped his own performance helped keep Australian trail running going from strength to strength. The four Australians and one Kiwi who made up the top five all broke the magic 10-hour mark.

Davies went into the race aiming for a time of about 9 hours and 40 minutes and felt it was his concentration on only running ultra-distance trail events that had enabled him to do the time he did.
‘The 100ks seem a lot easier than they did in the past. I had a storming last leg [in The North Face 100] which gave me the record in the end because I was behind at the last check point by 4 minutes or so. I can only think the reason I had that strong last leg was because of the extra training I’ve been doing and the extra training I’ve been doing. Instead of struggling I really powered through it this year.’
_MJW1341As part of his preparation for  the Mont Blanc Marathon in France at the end of June, Davies will also be competing in the Glow Worm Tunnel Marathon in the Wolgan Valley near Lithgow on June 16.

Towards the end of this year he plans to go to South Africa to do the world 100km road championships in Durban. He was 11th in the same event last year. Next year he hopes to do the famed Western States trail run in the US.

In the women’s 100km, another Blue Mountains runner, Jo Brischetto, scored a fantastic second place to Beth Cardelli, who calls Berowra home but was up in the Blue Mountains every second weekend to put in solid training sessions of up to 50km on sections of the course. ‘A lot of the time we would start [running] at four o’clock in the morning and finish at lunchtime.’

When Cardelli first started striding out with the Berowra Bush Runners in Sydney’s north in 2007, she struggled to complete 10km.But on the weekend, the 33-year-old claimed her third The North Face 100. What is more, she bettered her own race record with a new fastest time of 11 hours 1 minute and 8 seconds, more than 17 minutes quicker than her 2012 effort of 11:18:49.

_MJW1193Only 12 men beat Cardelli to the finish line overall and her only disappointment was that she hadn’t become the first woman to break the magic 11-hour barrier. Cardelli wasn’t wearing a watch but knew during the race that she was on track to do a very fast time.

“I was trying really hard to break 11 hours,’ she said.

Her training involved heading to the Blue Mountains every second weekend in the months leading up to The North Face to put in solid training sessions of up to 50km on sections of the course.

Cardelli first started running by joining the Berowra Bush Runners simply because she wanted to meet people after moving to the area.
She is grateful the group also helped her to become a lover of running.

‘I didn’t run at all [before joining Berowra Bush Runners]. My first 10kms with them, I was pretty much a wreck, but I thought ‘if I just keep coming back …’ Your body just eventually gets used to it.’

Next up Cardelli is heading to Italy to do the 118km Lavaredo Ultra Trail in the mountains of the Dolomites, another North Face race.

For the first time this year there was also a 50km North Face race. The men’s winner was road running hot shot, and recent star of the Sydney Trail Running Series, Vlad Shatrov in 4:15:21 and the women’s Brooks Trail Run Fest Queen of the Mountain winner, Gippslander Kylie Murray, won in 5:19:50.

The North Face races started and finished at the Fairmont resort in Leura and at the presentation ceremony on Sunday the resort was heaving with hobbling but happy runners who were busy comparing times, injuries and war stories.
When The North Face 100 was first held six years ago, it attracted about 170 competitors. But trail running is a booming sport and this year there were 1022 entrants in the 100km North Face race and 508 in the new 50km race. However, only 698 made it to the finish line of the 100km, although their average time of 16hrs 41mins was a big improvement on the 17hours 16 mins of 2012. This year’s oldest 100km runner was 70.

Keeping the competitors fueled up required more than 5000 litres of water, 1700 boxes of noodles, 250kg of lollies, 800kg of fruit and 2500 sausages. Competitors said the addition of the 50km event had made the running less isolated because there were so many more competitors and spectators. North Face 100 race director Tom Landon-Smith of AROC Sport described the 2013 event as possessing a ‘special vibe’.

A celebrity competitor was Antarctic adventurer James Castrission from Blackheath. Castrission was thrilled to finish 13th in the men’s open division of the 50km race with a time of 5:40:24. It was a ‘perfect day with an incredibly positive vibe from all involved. Awesome to be a part of it,’ he said.