Personal accounts from past participants

Everyone who has participated in the Tararua Race has a story to tell. Here are some of the tales, but we are keen to hear from others. If you would like to contribute your experience then we invite you to write a short article describing your experience. We will then display it here so that others can get a runners perspective of this event.

Please contact us with your article attached. We accept most file types.

  1. Andrew Shelley's report ( on his participation in the 2001 event, along with the very informative report on his training run ( over the Southern Crossing, is a great place to get the information needed for people considering entering this event.
    Andrew Shelley's section on mountain running (, on his website, is also worth a look.
  2. "In the past, one participant did suffer from a bad case of Hypothermia while running along the open tops section between Alpha Hut and Kime Hut. This outcome, however, was completely preventable and was the result of his misrepresenting his past experience in order to run the event solo. Upon reaching Alpha Hut, the runner did not listen to the advice from the support crew (experienced Search and Rescue (SAR) people) concerning weather conditions on the tops. As a result, he failed to put on the storm gear that he was carrying. After succumbing to the weather conditions, he required support from fellow runners to get him to Kime Hut. He received nearly four hours of care by the SAR people, but did eventually walk out to Otaki Forks. Thankfully, as a result of our safety precautions and expertise, everything turned out well in the end for this runner."

    Lyndsay Fletcher (Organiser)

  3. "There are probably a few moments or places in any race that give you a sense of achievement - for me, in the Tararua Mountain Race, they are: reaching Marchant Ridge, Alpha Hut, the cross on Mt Hector, Kime Hut and of course the finish line. Equally there are places I dread - the final climb on Marchant Ridge, Hells Gate and the climb over Field Peak, just before Kime Hut."

    Jamie Campbell (Participated 2002, 2004, 2005)

  4. "With a runner friend having completed the race and talking enthusiastically about it, we decided that it was something we would like to do! This was possibly a bit ambitious in hindsight but then again, what is life without a challenge? Being Walkers and not Runners, our dilemma was - could we meet the "less than 10 hours to finish" as a condition of entry? After talking to a number of "experts" we decided that we could complete it within 10 hours; so it was all on! Our simple goal was to finish and we targeted 9 hours as an achievable time.
    We walk regularly, but leading up to the event, we did step up the training with some more hill and track work on the hills around the Hutt Valley. Nothing too formal or rigorous but this allowed us to get more used to hill and track work. We poured over a map and worked out some times for eight or so way points along the route. We prepared and checked our gear. No backing out now, we had told too many friends we were doing it.
    Well, someone with influence took pity on us, as race day 12 March 2005, proved to be a perfect late summer's day. The slog up the Marchant had us both starting to wish we were some where else. Also dawning was the realization that a bit more training would have been wise! However, our way points ticked by pretty much on schedule and the encouragement of other competitors, the marshals at Alpha Hut and the "Tail End Charlie" soon had us out of the bush line and onto the open tops. It is absolutely magic up around the Dress Circle and up and over Mt Hector. Kime Hut was soon behind us and we were back in the bush heading down to Otaki Forks. We were now 30 mins behind our target, with our knees starting to complain. Marchant Ridge was starting to look quite fun compared to the seemingly endless track down to the Forks. At last, the finish line in sight. Wow, look at the huge crowd all waiting there for us to finish? No it was the prize giving already in full swing. The ceremony paused to give two very tired but elated walkers a much appreciated round of applause as we collapsed in their midst - 9hr 34min. Not exactly the fastest time on the day but a personal best and a huge and very satisfying achievement for a couple of first timers! In hindsight, a bit more training was required. We needed to work hard to keep the hydration and energy food levels up. Nine hours plus is a long time to be on the move.
    Do it again, you bet! This is a tough race, particularly for mountain racing "newbie's", just like us who wanted to walk it as apposed to being in the "super fit" category. This is serious alpine country and is not to be taken lightly. However the race is well organized and has very good support from the officials (briefing, route marshals, tail end charlie, etc). It is targeted at the "Runners" but with preparation and additional training, "Walkers" can complete this race. If you want a challenge fellow "Walkers", this might be it! Believe us, it is very achievable and well worth the additional effort."

    Alan and Rosemary Thompson, Walk for Health, Lower Hutt
    (Participants 2005, 2007, Race Marshals at Alpha Hut 2006)

  5. "I started running for the first time in my life at age 47 (overweight with a BMI of 26) and 12 months later ran the Tararua Mountain Race, having only done two road half marathons. Therefore it is possible for most average runners, myself included, to run and enjoy the race. I did specific training for the race and knew what I was in for by being "mentored" by other runners who had run the race many times. My training consisted of two 1h 20min road runs during the week and in the three to four months before the race, increasingly long weekend trail runs that included lots of hill work. I found training with like minded experienced runners made the preparation easy as they gradually wound up the distance and time on the trails until we could run with a pack for 6 1/2 to 7 hours. Most of the training was done in the Rimutaka State Forest Park on Mt Mckerrow and Mount Matthews with easier runs on the south coast "Tip track" and at Red Rocks. Running "The Goat", and the "Jumbo - Holdsworth" races helped with the build up. I think the key elements in the training for the event is event specific training on long trail runs (with lots of tree roots!) to build endurance coupled with the advice and support of race veterans. Running the race gave me a runner's high that lasted a week!"

    John Keating (Participated 2006, 2008)

  6. "Two memories I have:

    My first TMR was postponed from the Saturday to Sunday due to a dumping of snow. On the Sunday they sent us through. All I remember was 2 hours struggling across the top in foot deep snow, and it was still snowing on us along with it coming close to white out conditions. I had never done a "race" like it. (I think that's why they changed the event from November to March).
    A few years later I was approaching Alpha Hut and took a fall and punctured my leg. I got bandaged at Alpha Hut and my mate and I then finished the race (a long 4 hrs later). As soon as I finished my mate (who was a nurse) said, "we should now get you to A&E. I didn't want to tell you while we were up on top, but you will need stitches."

    Thanks for the memories, it is always memorable."

    Justin Duckworth (Participated 1993, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006)

  7. "I like this event as it has a low entry fee and a great prize pool. It is certainly a tough one to finish in 10 hours though. The distance and the terrain make it a lot harder than the average race. In general, the time would be double that for the Jumbo Holdsworth race plus up to half an hour. Therefore, to complete the race in ten hours your Jumbo Holdsworth time would have to be less than 4 hours 45. It is important to estimate your time at under 10 hours, otherwise it is not fair on the organiser and the marshals. Additionally, staying fed and watered at that speed is a challenge. I carried more food and water than I thought I needed and used it all. The body will be running low on both regardless. Experience in eating and drinking on the run is important, especially with energy drinks.
    The risk of hypothermia is very real, especially if you have to stop on the open tops. I was running at a good speed for the first 2 hours, then I slowed down and other people started passing me. After attempting the open tops with the last group, I turned back on the advice of some trampers, who said I looked unsteady in the wind. I would have done it in up to 12 hours if I had continued. My expectation to finish in 8 to 10 hours was totally unrealistic. It cannot be done as a hard tramp. I would estimate that most other participants, who finish in 10 hours, would have had at least 2 years of running experience and the majority would have 5 to 10 years of solid running experience. Good luck with the race."

    Stan Mackowiak (Participated 2008)

  8. "Darren Blackhurst and I teamed up for a crack at this race. We ran strong to Alpha Hut (just below the bush line) in under three hours before venturing onto the exposed slopes above 1100m. Saying I found conditions difficult was a bit of an understatement as there was thick cloud, extremely strong winds, cold temperatures and limited visibility along with a narrow, rutted, muddy track. I suffered a number of mishaps, either falling over in the mud or getting blown over in the wind. Darren's strength and encouragement carried me through to the summit of Mt Hector and before too long Kime Hut was looming out of the cloud. After perking up with a feed at the hut we set off at a better pace down towards Otaki Forks. Visibility improved, the wind speed dropped with the lower altitude and the track turned to crunchy gravel which was nice and easy to run on. While descending, we passed Phil Valentine who offered encouragement. The path through the bush on the Otaki side of the range was much easier than on the Kaitoke side and before too long, after what seemed like 1,000 switch backs, we arrived at the swing bridge that marked the finish and it was time for an ice cold Heineken and a good feed.
    We finished in 6:22. Darren could have easily pushed on for a faster time but kept me going during the race which I really appreciated. I have never run in such extreme conditions before, and it is certainly a test of mental and physical strength. I felt sorry for the slower runners who would have had an even more torrid time than we did on the tops. However it was amazing to see the winner power past us up there hurdling tussocks like a mountain goat. The race is a real epic, well marshalled and a real good event to do as a team. Just take plenty of food, warm clothing and be prepared to get a battering from the elements. This race makes the Makara loop look like a light jog round the bays. I am addicted already!"

    Edwin Massey (Participated 2008)