Frequently asked questions

In this section we attempt to address some of the main questions and concerns that runners have when entering the Tararua Mountain Race.
If your question is not answered here, please contact us directly.

Contributors:

Lyndsay Fletcher, Terry Davis, Richard Hardie, Jamie Campbell, Ron van Musscher

As a first-time runner, do I have to compete as part of a team?

We recommend that all first-time runners compete as a team. Primarily, this is for reasons of safety. However, if you feel you have the necessary running AND mountain experience, then contact the race organizer explaining the reasons why you should be allowed to run the race as an individual. The final decision is up to the race organizer. Keep in mind that in the past people have given false information in order to compete as an individual runner and paid the price in the race.

If I don't have a partner, can you find one for me?

We cannot promise anything, but contact us to let us know that you are looking for a partner and we will endeavor to team you up with someone else who contacts us with the same request.

How far is the race?

The official DOC (Department of Conservation) distance is 35.35km.
Kaitoke to Alpha Hut is 16.4km
Alpha Hut to Kime Hut is 8.18km
Kime Hut to Field is 5.5km
Field Hut to Finish is 5.3km

How much water do I need to carry with me?

The answer to this question depends on your experience and personal needs, and how much weight you are prepared to add to your pack. There is water available at each hut including warm Raro (fruit drink) and soup, but you do not want to be caught short, especially on Marchant ridge. Good training will ensure that your body is prepared to endure race conditions, but you must keep your fluids up. Remember to experiment with different amounts of water in your pre-race training. The rule of thumb is that your pee should be a light straw colour. Below are a few anecdotes from runners that might help you gauge your needs:

"This is a bit of a tricky one. I have ranged from 3 litres at the start, down to 2 litres. I sweat a lot so need more fluid than most but like anyone I will try to get away from carrying any weight. Best method is to work out how much you need to drink during your training (using the method of weighing yourself before and after), then estimate your time to Alpha and start with that amount. Top up at Alpha and Kime. I use a drink additive, so take some of that as well. I pre-measure it into one litre lots and into small plastic bags to make it easy to mix. I also use a Camel back system so you don't have to stop where you can sip small amounts all the way along. It is important to drink even if you are not thirsty and especially if it is cold and you don't feel like drinking."
"I carried 3 litres each time, but this was too much. I could have taken this total amount over the whole course. However women friends of mine easily use the 3 litres to Alpha; it all depends on your metabolism. Also for me my 3 litres is a mixture of water and Replace."
"I carried 2 litres up Marchant ridge and still had about half a litre left at Alpha. However, the cramps I experienced on the tops suggest that I should have consumed more water during the gruelling slog up Marchant ridge. I'll still take 2 litres next time, but I drink more while I'm running."

What facilities are available once we reach the huts?

There is a team of trained marshals at the huts who have the equipment and skill to deal with any injuries or problems that you may be experiencing. There is water, warm Raro (fruit drink) and soup available for runners. There is a long drop (toilet) at each hut should you have the need. The marshals will provide information concerning the track conditions ahead. It is strongly recommended that you heed their advice concerning conditions on the tops.

What do you mean when you say we are required to carry food?

Again, this question depends on the experience of the individual. Most runners carry a balance of energy bars or gels and real food. Keep in mind the weight-to-energy ratio. Popular food choices are bananas, peanut slabs, jam sandwiches. Establish a race plan and try it out in your pre-race training. For example, you might plan to have a gel pack every 45 minutes, and a sandwich or banana at each hut, with a celebratory peanut slab at the top of Hector. Here are a couple of anecdotes from runners:

"I'd say 300g salted peanuts, 300g lollies (e.g. snakes) 2-4 peanut slabs, 2-4 muesli bars, 1 cheese sandwich. Better to have too much in case of an accident or getting lost.."
"I use energy gels the whole way but pre-race eating is also important. If using energy gels then you need to use them on a very regular basis. Again this is something you should test in you training. If you start feeling like you need a gel pack then you have left it too long. There is nothing wrong with a good sandwich or a bit of fruit, just try things during training."

What sort of shoes/boots will I need for this event?

Specialist "adventure racing" shoes (like Salomon) are best as they have a higher cut for some extra ankle support and decent grip on the soles. However, most runners still use standard running shoes like Asics. The major shoe brands have added specialist trail running shoes to their range which are worth checking out. Which ever shoe you decide to use, make sure it is well broken in before race day.

Are the dangers you describe real? Or are you just trying to scare us?

Oh they are real all right! One of the most exhilarating feelings on the tops is that you are kilometers from anywhere and anyone. The flip side is that you need to keep your wits about you at all times to ensure that nothing goes wrong. In addition to unexpected injuries from the track, weather conditions are the most underestimated facet of the race.

Is the track well marked the whole way?

The track is well marked and in reasonable condition so there should not be any problem finding your way. However, if the weather packs in there are a couple of places where even experience runners can take a wrong turn. (See also next question)

What do I do if the weather closes in and I can't see where to go?

The track is pretty well defined so this shouldn't really happen but if it does then if you know how to use a map and compass use them. If not, wait for someone else to come through and stay as a group. There are also experienced people at the rear - the "tail-end Charlie".

What are the track conditions like?

Here is what some runners have to say on that subject:

"Pour a bag of rocks as big as your head down the steepest stairs you can find… "
"Mud seems to be a common leveller through parts of Marchant Ridge and along the tops from Alpha to Mt Hector. Different sorts of mud from "lose you shoe if your not careful" on Marchant Ridge to slip and slide mud on the tops. It always seems cold on the top and the wind always seems to be blowing even if it has been a carm at the start."
"The tree roots up Marchant Ridge are amazing; you have to focus on every step… but then that makes the time go quickly."

What happens if I injure myself during the event?

Stay warm and wait for the next runner to come through. Every participant is required to help an injured runner. After determining the extent of the injury, that runner will go to the nearest marshall hut or finish line for help. There are experienced rescue people at each hut who will come to assist you.

I've heard that cramps can be a problem, especially on the tops. How do I overcome this?

There are several reasons for getting cramp. The most common is the body getting tired because the training hasn't been enough. But the second most common (and certainly a factor in the Tararua event) is probably dehydration and lack of fuel (food). If you get cramp then stretch and massage it out, rest for a couple of minutes have something to eat and drink and walk slowly on for a few more minutes until those muscles feel more relaxed. If you keep cramping, stop, rest for a longer period and then walk for an extended period maybe 20 or 30min. Drink additives can help by keeping the electrolyte level up. If you have to stop, put on warm clothing straight away.

EAT AND DRINK enroute: sip every 10-15 mins, eat every 20-30 mins.

"I think that I lost about 30 minutes off this year's race to cramps. The first one hit going up Hells Gate [just before Alpha Hut], then heading into the cold at the top of Mt. Alpha. I had those little salt sachets with me that you get from McDonalds and each time a cramp hit I'd take one, along with a good drink of water. That seemed to help."

Do I have to be a super athlete in order to complete this race?

Not at all, but you must have trained consistently for the event. For people with a good base-fitness level, expect to have at least 3 months of serious training before the race. You must also be able to carry a pack and eat and drink while you run. This may take 3 months to get used too.

When should I start training for this race?

This depends on your past experience. If you are a regular runner of marathons/ half marathons then 3-6 months should be OK. If you normally do only 10ks or less then you really should start 6-10 months out… and don't expect to do a great time in the first year.

Do I really have to carry all that gear? If so, how heavy is the pack?

Yes as it's all very important and a bare minimum. Train using the same gear that is required on the race and it is best to have used it all and then some. It is only very basic survival gear for when the weather turns bad. Work on the temperature being 10 degrees colder on the tops than what the weather forecast says. Then you need to add the wind chill factor.

How should I train for this race?

The most important thing is training your body to eat and drink as you exercise. You should eat and drink something each time you go for a training run even if it's a short one (30mins). Start off small and gradually increase till you can eat a whole muesli bar without getting the stitch. Train with a CamelBak or bottle belt, and have a sip or decent mouthful every 10-15mins.

Mix your training up: include cycling and or swimming to give your knees a rest. Do plenty of hills and stair climbs.

Make sure you have at least one day off per week and at least one "easy week" after 3 hard weeks.

Does the race go ahead regardless of weather conditions?

Because weather conditions in the mountains change quickly, the decision to go ahead with the race is made on the morning of the event at 6:30 AM. If the event is postponed, then it will be run the following day. Unfortunately those runners that are to start at the earlier times of 7:00 AM and 7:45 AM can only be informed after they arrive on race day.

If I decide not to run in the event, can I get back my money?

Refunds will gladly be given for any cancellation received by 1 March of the event year. After this date the organiser is committed to event expenditure and will not have your money available for refund. Contact the race organizer to arrange the refund.

How do I get out to the race? And then home from the finish?

You can choose to provide your own transport or make use of the shuttle buses listed below.
If you wish to catch the shuttle bus then select the appropriate option on the entry form.
If you decide to catch the shuttle bus after you have entered then just contact the race organizer to arrange this.
If you provide your own transport then take into consideration that the start and finish are located at different locations. This means that you will have to arrange for someone to drop you off and later pick you up. However other participants could have room in their vehicles for you.

Provided there is sufficient interest a Shuttle bus will be leaving Wellington railway station at 5:45am and 6:45am, Melling Railway station at 6:00am and 7:00am, to take participants to the start at Kaitoke.

Provided there is sufficient interest a Shuttle bus will be leaving Otaki Forks, straight after the prize giving, to take participants to Paraparaumu railway station, Porirua railway station or onto Wellington.

In the event that there is no organised transport from Otaki Forks and where you are unable to organise your own transport, other participants could have room in their vehicles for you. Use the event on-line Forum to see if other participants could have room in their vehicles for you. As a last resort a request can be announced over the P/A system at the finish area.

When and what time is the race?

The event is held annually on the second weekend in March. Start times are handicapped, dependant on your estimated completion time. They are at 7:00am, 7:45am, 8:00am, 8:30am and 9:00am.

What is the list of compulsory gear that I must take?

Competitors must carry or risk disqualification: a windproof and waterproof jacket & overtrousers, full set of thermal underwear and spare top, warm hat, gloves, map and compass (one per team), survival blanket and food. We also recommend carrying water.

Is it too late to book a place in the shuttle bus?

You can book a place on a shuttle bus anytime right up till Friday afternoon before race day. Contact the organiser by email or phone.

Would it be possible to have a bag of gear taken from the start to finish line?

Gear bags can be left at the start, which will then be taken to the finish.

Can my vehicle be transported from the start to the finish line?

This is possible and will depend on the number of helpers that are free to drive a vehicle. This service will be limited to only a couple or so vehicles. First in first served.

When and how do we find out if the event is postponed?

The decision to postpone is made at 6:00 AM on race day; just on dawn. Therefore you will only find out once you are at the start area. However the event has only been postponed once in the event's history. That was when the event was held in November and was the main reason for the event changing to March. In other words postponement is very unlikely but we still need to have that option in place for safety reasons.