A True Mountain Race to Test the Best!
Chris Martin of Tararua Speed Records introduces one of NZ’s Great Races.
The Tararua Mountain race is one of the longest running mountain races in NZ. For me it is one of the few true mountain races. By that I mean it is not a groomed low level trail but actually gets you out onto the tops where the magic happens. The other race that impressed me was Kaweka Challenge which was of a similar ilk to the TMR and really opened my eyes to the possibility of how far one could get in a mountain range with the correct kit, food, and motivation. I feel TMR, Jumbo Holdsworth and the Mukumuka Munter were 3 key local races that shaped a mountain running community. For me these races were essential in opening up NZ wilderness to the range of possibilities. I was never a fan of tramping but loved running and I have found I loved the wilderness. That is why I feel the TMR is so important to the trail running community here in Wellington. As I said to Mike Sheriden (long time race director, who was helping Cat (current race director of TMR)) it has an impact on peoples lives. It is a special thing, from both the enormity of the course (2300m of elevation) and the thrill of achieving something quite epic. You can tell from peoples faces as they cross the divide. A full East – West traverse of the Southern Tararuas. A traditional route here in the Tararuas and a magnificent one.
Cat McBean was the new race director and as the rain lashed down that morning there was talk that there would be an alternative course. I was really hoping for the full crossing as this is the essence of the race I feel. As I was at registration I noticed there was no talk of a changed course. Yes! The full route was on. One great thing about the TMR is that it marries the Search and Rescue community with the mountain race. It is a great partnership as you have SAR on the course and they receive the proceeds of the event. A fantastic recipient as they do so much good work rescuing people in the Tararuas.
Onto the race. My good friends Chris Swallow and Laurence Pidcock had professed their interest in the race. I knew Andrew Thompson was in excellent form as well having been involved in a full Kaweka Traverse recently and he knocked it off in a formidable 8 hours. I also knew that the almost invincible Dan Clendon was again fronting up. The past has seen top international runners coming to race the course. The most famous being Andy Symonds who has the course record 04:27:00 (2006) . One would think this would be impossible having run the course, but with runners of the ilk of Danny Garrett and Sam McCutcheon in the region one wonders how long this will stand. Andy has recently been getting some good results in Europe at Transgrancanaria and UTMB (Although he blew out, he was in top 10 for some time)
Dan Clendons Account of the 2017 Race
“I first ran the Tararua Mountain Race way back around 1996 (I think, could be 1997). I was drawn in to trail running by my future brother in law and the future TMR director Mike Sheridan. The two of us spent several enjoyable months training together before competing in the 2 day teams event of the Kaweka Challenge. We won the event and the experience of that race really got me hooked.
My next race was running the TMR solo. This was my first time doing the race and it remains one of the toughest race experiences of my life. I vividly remember going through the gamut of emotions and by the end I was so tired I could’t even untie my own shoe laces (my mum did if for me much to everyone’s amusement!).
I finished that race in just under 6 hours. Although elated at having completed it, it was some years before I got back to the course.
My next TMR race was in 2010. Since then I have raced all but one. My best time came in 2015, with a time of 4 hours 44 mins, a decent time given the course is now about 5 minutes longer (thanks to Mike!). However the impressive course record remains a long way off.
This year, like every year, was unique. There was heavy and persistent rain flooding the entire course. When you weren’t wading through rivers on the track, you were knee high in mud. I confess to actually quite enjoying myself and just getting into a decent rhythm of attacking the uphills and going a bit carefully on the treacherous downhills.
Things got interesting when Chris Swallow caught up to me. The two of us battled it out before I pulled away on the climb from Hells Gate up to Alpha Hut. I put on most of the layers in my pack and set off. The tops were tough. The wet and wind wore me down and I got tired and cold. To make things worse, Chris caught me, sneaking past as we came down to Kime Hut.
The battle was really on now, and I spent the first 10 minutes from Kime Hut just trying to hang on to Chris (who incidentally ran right over the tops in just his singlet – legend). I warmed up, took an energy sachet and psyched up for an epic downhill. I took off and didn’t look back. I pushed as hard as I could to the finish, managing to dip under 5 hours in a time of 4.58 (just ahead of Chris) and taking out the win, my first as a vet.
Another very well run event and great, challenging experience. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Daniel Clendon 4:58:00 Vet (Champion 4 times, plus the H-K in 2016 once)
Chris Swallow 05:01:00
Laurence Pidcock 05:16:00
Andrew Thompson 05:40:00
Glen Stricot-Tarboton 05:51:00
Ben Clendon 05:55:00
John Langham 06:09:00
Alex Jones 06:10:00
Josh Campbell 06:24:00 Vet
Ricky Kernohan 06:27:00
Jo Johansen 6:41:00
Anne Rose 07:06:00 (Vet)
Jennifer Paverd 08:01:00
Lyn Clark 08:06:00 Super Vet
Kate Jenkins 08:21:00 Super Vet
Grace Miller 09:03:00
Trish Knox 09:56:00
Caroline O’Neill 10:34:00 Super Vet
Photo Credits for post @frasercrichton