In addition to the Rotorua Bike Festival, I took on the Tarawera Ultra Run. It has become one of the iconic Ultra Off Road Marathons in New Zealand and attracted an extremely talented field of runners from all over the world for this year’s race. In addition to taking on the challenge of running 100km’s, I decided that I wanted to document the race. But unlike the other photographers who went out by car/boat/bike to shoot various parts of the race, I wanted to document the race from a runner’s viewpoint, so I decided to take a camera with me to shoot my day out on the course. This year’s TUM (Tarawera Ultra Marathon) was a bit different for previous versions due to the drought that hit the whole of New Zealand’s North Island, which forced the race organizers to alter the course from a point to point race, to an out and back course, which ended up being both a blessing and a curse.
By having an out and back course meant that all the runners would have to run/walk/hobble their way across the most technical section of the course twice as well as cutting out the relatively flat forestry road section at the end (which after 60km’s of trail) enables you to relax a bit when you start to hit the wall and your mind starts to loose focus on your footing and in the end it forced quite a few runners to cut their day short and finish at the 85km mark instead of the 100km mark (myself included). So that is why the course change was a curse for us mortal runners…..
It was a blessing though to be able to see the front runners passing us on their way back to the finish. Normally in a race, the elite runners take off at the start and are never to be seen again. But on the day we were able to see how fast the elite runners really were and how fresh or not so fresh they looked on their way to the finish. This was an added bonus for my plan to document the race, to actually be able to get shots of the elite runners as they came past me was going to be something special. I had figured that I needed to be within 4 hours of the top runners at the 40km mark in order to shoot them with my DSLR that I had planned to run with over the most scenic section of the course. (Yes I am a bit mad trying to run 20km with a full fledged DSLR after running for 40 kms) Unfortunately Sage Canaday and Tim Olsen were having a cracker of a day and passed me about 10 minutes before I got to the aid station with my DSLR. I was able to get a shot of Sage as he passed me with my point and shoot, but just barely, and the shot of Tim I just missed due to the slow recharge of the flash on the point and shoot I was using.
I really wanted to finish the 100km course, but at 70km into the race my knee started to really act up and I basically ended up walking the last 15km and though I did make to the aid station before the cut off time, I knew that my day was over. I will take the run on again next year, but probably without the camera next time. Though it was a good idea, it really is just too hard to properly shoot a race like this as a competitor. Here are some of the images from a few training runs on the course, the fun run before the event, as well as some of the shots I got during the race…..