Record holder Lucy Bartholomew (Australia) faces some serious opposition to her Ultra Run title at the Macpac Motatapu this weekend, with a leading Kiwi coming home and lining up in the 51km off road event to take on the young Aussie pace setter.
Bartholomew was in a class of her own last year in setting a new women’s race record of 7:03:09, winning the women’s race by almost two hours and finishing third overall in the grueling event that contains 2,790 metres of climbing along the way.
But the addition of well-performed Ruth Croft to the start list has certainly added some spice to a race that has seen entries almost double to 179 competitors.
West Coast born and raised, Croft has moved back to live in Wanaka after spending the last ten years living in Taiwan. It was the attraction of the running trails and lifestyle that has brought the Garmin and SCOTT International Trail Team runner home.
“Living and working in such a densely populated city like Taipei I was finding it harder and harder to prepare for races in Europe. I was lucky enough that Garmin would allow me to go over to Europe earlier to prepare for my races, but I got to a point where I felt I needed to be consistently living in a place that was conducive to training. Wanaka has everything; great trails, a good community and it is all right at your backdoor. The plan is to be based in Wanaka for six months of the year and then be in Europe for the Northern Hemisphere trail season.”
Croft has hardly been sighted in New Zealand events (she has raced here once finishing second at the Tarawera 100km in 2015) but has heard of the Macpac Motatapu and its popularity and can’t wait to experience it firsthand.
“To be honest over these ten years abroad I have not come back home to New Zealand that often and if I did it was never for very long and so I have not had many opportunities to race at home. I have heard great things about the organisation and the race itself, so that is a big drawcard.
“It is great to see a strong women’s field, with good competition it helps bring the level up across the board. I think we are already seeing ultra-running on the rise in New Zealand, we definitely have the trails for it and there seems to be more and more races popping up.”
2017 saw Croft in great form, with victories at the Les Templiers 75km in France, Ultra Pirineu Marathon in Spain, Matterhorn Ultraks 30km in Switzerland, and a runner up finish at Laveredo Ultra Trail 120km in Italy.
Croft says her childhood on the West Coast, living and breathing in the stunning and often rugged landscapes, has certainly set her up for her love of Ultra-Running and the outdoors.
“Growing up on the Coast we were lucky enough to go tramping a lot and be exposed to the outdoors at a young age. It is something that I definitely took for granted at the time but after living in Asia I have a whole new appreciation for New Zealand, we are pretty lucky here.”
Croft went to Taiwan after graduating from the US Collegiate system where she was on an athletic scholarship, it wasn’t however a move motivated by running.
“I was pretty burnt out and so the move to Taiwan for once in my life was not running related, I just wanted to live in a country I had not been before. Originally, I was teaching English but these past three years I was working in Marketing for Garmin. Of course, the challenge was initially not speaking the language, or understanding the culture, but that is the exciting thing about navigating a new country and is all a part of the experience. All in all, Taiwan is an amazing country, the people are some of the nicest you will meet and once you can get out of the cities the mountains and national parks are awesome (Taiwan has over 287 mountains above 3,000m).”
Also lining up on Saturday is Anna Frost, a former New Zealand representative at the World Mountain Running Championships. These days Frost is more likely to be enjoying her day further down the field, but her entry is yet another indication that Ultra-Running is gaining in popularity.
“I am excited to be able to come back to New Zealand to spend some more time exploring my own back yard. So, what better way than to do some races in the most stunning of places.
“My journey began at the World Mountain Running Championships in Italy, and now 14 years later still moves me around the world experiencing races, personal projects in the mountains challenging myself against the clock, taking people on trail run Adventures around the world and getting involved with product design and development. I have been fortunate to be supported by INOV-8, Salomon and now Ultimate Direction.”
Frost has never raced at Macpac Motatapu before and while not in her best physical shape, is looking forward to a memorable day.
“It looks really tough and hard but so beautiful. I am definitely not in my best shape ever. Actually, I am really out of running form. With a lack of training motivation and a few little niggles I am going to have to dig deep. And instead of ‘racing’ it, I am looking forward to running and experiencing it.
“But it is awesome to see such good runners in New Zealand coming out to play. I definitely won’t be keeping up with them but will enjoy meeting new people out there on the course.”
FLORI LINES UP IN OFF-ROAD MARATHON
Another big name in women’s trail running will feature at Macpac Motatapu. With Cecilia Flori lining up in the Off-Road Marathon. Third at the Tarawera 100km in 2017 and a winner at the Mozart 105km event last year, Flori will be a warm favourite in the 42km off-road race.
“The course looks awesome and I heard a lot of good things about the event,” said the Italian born ‘Kiwi’.
“I think it will be a really nice course to run so hopefully I can enjoy some of the views. I really love New Zealand, I recently became a permanent resident, so I like to think of myself as a Kiwi as well.”
The Ultra-Run is one of six events on offer at the 14th edition of the iconic Macpac Motatapu. Overall entries are up by over 400 with total numbers sitting close to 4,000 people from 25 countries as the popularity of one of the largest one-day multi-sport events in New Zealand continues to grow.