Tararua Mountain Race 2019



  • 1 Chris Swallow 5.07.45,
  • 2 Sam Hansby
  • 3 Martin McRudden
  • 1 Hannah Lund 6.35.40
  • 2 Kate Jenkins
  • 3 Lyn Clark

One of the classics of the New Zealand calendar, the TMR is a fantastic community-run event. It crosses the rugged Tararua range just north of Wellington. The route is a point to point – the mighty Southern Crossing. It’s a multi-day walk or a long run, with a decent tussocky exposed section above 1,200m. A couple of years ago we had a strong northerly wind and hail in our eyeballs, so there was much to look forward to. Fortunately we had a better day this time, but lots of rain in the run-up made sure the track was suitably rutted and slippery.

Tararua Mountain Race 36km / 2,300m

With some runners taking over ten hours, the start is staggered in half hour waves. So the first challenge is trading off an extra hour in bed with the need to keep up with a later but faster starting group, unless you want to be running on your own. The first half of the race is a seemingly endless slog up the wooded, infamous and interminable Marchant Ridge. With wet slippery tree roots and seas of bog, Marchant is the place people will go to get water when global warming turns the rest of New Zealand into a barren desert. For an added bonus you get climbs with a compacted clay surface and a thin film of grease. Great in a pan with sausages but not much use on a mountain run.

Alex Jones Men Vet Winner

I set off with ten or so others in the second to last wave aiming to avoid being caught by the fastest pack starting 30 min later and if possible keep the vet trophy from last year. As the rain stopped and the mist lifted I held on to the leading pair in my wave, feeling good. Target one was Alpha Hut, about 17km in and the first checkpoint. As well as the comfort of water, friendly marshals and sweets of a colour unknown to science, getting to Alpha means the end of Marchant. By that point I was suffering. Physically and mentally I couldn’t seem to get into race mode. Martin McCrudden and Joe Fowler had long since disappeared by the time I got there.

Breaking the bushline after the hut brought the fabulous views I’d missed in the last two years. The sort that make you want to sit down with a cup of tea and a cake. It was also clear that while the weather was good, the track was bad. Maybe it was a mild winter, maybe rain in the week, or maybe the marshals going over with several tonnes of fertiliser and a digger, but the 8k over peaks, saddles, ridges and tarns was thick with vegetation and potholes. Low on energy, I had to resort to scoffing a chewy fruity minty mass of Soreen and Kendal mint cake. It’s probably a good mix for putting in bathroom tiles but when I eventually got it down it worked wonders. By this time I was overtaking earlier starters and by the time I was over the peaks of Atkinson and the Beehives I was feeling a lot stronger.

Arriving at the misty 1,529m summit of Mount Hector was a high point. “It’s about a k to the hut…all downhill from here…” I was told by the stalwart marshals, who’d no doubt gone in the night before and had many cold hours both behind and ahead of them. What they actually meant was “about a mile over gnarly rock and tussock, and mostly downhill apart from Field Peak and Hut Mound and that funny bit round Dennan that doesn’t really look bad on the map but is definitely a climb…” Anyway, by this point I was running better, and chapeau to anyone who sits on a windy hill to make the TMR happen.

Kime Hut was the next checkpoint. Again, lots of helpful marshals, including Chris Martin, who spends as much time devising names for races like the Aorangi Undulator, Mukamuka Munter as he does organising them. At Kime I finally spied the chance to bag a race position, but was also expecting to see Chris Swallow breeze past at any moment with the race leaders. Detaching the last residue of Soreen from my teeth I managed to stay ahead over the 11km / 1,250m descent to the finish at Otaki Forks and the waiting barbecue. It was a long way for a sausage, but a top day out on the hills and 

Alex Jones 6th 5.33.53 (1st V40)

Martin Mcruddin 3rd Mens

I entered the TMR because I think I’m getting addicted to mountain running and love the Tararua’s, I also ran as a team last year and had to see what I could do myself.

If I could do race day differently I would had like to of started With the Legendary Chris Swallow and strong Sam Hansby.. But hey, there is always next year!

My go to fuels, I think water doesn’t do it for me, I’ve got to have electrolyte but not too fussed on brand, food, I’m still searching for what is palatable, I find the tom and lukes snack balls go down well and bumperbars seem to as well. Bread is no good, don’t have much experience with gels

The thing I enjoy most about the TMR has got to be the descent from Field. Usually the tops rank highly, but the overgrowth this year had me tripping over myself

My least favourite part of the TMR has got to be the section not far after Kime hut, descending a really rough section with a lot of rock sticking up above the surface, the extra leg lift and tuck to avoid falling really brought the cramp on.

My advice to a first time TMR competitor would have to be make yourself familiar with Marchant ridge and do at least one trip to Hector from Otaki if they haven’t. If it’s advice on race day would be to make the most of the gentle sections as they are few and far between, that advise is not to slack off, more quite the opposite.

Hanah Lund first woman

Is there anything you would like to say to the event organiser?

Through the palmerston north tramping and mountaineering club. I’ve always been a keen tramper and I thought the TMR sounded cool. That’s why it was my first trail running event in 2015 as a team with my mate ashley graham. It’s such a challenging, rewarding run/fast tramp and that’s why I came back for a third time!

Yup, I knew the course well. I think it pays to check out a course like the TMR to make sure you train appropriately, make sensible race plans and ultimately have a great time. The TMR has lots of up, lots of down and is pretty technical running – that’s why I love it!

My fav part of the race was all the awesome aid stations and check points, it was so uplifting passing through getting some refreshments and getting cheered on by all the cheerful Marshall’s.

The finish line is pretty special too. Otaki forks is always sunny and everyone is chilling out picnicking and swimming in the river as competitors cross the swingbride across the otaki to the finish. The events got a wonderful culture and community behind it.

Anything by airdrop: A parachute would have been great from Kime, the relief of beginning the big downhill was shortly overshadowed by CRAMP.

Yes I will be back!!


Thanks to Cat McBean LandSAR and all the other amazing people involved in making this race happen for yet another great TMR. Also, dont worry Cat, I knew my mum would smash the cut-offs 

More pics



Sam Hansby Second

I’d heard about The Southern Crossing race when I was growing up in Blenheim after a family friend had competed in it and said that it had really hurt him. I put in in the “maybe one day” category in my brain. It’s a cool event in many ways and it supports Wellington and Wairarapa LandSAR by providing donations after each race.  

At registration my bag was checked by Brent Harrison, who’d conceived and organized the first Southern Crossing race back in 1990. 

The 9am wave contained just 6 of us. I chose the 9am slot because why start earlier when you can start later?

Cat McBean started us off with a countdown and Chris Swallow immediately took the lead. I slotted in at 5th behind Chris, Ben Clendon, Rudi Smith and Ollie Vincent (who were paired today), and Sam Robson behind me.

By the time we’d reached the Marchant Ridge turn off I was in at 2nd behind Chris. The ‘Marchant Ridge’ sign was unreadable since someone had smashed it up with what looked like to be a sledge hammer. I could understand why someone would do that and I could see them being able to do it with their bare hands because Marchant Ridge really brings that out in people.

I’d had a guts-full by the time I was about 6-7km into the Marchant Ridge climb. Ben had just passed me on a steep section and was looking comfortable which added to my frustration. I was mulling over how far Chris and Ben were getting out in front when my shoe was pulled off in a particularly sticky section of track. Some part of me (the stupid part) contemplated leaving the shoe before the other part of me spoke up and said something like “you’ll need your shoe”. I tip toed back into the mud pit and grabbed it, tying it back onto my foot a bit tighter than is advised by the shoe doctor.

I caught Ben just before Alpha Hut. After the shoe incident, I had calmed down and was going along quite nicely. Ben was still looking good but he’d had a little taste of some cramp and didn’t want to push it too early in the race.

Chris had been and gone once I arrived at Alpha. Some kind person filled my bottle for me which was handy as I was trying to find a wrap in my pack. (On that note, all of the TMR marshals and volunteers were really great). Once I’d found the required wrap, I was ready to go and so I did, with both my shoes on my feet and a bottle full of life-sustaining water. As I started up towards Mt Aston, I took a last look back at the hut to see Ben arriving.

I caught sight of Chris on the way up Mt Aston as he disappeared into the mist. The trail was starting to fight back against the traffic it had received during the day by setting up hole traps and creating really slippery sections on the uphill which was causing some muscle fatigue in my legs. But it was still a really cool section of trail as we headed towards Mt Hector on an exposed ridgeline in little to no wind.

Once I reached Mt Hector, I was spent. As I approached Kime Hut drink stop, I saw Chris Martin. I was pretty keen to sit down and have a chat about life and stuff but he hurried me off in an effort to catch the other Chris. Reluctantly, I left the drink stop, still a little thirsty.

This last section down to Field Hut and Otaki Forks was my favourite section. My fatigue and tiredness seemed to have been surprised out of me on the steep drops, and roots and rocks that the track came across. As the track descended it became more civilized but less exciting which my knees welcomed. It didn’t take too long to reach the grassy terrace above Otaki River where I could hear the music and sounds of families enjoying the river at the finishing area.

As I crossed the finish line, I saw and tried to hand-shake Martin McCrudden (who’d started at 8.30am and ended up getting 3rd overall) while he was putting a shirt on which was a difficult ask because you need your arms when putting on a shirt and an arm when handshaking someone. We still managed it though. And Chris was also there having finished 5 minutes prior. It was great to get even that close to a legend of the Tararuas so I was stoked with my race.

Great race – run and organised by great people.