Ten Essential Australian and New Zealand Ultramarathons for 2016

If like me you’ve pondered what Australian and Kiwi ultramarathons you’re going to enter in 2016, then think no more as I aim to provide you with a run down of some of the best races on the ANZ ultrarunning calendar for this year!

While my selections might be a little biased because I’ve either raced these or want to, I like to think that it’s pretty in tune with what might be on most people’s wish lists. I did a quick count last year of the number of ultras we have in Australia alone and I think I managed to get over the 100 mark, which represents a huge surge in popularity of the ultra distance. I know NZ may not have as many as us, but they do have what I feel are some of the best races globally, and that’s reflected in this list.

In no particular order, I’ve picked out ten races that I think could be worth a crack for you, covering a gambit of different criteria and countries to suit all tastes. Six of these races are also part of the Ultra168 Supporters Club, where runners can get some great discounts off race entry fees. Have a look here if you’re keen.

The Northburn 100s

They say aim high and this one certainly reaches the heights that rival some of the biggest races in the world. There’s no better way of saying this, but this race is a brute. One hundred miles and over 10,000m of climbing – more than UTMB – and better still, you don’t need to gather a stupid number of points and spend thousands of dollars racing just to qualify! Plus, it’s the one of only two races in the Southern Hemisphere that qualifies you for Hardrock!

The 100 miler is three loops of some big mountains in some of the most stunning mountain ranges going in a wonderful wine region of New Zealand. This was the scene of my first 100-mile finish and I always remember sitting on a rock at around 4am on the last loop at around 1,600m looking down on the town below thinking how good life was. There’s not much time left to get ready for this one as the next edition is on March 19th/20th – enter here.

Buffalo Stampede

Taking place on the 8th/9th/10th of April, this is another one in the category of ‘Bloody Hard Work’. Now in it’s third year, this was Australia’s first sanctioned Skyrace taking place in the wonderful township of Bright in the Victorian Alps. There’s a range of events on offer, but we’re focused on the 75km, 4000m+ of vertical. If you’re a real nut job, you can do the Grand Slam, 26km, 75km and 42km on consecutive days.

Landie Grayling at the Buffalo Stampede
Landie Grayling at the Buffalo Stampede

The race is simple, run up to the top of mount Buffalo, do a quick loop around the mountain and then run back down again, with a few ‘hills’ throw in for fun along the way. There’s some seriously steep climbing in this one and the race really set the tone for popularising Skyrunning here in Australia – enter here.

Tarawera 100

Back across the ditch to something a little more sedate in terms of terrain. At Tarawera, you get to run through some of the most delightful forest trails you’ve ever come across in the world. This is a course for the runners who like to go quick, as evidenced by the course record set by US speedster, Dylan Bowman last year in a staggering 7 hours 44 minutes.

A nice point to point course, you’ll begin by tracing your footsteps in lush green forests, before the final 40kms of flat terrain which separates those who have saved something in their legs for the final push home. If you want to race this one, then I’m afraid the list is full, but you can go on the waitlist – have a look here.

The Great Ocean Walk 100

As far as I’m concerned, this is one of Australia’s best kept secrets in terms of ultra racing. While the some races are full of glitz, glamour and responsible for numerous Facebook selfie posts on-course, this one is about as grassroots as they get.

Run by Andy Hewat, one of our most experienced ultra runners i.e. he was running ultras before it was seriously cool, like in 1984, this is one of the most beautiful point to point races in Australia with a deluge of single-track running, plus bonus wildlife sightings along the way. One year I had an encounter with a very aggressive koala on a pretty serious come-down who looked like he hadn’t had his fix of eucalyptus for quite a few days!

Your editor in the GOW100 back in 2011 - pushing the bridge load limit to its maximum
Your editor in the GOW100 back in 2011 – pushing the bridge load limit to its maximum

The race is held in October each year and there are very limited spots, so get yourself over to the website here and have a look at when entries open to secure yours.

The Blackall 100

A fairly new race on the ultra scene, run up in the beautiful rainforests of Queensland by Run Queensland. I’m yet to race this one myself, but word on the street is that this is a beauty of a course and is highly accessible for newbies to the ultra scene to have a crack at too. Plus it’s nice and warm up there too! Entries are yet to open for 2016, but have a look at the website here.

The Surf Coast Century

This race has fast established itself as the go-to 100km in Victoria, and is again another race that sees the whole spectrum of running ability enter. From the speedsters at the front running around eight hours, to those who have embarked on their first ultra.

This race has it all too in terms of scenery and accessibility. The first 25kms takes you along the beaches, with some nice gentle running to begin proceedings. The course then heads inland and back upon itself to the start, where runners continue into more of the inland forests for what you might deem the second loop.

Shaped in a figure of eight, it’s high accessible for spectators too, making it easy to jump from check-point to check-point to support your runner.

Entries are yet to open for this one too, but have a look at the website here.

Surf Coast
Surf Coast Century is held in September each year on the South Coast of Victoria

The Shotover Moonlight Marathon

Dubbed as one of the ‘must do’ off road events on the global marathon calendar the sheer variety of terrain will both test and entertain you.

Middle-earth - The Shotover Moonlight Marathon
Middle-earth – The Shotover Moonlight Marathon

After leaving the beach at Skippers Canyon you will run along old gold mining water races, traverse many ridgelines and bluffs, reach several summits, cross bridges, meander through old gold mining tunnels, have fun running on awesome single track through beautiful beech forests, dig your heels in whilst descending screes, climb ladders alongside waterfalls and skip through refreshing low river crossings on the final stretch to the finish at Moke Lake. Enter here!

Mount Difficulty Ascent

Not strictly an ultra I know, but this one has been chosen for sheer brutality and for simply being ‘different’.

I ran this in its inaugural year and there were definitely a few ‘oh shit’ moments on the ascent up to the top of the mountain. This course has quite a bit of 40-50% gradient slopes and the climbing fits into the true Skyrace categories of having around 1,000m climbs over 3kms.

This is Mount Difficulty. It's seriously difficult as the name suggests. I did the inaugural event this year and I'll be honest, I almost shit my pants going up it... (Picture - EyetoEye Photos)
This is Mount Difficulty. It’s seriously difficult as the name suggests. (Picture – EyetoEye Photos)

Add in a bit of snow and you have a really tough mountain race on your hands. If you want to put yourself outside of your comfort zones, plus have a week in Queenstown on holiday too, this is a must-do. Enter here.

Ultra-Trail Australia

It doesn’t get much bigger than one of the biggest ultra’s in Australia, the newly named, Ultra Trail Australia. Despite the 100km and the 50km races being sold out, no must do list is complete without having this one in the line-up.

While not the ‘first’ ultra in Australia, this one came along as the wave of commercialism in our sport started to rise and it’s now running along the peak. Around 3,000 people will head to the Blue Mountains in May for some stunning running in a world heritage site that offers a great mix of climbing and running through some of the best tracks around.

The good news is that there places still in the 22km event, so if you’re no lucky enough to have grabbed an entry to the bigger events, the small, yet equally as challenging 22km race is just as good value.

Enter here.

The Hillary Ultra

Or if you fancy something a little different, yet equally as challenging, head back over the ditch again to NZ for the beautifully stunning Hillary Ultra, run over the entire length of the Hillary track, just 30 minutes outside of Auckland.

This one has just as much elevation packed into its 80km as UTA, running along the West Coast of New Zealand, jutting in and out of the coastline, inland and back out again for some good hurtin’. The Trail follows a variety of terrain and scenery – many claim a magical pull of the trail and keep coming back for more. Stunning views throughout the trail, rugged West coast beaches, magnificent native bush including the hundreds of year old native Kauri trees. Past large waterfalls and sand dunes, along cliff tops or through marshlands – there is something for everyone.

Probably a little similar in design to the Great Ocean Walk, you’ll certainly get your money’s worth and a whole iPhone-full of beautiful pictures to boot too. Enter here.

Australia's Bry McConnell at the inaugural Hillary last year
Australia’s Bry McConnell at the inaugural Hillary last year

As always, there are many more races which are as equally deserving of a mention over and above this list and as readers, I’m sure you have your favourites too.

What you might notice in this list is that six of the races are also members of the Ultra168 Supporters Club. Go check this page to see which ones and have a look at the massive discounts you can get too from becoming an Ultra168 Supporter.

Whatever race(s) you choose to enter this year, have some awesome fun doing it, and importantly training for it too.

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Dan on Twitter
I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

4 thoughts on “Ten Essential Australian and New Zealand Ultramarathons for 2016

  1. The Old Ghost Ultra, West Coast South Island NZ – the inaugural this year but expecting it to be up there with the most stunning trails NZ has to offer and an amazing story/history to boot. Excited much!

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