The Journey Back to go Forwards – Tarawera 50km

The journey of Tarawera 50km, a kick ass (and ass-kicking) event that is more than just a trail race.

To paint this picture, let me share this one memory. At dinner one evening after the event the RD Paul Charteris, was almost reduced to tears as he relayed a phone call he had with a finisher who was so moved by the journey of the 50km event, he now has a new perspective on life and the legacy he wants to leave in this world. Pretty touching stuff.

What touches the hearts of so many people in this event is the significant cultural journey and historic path the 50km and Marathon routes retrace.

One check point is called Buried Village, why? because in 1886 the eruption of Mt Tarawera buried the areas Maori villages and its inhabitants. it literally is the site of buried villages. Pretty amazing to think this journey of 50km, actually covers over such meaningful grounds.



Nowadays, along with acknowledging the significance of the land, this aid station is home to Devonshire Tea for runners. Scones, cakes and people dressed like Alice in Wonderland. A seriously great atmosphere and boost of energy, 35km into a honest 50km course that leaves no excuses to stroll.

For one of the event participant, Kawhi- this is what the ‘race’ means – 130 years ago the eruption of Mt Tarawera destroyed the homes of his ancestors, the Ngati Tuhourangi people. By running the 50km he acknowledges their spirit and can say “We survived”.

People who fled the devastating eruption, found safety in the town of Rotorua, the start line of the event. The 50km and Marathon routes now retrace the steps of these tribal people, back to the historical land they called home.

On race day it was hard to get this sense of spiritual presence, all I was thinking is 30min from now is breakfast gel number 6 and I need some more water because it’s hot outside! Run faster and smile to the great supporters on this sweet trail!

One moment of calm during the race came as we ran the banks of Green Lake. It felt prehistoric with huge ferns and tall protected trees shadowing our path. The lake was still, quiet and not one person was making the most of its clear water on such a hot day. I later found out the reason for this. The lake is sacred to the native owners of the land and its not to be used. It is home to a small island, which was once used as a killing ground for captured members of rival tribes. So no checkpoints with fancy dress on this section… fair enough.


Not many events have this amount of deep historic meaning behind the actual trail us runner blindly cover, it makes Tarawera different. The commitment by race RD’s Tim and Paul is huge and meaningful to them and their home community in Rotoura and NZ as a whole. Being in Rotorua the days preceding the event, there is real sense of inclusion by the race volunteers and community for event participants, even if they think you may be a little mad covering up to 50km on foot or know you come from Australia.

But running a 50km from a scenic live Geyser to the event finish line on Hot Water Beach, through lush single track forest, sounds like a good day out, to me! The only warning being, this place is still home to live volcanic activity, where swimming in volcanic mud pools is not cool, because it burns you and floaties or life guards are helpless.

In 1886 the dangers of a volcanic eruption forced people to make this 50km journey, but now its hidden dangers of modern day life that can significantly harm people and hold them back from making such meaningful life changing journeys like Tarawera 50km or marathon.

The high demands of work, stress, internal health, self-doubt, depression and anxiety are often major obstacles that hold people back from there full potential and great achievements.

One thing I took away from my time in NZ, is this: committing to a challenge, working hard to improve physically and mentally health and taking the time to improve your personal happiness and persona, will have a direct positive impact on the people you are surrounded by and the greater world.


This is the modern day path we are all running and one that can be a lot brighter with our personal commitment and determination to improve it. I’m not here to say do a 50km tomorrow. But make a small change for yourself today and another one tomorrow, encourage a friend to do their first Parkrun and soon you will see how and why it works.

This attitude can lead to so many amazing experiences and opportunities – a truth backed up by so many ecstatic finishers of the Tarawera 50km and marathon.

As the successful finisher, Kawhi puts it – there is a saying by an ancestor Te Pahau who lived at Rotokakahi (Green Lake): ‘Ko te Pahau kahaki waka’ – ‘opportunity waits for no one’.

For a healthy 2016 with positive change- Majell Backhausen, Mad Keen Australian Trail Runner

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Majell Backhausen
Majell (pronounced My-al) is an Australian International Ultra Distance Runner who wants to explore the world, meet great people and prove himself in the mountains.

You’ll either find him behind a BIG plate of veggies, running in the mountains, talking about a positive life or cycling around town.

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