Race Preview: The Hillary Ultra 2017

The Hillary is a series of races taking place on the Hillary Trail along Auckland’s west coast in New Zealand. There is 16k, 34k and 80k options, all of which take place along the trail with their own beautiful scenery and challenges. The main event is the 80k and the focus of this preview. The official Hillary Trail is around 75k so the ultra adds an additional 5k and with a whopping 3700 metres of elevation gain, it is definitely no walk in the park. The current race records for the 80k event are 8 hours 23 minutes for the men by Andrius Ramonas of Lithuania, and 9 hours 55 minutes for the women by Gill Fowler of Australia. 

Beth Cardelli

Starting with the women’s field, and it looks to be a battle between two powerhouses of the Oceanic trail running scene, Australian Beth Cardelli and New Zealander Jo Johansen. In 2016 alone, Beth was 1st at Knapsack 6 Hour Lap Race, Ultra Trail Australia 100, Hounslow Classic and Mount Solitary 45k, and she has had a solid start to 2017 with another win at the Knapsack 6 Hour Lap Race in January.

Jo broke onto the ultra trail running scene in 2014 with a win at the Tarawera Ultra and 3rd at the Kepler Challenge, since then she has been 5th at the Buffalo Stampede 75k and 2nd at Tarawera Trail 50k in 2015 and in 2016 she was 2nd at the Taupo Ultramarathon 100k. Also in the mix are several other women including:

  1. Deb Nicholl of Australia, 1st Hares and Hounds 52k 2016, 3rd Great Ocean Walk 100k 2016, 10th Cradle Mountain Run 82k 2017.
  2. Jane Snowden of Australia, 4th Kepler Track 75k 2015, 3rd Waterous Trail on Foot 50 Mile 2015, 9th Buffalo Stampede 75k 2016
  3. Angelique Plaire of France, 3rd Surf Coast Century 50k 2015, 2nd Le Trail Des Cagous 2016, 6th Grand Raid Des Pyrenees 160k


The men’s field seems to be all about local powerhouse Danny Garrett of New Zealand. Danny has had a strong last few years, and in 2015 was 3rd at Ultra Easy 100k and then in 2016 he was 3rd at Buffalo Stampede 75k, 2nd at the Hounslow Classic 68k and 6th at the Kepler Challenge Mountain Run 60k.

Danny on his way to winning the Hillary Ultra (Credit: Hillary Ultra)

Although initially it was looking to be rematch of the Ultra Easy 100k just under a month ago with Martin Kern, whereby Danny got first and Martin second respectively. Unfortunately Martin has sustained a last-minute injury and has decided to race the 34k event instead, we wish Martin a speedy recovery and I am sure he will come back ready to battle it out with Danny at their next meeting. This leaves the remainder of the podium wide open and there are several other males in the mix including:

  1. Doug Watson of New Zealand, 8th Taupo Ultramarathon 100k 2016
  2. Slavik Titov of Australia, 1st Glasshouse Hares and Hounds 52k 2017
  3. Daniel Borquez of Chile, 18th Ultra Trail Australia 50k 2016, 2nd Surf Coast Century 50k 2016, 1st Ultra Easy Marathon 2017


Of those, Dan looks to be a guy that will give Danny a bit of a run for his money with some very strong performances in races of late. Expect him to feature for most of the race and who knows, potentially hold on to Danny for a show down in the last few kilometres.

David’s podium picks:

WOMEN – 1. Beth Cardelli 2. Jo Johansen 3. Jane Snowden

MEN – 1. Danny Garrett 2. Daniel Borquez 3. Doug Watson

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David Longo
David is a Canberra-based ultra runner who has also lived in Hong Kong. He races regularly both on the HK and Australian ultra scene.

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