2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon Results

Jim Walmsley and Camille Herron ran with off-the-front authority for 102 kilometers through the lakes, forests, and hills between Rotorua and Kawerau, New Zealand to win the 2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon.

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2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon Men’s Race

Is there anything else to say except that Jim Walmsley (pre-race and post-race interviews) was dominant? From “go,” Jim set the pace. He was accompanied for some four kilometers before breaking free of everyone else and running solo for the next 98k to the finish line. We’d prepared a set of “Walmsley absolutely ridiculous splits,” which we developed based upon a 7:15 finish time that we thought implausible, but not impossible. However, we basically ended up using them to key our next moves all day long. When the route came out of the woods briefly at just over 11k, Jim came out talking about how he’d almost been knocked out cold by a run-in with a massive tree branch a kilometer or so prior. He was okay, all was okay, and he would later say he continued on without more than a few-seconds delay. At 57k, it looked like he might be experiencing a low point. He later attributed it to the fact that he was coming off the race’s most technical terrain where he tried hard to chill and not push hard. On the cruise-y terrain after 72k, I’m guessing Jim’s GPS data will show he logged some of his fastest splits. Without a doubt, Jim’s performance was a step above what men are doing at the ‘front of the pack’ in our sport right now.

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon - Jim Walmsley

Jim Walmsley running strong late in Tarawera. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

In the days ahead of the race, defending champion Jonas Buud (pre-race and post-race interviews) defined his goals around improving upon his own previous performances. He simply wanted to run faster this year than last year. Ultimately, he found himself limited by problems running downhill starting at 30k into the race, what would evolve into blown quads by the finish. After the race he said that perhaps this was the result of less running training and more cross training over the winter and unseasoned quadriceps. Despite his ailing quads and running a bit slower than last year, he held things together better than everyone but Walmsley, and ended up in second place. As early as around 11k into the race, Jonas had settled into his totally expected position, within the chase pack of men running a controlled pace. It would be ages and ages, until something like two thirds of the race had passed, that he would be able to shake the rest of the runners and assume the second position, which he would hold to the finish.

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon - Jonas Buud

Jonas Buud wrapping up another podium performance at Tarawera. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Before the race, several people said in describing New Zealand’s Sam McCutcheon (post-race interview), “He’s the real deal.” The guy who’s had a couple years of success nationally took things abroad in 2016 to take 10th at the Buff Epic Ultra, one of the Skyrunning World Championships races. All of what we knew about him led us to believe that he could contend for the men’s top five. And here he is, having finished third, a position he ran near to for much of the race, and less than two minutes out of second place. From the very first time we saw him after 11k, he was in the top-five mix, a position he’d maintain all race. Sam moved up into third position in the race’s final quarter, easing up close to, but never in sight of, second-place Buud.

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon - Sam McCutcheon

Sam McCutcheon making himself known outside Australasia with his third-place finish. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

David Byrne (pre-race interview), second here last year, came back for a fourth-place finish, running a couple minutes faster than 2016. 2016 Ultra-Trail World Tour champion Gediminas Grinius rounded out the men’s top five with a totally steady performance.

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon Men’s Results

  1. Jim Walmsley (Hoka One One) – 7:23:32 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  2. Jonas Buud (ASICS) – 8:10:58 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  3. Sam McCutcheon (Altra) – 8:12:35 (post-race interview)
  4. David Byrne (Nike) – 8:19:56 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  5. Gediminas Grinius (Vibram) – 8:23:16
  6. Andrius Ramonas (The North Face) – 8:29:30
  7. Matt Flaherty (Salomon) – 8:39:29
  8. Michael Wardian (Hoka One One) – 8:49:36
  9. Craig Kirkwood – 9:13:16
  10. Romain Mirosa – 9:35:59

Full results.

[We’d previously listed Ben Gerhardy as the tenth-place man, but he’d dropped down to the simultaneous 87k event.]

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon - Andrius Ramonas - Gediminas Grinius

Lithuanians Andrius Ramonas (left) and Gediminas Grinius after they took sixth and fifth, respectively. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon  Women’s Race

I find a number of fascinating parallels between the men’s and women’s races. Both champions ran off the front, without cueing from their competitors for pretty much all of the race’s 102 kilometers. Both second places described their days as equivalents of ‘not easy,’ yet they persevered through in solid positions and fended off tough and talented fields of women and men. And both third places are more local stars who broke out into the world of international competition with their performances here. Let me elaborate a bit on the women’s side of things.

From the start, Camille Herron (pre-race and post-race interviews) set into what she called a sustainable pace for her, holding it–and the lead–all the way through the finish. She would later describe her experience as an incremental step forward in her still-developing career in trail running. She described feeling the changes in the trail, like curves, rocks, and other technicalities, and responding to them by easing off the effort and moving comfortably through them. Last year when bonking during a race, she discovered beer as a way to refuel. Employing that strategy here, she said at the finish that she drank 24 ounces of beer in the race’s second half. At each aid station, Camille added small amounts to her time gap on the field, what would lead to a 24-minute win. She looked a little rough at the finish, having put it all out on the trail, but revived after a bit to join the day’s festivities. With her dominant performance here and following a challenging 2016, it looks like Camille has returned to the form we saw her first enter our sport with in 2015.

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon - Camille Herron

Camille Herron winning Tarawera 2017. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Magdalena Boulet (pre-race and post-race interviews) would say after the race that the day wasn’t easy, but that she made it through. I’m of the opinion that Magda suffers better than most because, honest to goodness, I can hardly tell when she’s having a hard time. Magda ran in second position for pretty much the entire race. At times, she looked quiet and focused, while in others she opened up smiles for her husband and son, who crewed her. Early on, she kept the gap to leader Camille within just a couple minutes, before it opened wider in the race’s second half. Magda was challenged by a late-charging Cecilia Flori during a time when she didn’t feel very well. The pair worked together before Magda pulled ahead to take second by a narrow margin.

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon - Magdalena Boulet

Magda Boulet finishing Tarawera in second with her son… just ahead of her. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Cecilia Flori (post-race interview) is Italian who lives in New Zealand. To be frank, at the time of this writing, we don’t know much about her–we’ll interview her post-race, though, so stay tuned! As far as we understand from iRunFar’s Kiwi friends, Cecilia is a relatively new trail and ultrarunner, and possibly a new competitive runner. In 2016, she won another local race, the Taupo 100k, in a time that would have been quite good for many men and a time that made people take notice of her. For whatever newness she may have, Cecilia did not come out of the gate carefully and conservatively. By 17k, she moved right into fourth position, and held it there for a good, long time. Cecilia made her way into third position in the race’s final third. If Sam McCutcheon is the real deal, then Cecilia is, too.

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon - Cecilia Flori

Italy’s Cecilia Flori gave Magda Boulet a run for second, before finishing third. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Kellie Emmerson, an Aussie trail phenom, showed she can play with the big guns in her fourth-place finish, and Margie Campbell took a strong fifth place.

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon Women’s Results

  1. Camille Herron (Nike) – 8:56:00 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  2. Magdalena Boulet (Hoka One One) – 9:20:13 (pre-race and post-race interviews)
  3. Cecilia Flori (Altra) – 9:21:42 (post-race interview)
  4. Kellie Emmerson (2XU) – 9:42:03
  5. Margie Campbell – 10:04:30
  6. Fiona Hayvice (Salomon) – 10:06:11 (pre-race interview)
  7. Fernanda Maciel (The North Face) – 10:24:03
  8. Alicia Hudelson – 10:27:47
  9. Kath Carty – 10:27:57
  10. Sophie Grant – 11:01:55

Full results.

[We’d previously listed Katrin Webb as the tenth-place woman, but she’d dropped down to the simultaneous 87k event.]

2017 Tarawera Ultramarathon - Fernanda Maciel

Fernanda Maciel showing off her ever-present enthusiasm after taking seventh. Photo: iRunFar/Meghan Hicks

Coverage Thanks

Special thanks to Jim Robinson and Kerry Suter for their on-the-ground reporting. Thanks to Tegyn Angel for some last-minute photo assistance. Thanks to the boat and shuttle drivers–Tarawera race volunteers–who helped transport iRunFar safely around the race’s backcountry course. Finally, thanks to Kurt Matthews for the wheels that got us around the first 40 kilometers.

There are 33 comments

  1. Johnny Justice

    Walmsley is THE best ultrarunner in the world, currently. There is no more arguing that or dismissing his talent-hardwork. Krar, Jurek, Meltzer, etc have not even come close to the speed with which Walmsley has shown is possible on the trails. Regardless of how many 100s someone has won, no ONE has ran as fast as Jim during ultras, ever. Good luck catching this kid if he says healthy. Much respect.

    1. AJW

      Johnny, I agree with you, mostly, but Krar has come close, at least when it counts the most. Looking at Jim’s WS splits from last year those are the best apples to apples comparison I can think of and having run the WS course a few times I am in awe of both of them. Jim has come a long way, though, just since June, so if he does indeed throw down a sub-14 at WS I will agree with your “nobody comes close” comment. But for now, there’s still some work to do, and I have a hunch Jim knows that. If he gets to Michigan Bluff by noon, runs Cal Street in sub-2 hours and covers Hwy 49 to the Finish in under 55 minutes I’ll be the first guy at the finish line to kiss his feet. That would be truly out of this world!

    2. Hali

      He is indeed one of the best right now, and probably the best american runner followed closely by Zach Miller. But the best of the world? There are some guys out there who could beat him, Luis Alberto Hernando, Xavier Thevenard, Zach in a good day, and that guy, what’s his name, Kilian Jornet (who happens to be the best ultrarunner of all time)?. Walmsley is awesome but let him run some races against the best of the best before you call him best ultrarunner in the world.

      1. AJW

        @hali “best ultrarunner of all-time”? So Kilian, in your opinion, is better than Ann Trason and Yiannis Kouros? I have to say, I am not sure Kilian would agree with you much less some of the rest of us.

        1. Hali

          You are right Andy, i should have added that “in my opinion” he is the best ultrarunner of all time. Point is, everyone has their own opinion about who is the best of the best currently and the best ever, but i think it’s not right saying that there is no “arguing” Walmsey is the best right now.

          1. AJW

            I see what you’re saying. Indeed, Jim is the best in the business at the moment and I am excited to see him get his ticket in April and then get things right at Squaw in June. As a friend and a fan I admire Jim and wish him the best.

            The point I was trying to make, admittedly somewhat obliquely, is that these days making “best of all time” statements simply doesn’t work. And that’s the true beauty of our sport. Let football have it’s Brady’s and basketball it’s LeBrons. We don’t need that and I think Jim, Kaci, Andrew, Stephanie, Rob, Ellie, Ann, Tim and countless others would agree. Sure, we have a few in it for the money or fame but most of us, as in 99% of us, are in it for the love of just running. Hopefully we can keep it that way.

            1. Ellie G

              I’m in it for the big bucks and endoresment deals where I sell my soul to corporations. ;) Ultra running is a world of apples., oranges, bananas, coconuts and grapes.

              Oh, that first sentence should be read with sarcasm btw. As AJW said, it it for the love of it.

      2. Rob

        Kilian is the best ultrarunner on technical trails, but there are probably a few runners that could beat him on a “flowy” trails. Kilian is at another level when he’s focused on a long up and down race, but he couldn’t beat JW or Krar or Buud at Western States.

        1. Johnny

          Who knows how well Kilian would do if he trained for Western States, though. Remember he’s a previous Western States champion. Ran it twice and got third and first.

    3. Florian

      Sure, Walmsley pulls off some crazy races and volume. But lets see first how long his body can handle this. Karl is still the real deal to me. But that’s just personal. I like steady more than one and done.

      1. AJW

        I hear you Florian on longevity but Jim has been pretty open in his belief that he’ll only be able to keep this up for a short period of time and that eventually his body won’t let him do it anymore or he’ll move on to other things. Until that short time is over, however, he sure is fun to watch!

    4. Matthias

      If you see ultrarunning in a long term, Jim Walmsley did not come anywhere, because he is not that long in the sport. Others exploded while doing too much, too soon and too fast.
      Jim is a very talented runner and I personally hope he will stick around for long!

  2. Nelson

    Walmsley is currently the fastest American runner at runable ultras (although we didn’t get to see him race the guys at TNF, but I still think he would have beaten them).

    The best/fastest in the world, ever? That’s ridiculous. One word–Kouros. KOUROS. The guy everyone seem to forget when arguing Jurek vs Killian. I’d like to see Jim take a crack at Kouros’ Spartathlon record.

    Or line up at Comrades. Or Utmb. Like, truly deep fields. Or Zegama. Jim plans to race all thouse events, so we’ll see.

    Killian is probably the best mountain runner ever, but he’s not as focused on running as most other guys. I don’t think he’s past his prime, but he’s certainly not performing as well as he’s capable simply because he’s focused on other things.

    And Ann Trason. If any American ultrarunner can credibly claim being the best, that’s Ann. Walmsley or any of his contemporaries have still one hell of a lot to show before they can rival with Ann’s excellence.

    Let’s be real and have some memory. Walmsley is plenty good without anyone, including himself, blowing his merits out of proportion.

    1. AJW

      Good comment. And it’s worth noting that Jim O’Brien and Matt Carpenter were pretty good back in the day. Google course records at Angeles Crest and Leadville. Pro tip: not on Strava:)

    2. Rob

      All these top folks seem to have their specialty. If I recall Kouros tried Western once and said never again. He was the fastest at super long road ultras. Western is the middle ground where Kouros and Killian would have met. It’s flat for Killian but too hilly for Yiannis. My guess is Bitter could have given Kouros a run for his money on a “short” ultra.

      1. Markus

        Kouros did Western States 3 weeks after his remarkable 1000 mile record in New York in 10 days and 10 hours. So hardly a full effort race for him. He probably just got invited, went for it in his road running shoes. At this time there were no trail races to speak of in Europe.

        Kouros has a 100k best of 6:43:34 and 11h 46min 37s over 100 miles
        Walmsley has a 100k best of 7:08
        Zach Bitter has a 100 mile best of 11:40:55 h

        http://statistik.d-u-v.org/getresultperson.php?runner=17130

        http://www.yianniskouros.gr/index.php/en/kourosvictories

  3. Markus

    Jim Walmsley is a very good trail ultrarunner. Is he the best ultrarunner in the world? Probably not. That would be also very hard to define because there are so many options where can be good at in ultrarunning. Road and trails, shorter ultras below 100k, 100k road races, 100 mile trail races, 24 hours and 6 days just to name the most of them.

    It’s not Jim Walsmley’s fault but the hype around him is annoying. Yes he has won a couple of races but so have others.

  4. Fernando Baeza

    Congratulations to Jim Walmsley! What an amazing performance. He may very well be the Prefontaine of ultrarunning, I can see why he has attracted quite a following.
    AJW has made a valid point after alls been said and done, this sport isnt about glorification nor do we promote it as a whole, (albeit as deserving as Jims performances have been!) we are a humble unit as a whole, and the majority do this as a personal achievement on many levels, some physical…some mental, but personal achievements.
    But a small part of me does want to play devils advocate here, as the forums on the lets run boards are filled with how slow ultrarunners are and how mundane it all is. Jim has in a way vindicated all that in a strange way for me, for many I suppose, the way the rest of the running world perceives us in the ultra community. He is breaking into some new barriers and I for one, congratulate him for the courage, and the gall to hit the hammer and just pound away no matter the distance. Happy trailrunning everyone!

    Fernando
    San Antonio, TX

    1. John Vanderpot

      You know, I stay off the “sprinter” sites for just that reason — there’s a certain ill-informed mean-spiritedness there that I’d rather not see, but I recall some years back, they were sort of enjoying a little pile-on one night on Sage, and Mr. Meltzer invited them all up for a go at Speedgoat, his guest, and as I recall, not a single one took him up on the offer…which maybe tells you everything you need to know about that?

      It’s not nearly as easy as it looks, as we all know!

      JV

    1. Adrian

      I can’t believe there are not more comments on this. It is hardly the normal approach. I guess I’ll be filling my hydration pack with Heady Topper in future

  5. Ben

    Great review but just to correct one point – Ben Gerhardy (me), who you listed as coming tenth didnt come tenth… I dropped back to the mere 87km distance at the course split. I finished in the time you have listed but ran 15km less! Im not sure who did come tenth but they deserve the credit, not me.

    Cheers,

    Ben

    1. Bryon Powell

      Ben,
      Thanks for your honesty and taking the time to leave a note. Our reporter at the finish didn’t catch who was tenth man and we relied on the race timing to supply tenth spot. We’ll correct this right away.

      Cheers,
      Bryon

  6. Peter Andersson

    Top 7 men all run for different shoe brands – that’s the best thing to come out of this race! Those fears from a few years back that Nike’s forray into MUT would kill the competitions seems to have been unsubstantial.

    Top 7 women possibly the same, one of the gals has no shoe listed to her name.

  7. Mat

    Walmsley, Kouros, Ann Trason, Kilian…completely different type of runners and times.

    Walmsley so far comes across at as the best (nowadays) on fast not too technical races

    Kouros was more running things like Sparthatlon etc

    Ann Trason was more running in the US only

    Kilian was (and is probably still) the best at mountain trail runs (ie Hardrock/UTMB style of races) and shorter type of event… very technical (ie Zegama, Kima etc)

    In terms of trail running spirit, Kilian probably tops them simply because his attitude in the last 10 years has been nothing short of “gentlemanesque” – totally respecting nature when he could as well as the competition…and don’t forget that he is a SKIMO champion and none of the above runners could/would/would have attempted something like Summits of my Life.

    and of course Metzler, Jurek in their own ways are top top runners just like a few others D’Haene, Thevenard etc

    In short not ONE best but a few individuals who keep pushing the boundaries of this beautiful sport!!!!

    1. Andrew

      Pretty sure Ann Trason won Comrades and Western in the same year twice. That doesn’t say, “only successful in the US” to me personally.

      1. Mat

        Western is in the US and I did say “was more running in the US”…meaning less exposure to the other playgrounds…doesn’t mean she never ever ran elsewhere successfully…

        1. Andrew

          Fair enough Mat. I was just using Western to underline her impressive resume. I didn’t mean it as a criticism of your post (which was very good). I just feel Ann’s legacy in the sport is amazing!

  8. Paul Charteris

    Tarawera organiser here.

    Great article Meghan – and a very accurate account of how it went down.

    I had around 20 minutes contact time with Jim on Saturday as he was flying around the course. In the nine years I have organised this event, I have never seen a runner look like such a ‘pure runner’. Quite possibly the most elegant and effortless running style I have ever witnessed. Sheer power and efficiency.

    I personally think (and I am biased of course) that Jim may well have laid down the best long distance running performance seen in this country since the days of Arthur Lydiard. It was masterclass and world-class all in one. USA – you have got one hell of a runner there!

    Watch out for the video when we release it – because I think you will be astounded at what this guy can do.

    We are, of course, honoured and humbled that so many top runners (both the incredibly deep women’s field and the men) chose our event to make it a genuine race. And our Kiwis – they mixed it with the big guns too!!

    Cheers,

    Paul Charteris

  9. Dean G

    I think Ultrarunning is almost like cycling at this point in terms of diversity… There’s road cycling and there’s mountain biking and you don’t hear too many people saying which one is the ‘better cyclist…’

    Hardrock vs Spartathlon vs Desert Solstice vs Tour des geants…

    Kilian vs Walmsley vs Yannis vs Kipchoge (if he ever decided to run a flat 50 or 100k)…

    Focus on their individual and collective greatness… not some made-up ‘who is best?’

    After all, as Ellie courageously admitted, they’re all clearly in it for the money ;)

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