Lead in Races for Tarawera Ultra 2024

Participating in an ultra marathon is a monumental feat which requires planning, and focused training. One of the key aspects of preparing for such a challenging race is looking at and incorporating lead up races as part of your training plan. These races serve as crucial milestones, allowing you to assess your progress, build confidence and practice everything you’ll be doing on ‘race day’.

This article is based specifically for those running the Tarawera Ultra Marathon 100km or 100 miler. With so many different individual variables we will be focusing more on first timers in these distances or those 2nd timers who want the best outcome for their 2nd time around. For advanced athletes and runners the lead up or training window would be a lot shorter but the lead up races we suggest below are still good ones to do.

So how long should your lead in be and when should you be thinking about what races to do as part of your training? For those who are doing their first 100km/100miler we suggest giving yourself a good 6-8 months window as this allows the mental preparation to begin also.

Listen to Podcast- Lead in Races for Tarawera Ultra 2024

Lead up races are a short-distance event that runners can participate in before their 100km or 100 miler. Some of the benefits of this include:

  • Help to gauge your current fitness, enabling you to make any adjustments to your training plan
  • Help serve as a progress check indicating whether your training is on track or if you need to intensify your efforts in specific areas ie, more night time running, more hill work.
  • Help with mental preparation and working on those mental strategies helping to build the resilience needed.
  • Dress rehearsal for the big day – the opportunity to test all your gear, fuelling, and pacing in a race environment.

Choosing what lead up races you do is important and things to factor in are:

  • Terrain – Races with terrain similar to your 100km/100miler
  • Recovery time – really important to space out these lead up races to give your whole being time to recover which is essential to prevent burnout or injuries.
  • Always listen to your body – pay attention to your body’s signals. If you experience any persistent fatigue or signs of injury it’s important to adjust your plan and get some guidance around this from your coach.
  • Simulate Race conditions – lead up races can be a chance to simulate the race day – including early mornings, night time running, and varying weather conditions.

Below is a guide around some of the best lead up races in training towards Tarawera Ultra. Again, a focus on those doing 100km and 100 miler distances.

(note the following races are based around Auckland and central and lower north island)

Individuality comes into play which is one of the many reasons why having a coach is important. They can guide YOU around what distance/duration is best for you For example: Would you do both Blue Lake and Taupo Ultra? Yes, but this would depend on the individual and their goals – so maybe less at Blue Lake and more at Taupo Ultra.

  • Blue Lake 24 hour –(mid September) This is an awesome event and its FREE. A great training build up event. It is as relaxed as you want it to be, with no time pressure. We suggest 8 hrs for those doing100k and 12 hours for those doing the 100 miler. This is a perfect time to practice night running and getting use to the fatigue build up. After this there is a good recovery week and then maybe a focus on speed before the next big training block which is the KEY training over Summer.
  • Taupo Ultramarathon (mid October)– This is another good option to do – which is a race event and it’s a good opportunity to practice carrying your gear, fuelling, and is on very similar terrain to Tarawera. We suggest choosing the 50k event for those doing 100km and 70k/100k for those doing the 100 miler.
  • Rage Against Riverhead – (late November) – another great training run to practice that physical load as well as that mental load. This event is very similar to Blue Lake in a sense where there is no time pressure and you get to choose how many hours you are lapping. 8, 12 or 24 hours on a 5k lap. For those doing 100km we suggest you run no more than 70-75km which if that means 10 hours then you stop at 10 hours! If you’re an 18-20hr 100km then we suggest doing 12 hours.
  • WAI2K (late November) – another 50km option for those doing the 100km or 100 miler.
  • Mighty Totara (early December) – This one is a lap an hour Backyard Ultra format – last one standing so to speak! It’s a stop/start styled run so we would suggest the 50km option which starts at 7am and you don’t need to carry your gear so it’s more of a focused run.

Between Christmas and February is the key training block however because there are not so many races this a good time to plan those group missions for high kms but in a more relaxed fun way. You are still accumulating but not in racing form where you put that 10% more output into your run so more of a low intensity run but for longer which provides fulfillment in your ultra journey. You’ll also get to see the rewards you have built up over the previous months.


Wherever you are in NZ there are always options so the above is not a must, its only suggestions especially for our North Island clients. We sometimes have to make do with what we have and that can be fun too.

Planning your lead up races as part of your training plays a vital role in your overall preparation, helping you build confidence, refine your strategy, and build upon the mental resilience needed to conquer that 100km/100 mile race. It will better equip you to face the challenges these distances have and achieve something pretty special.