The first in-person event of the 2021 Ultra-Trail World Tour was held in Rotorua, New Zealand, on Saturday, and close to 3,000 people showed up to run the 21K, 50K, 102K and 100-mile races. In the elite race, history was made, as New Zealand’s very own Ruth Croft became the first woman to win the overall title in the 102K. Croft ran to the win in 9:21:03, beating the top male athlete by 18 minutes and the second-place woman by close to an hour.
Croft was among the leaders from the start of the race, and she took over at the very front in the second half of the run. For a while, the second-place woman, Konoka Azumi, remained within striking distance a few minutes back, but by the 58K checkpoint, Croft’s lead had stretched to more than 20 minutes, and it only continued to grow from there.
The same was true for Rhys Johnston, the winner of the men’s race, who kept close to Croft for a while, only to see the gap lengthen in the latter stages of the race. Johnston crossed the line in second overall, taking the men’s win in 9:39:29. Azumi finished in 10:12:09.
Croft’s result not only crushed the rest of the field on the day, but she also walked away with the women’s course record on Saturday.
“I’m stoked,” she said after the race. “It’s just a good day, not much more to say than that.” She said she tried to go out conservatively at the start of the race, but it was “pretty tough because the first 30K is so fast.” Despite struggling to keep things a bit slower in the opening quarter of the race, Croft managed to carry on well through the final 70K, and she crossed the line in first place.
“It was awesome to have a normal race experience today,” she said. “Everyone out on the course was grateful and the support at each of the aid stations was great. It was an awesome day.”
Croft’s running resume
This isn’t the first big win of Croft’s career. She won the 55K OCC race at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc in 2018 and 2019. Also in 2019, she ran to a second-place finish at the Trail World Championships in Portugal, completing the 44K course in 4:14:28. She has found success on the road, too, and in 2019 she posted an eighth-place finish at the Seoul Marathon in South Korea. She ran her marathon PB in Seoul, posting a 2:34:18, which is the 13th-fastest marathon ever run by a New Zealander.
For full results from the Tarawera Ultramarathon, click here.