Johansen on the North Face

This is not the treacherous climb on the Eiger in Switzerland, but it’s just as challenging.

 The big ultra on the other side of the Tasman

By Roger Childs

Jo J

At 8 o’clock on Saturday morning May 17, local ultra distance star Jo Johansen will start her biggest challenge so far. The North Face 100 is probably the toughest ultra running event in Australasia. It starts and finishes at Katoomba on the eastern edge of the Blue Mountains and the roller–coaster course has over 3000m of climb and plenty of steps and ladders. About a third of the uphill is in the tiring final 14km.

Kapiti Running and Tri Club athlete and Stirling Sports employee, Jo Johansen, has taken the ultra distance world by storm this year. Ultra running is one of the toughest of all sports because of the fitness and stamina required to complete races well in excess of the standard 42.2km marathon.

She’s come a long way in twelve months

Jo has been running seriously only since early 2013. This time last year she showed considerable promise, finishing second in the women’s section of the In the Footsteps of the Marines run. It was all up from there. Later in the year she won two half marathons outright: Koputaroa and Korokoro.

From these shorter distances she graduated to ultras in 2014 and proved to be a natural. In the early months of this year she has been first woman in the

 ~ Hutt Valley River Trail 6okm
 ~ Tarawera Ultra 67km
 ~ Hillary Ultra 80km

The Tarawera race featured a world class field and Jo was an easy winner by over 9 minutes! The common reaction from the ultra distance fraternity was Who is this Jo? Where does she come from?

A big test on the North Face

Three sisters

Having come in under the radar at Rotorua, Jo will be watched carefully by the opposition in the New South Wales event. If she wins this 100km, her longest race so far, Jo will establish herself as Australasia’s top female ultra distance runner.

She has had tremendous support from the Kapiti community and local fitness personality, Andrew Smith, organised a highly successful fundraiser in mid April. The quiz night at The Boundary Tap and Kitchen raised over $2000 to help Jo cover her costs for the event.

The stakes are high on the North Face for the Kapiti star.

Jo is looking ahead to bigger things: I’m hoping, because it’s part of the ultra trail series that if I get a placing, then I’ll get an invitation to go to the next series in France. Ideally I want to be racing in the United Sates in under a year.