Johansen Beats World Class Field

Who is this Jo? Where does she come from? Ultra organiser and others

 Kapiti’s Jo Johansen’s triumphs in the Tarawera Ultra

By Roger Childs

Tarawera ultra start The Tarawera Ultra is one of New Zealand’s toughest and competitive ultra-distance races. Entry numbers have increased steadily over the years and the 2014 event attracted some of the world’s best. For Jo Johansen, it was her first time in the race and in a field of about 100 women she came first in a time of 7 hours 2 minutes and 43 seconds. It wasn’t even close. Jo blitzed the field with a winning margin of over 9 minutes!

The media was taken by surprise as most of the top competitors had form from international races. No-one can believe it! said supporter Kate Jenkins.

Lusi shortens the course

In the forestTropical cyclone Lusi brought wind and heavy rain to the north and centre of the North Island during the day and organisers sensibly shortened the 100km course to 69km. Race conditions turned out to be warm and wet, and the easterly wind picked up during the event.

The 100km race usually runs from Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Forest to the sports grounds in Kawerau.

This year’s competitors

  • started with a loop through Whakarewarewa Forest
  • skirted the Blue Lake
  • ran through Okareka
  • continued on through the bush to beyond Okataina Lodge
  • finished back at Okareka.

However though shorter, the modified course was possibly tougher, because competitors had to do the hills from Okareka to Okataina twice.

Well prepared for the big one

Jo has come a long way in the last 12 months. From being down the field in some early 2013 races, she proved very competitive in off road events and won the KoroKoro half marathon outright in December. Back in October she also beat the entire field in the Levin half marathon.

Her first major trail race was the gruelling 29 km Mukamuka Munter event in the Orongorongos last September. She would have been first woman if she hadn’t taken a wrong turn near the end. In a generous gesture, the female winner gave Jo the first prize.

Rimutaka InclineRimutak tunnel

In January this year she won her first ultra event: the 60km Hutt Valley River Trail. The course starts at Cross Creek in the Wairarapa and crosses farmland before a steep climb over the Rimutaka Incline.  This section follows the old railway line on which up to five fell engines used to drag freight trains over the range and it includes three  tunnels.  It is then a mix of bush tracks, trails and sealed paths along the Hutt River before finishing at McEwan Park beside Wellington Harbour.

She has trained assiduously for the Tarawera Ultra and has been a familiar figure, over the last few months, on Kapiti area tracks and in the Tararua Ranges beyond. With the help of Kate Jenkins she fine-tuned her hydration and fuel intake, and in the ultra, sensibly ate every half hour.

Running the race of her life

Jo J

 On the day, Jo was crewed by the experienced team of Kate and Bruce Jenkins. Kate completed the 100km event herself in 2012, so was well aware of the intricacies and demands of the course.

In the race, Jo quickly moved into third place and steadily closed on the first two female runners. At about 12 km, as she sensed the leader of the women’s section was slowing, Jo surged to the front.

 She was well ahead at the turn-around at Okataina, and from then on she increased her margin to over 9 minutes. It was a comprehensive victory. Jo’s comment I felt strong all day and I wanted it! Kate’s reaction to Jo’s success I’m so proud of her!

 A fantastic result for Kapiti sport

 This was a world class performance by local runner, Jo Johansen, in a very demanding sport. After 20km Jo felt it was going to be my day. Indeed it was.

It was a magic effort and the Kapiti contingent appropriately celebrated at Rotorua’s Abracadabra Cafe.


See the link below for the post race interview with Jo.