One doesn’t have to be in the country long to understand that New Zealanders appreciate the honour and distinction of gifting or receiving carved pounamu (New Zealand greenstone) on special occasions.
So, when you’re competing in a massive, iconic, Rotorua-only event, what could be more significant and meaningful than receiving a pounamu pendant personally carved by Rotorua-born Māori carvers at a Rotorua-based family business?
Since 2018, the talented carvers at Mountain Jade have undertaken an annual ritual of creating traditional toki (adze) pendants to be gifted to a particular group of competitors in the Tarawera Ultramarathon: those who complete the longest distance, the 100 Miler (for us Kiwis, that’s a jaw-dropping 162.5 kilometres).
To Māori, the toki is a symbol of courage and strength, and the Mountain Jade team feel a toki pendant is the perfect recognition for those who overcome this epic feat of endurance.
This year, an incredible 430-some people have signed up for this distance, keeping Mountain Jade’s newest carvers, Daniel Malcolm and Jason Vercoe, very, very busy.
“As athletes come together in Rotorua to take on this challenge, they will leave here forever connected by their experience and by the precious tāonga [treasure] connecting them back to this experience and incredible location,” said Rich Barter, Mountain Jade ecommerce and brand manager, and Tarawera Ultra runner.
“The trail-running community will be descending upon Rotorua from every corner of the globe and the event is always a celebration! To be able to gift people who shared this experience something to forever connect them after the event, and into the future, feels so appropriate.”
While the race takes runners through what is classified as one of the world’s most scenic 100-mile runs, athletes will traverse unforgiving volcanic terrain, forests, the geothermal landscape (and heat) of Sulphur Bay, river crossings and more – all while gaining nearly 4,000 metres in elevation. For many, it will take well over 24 hours, seeing the sun rise twice and battling through the darkness of night. Competitors must finish within 36 hours.
If you’re in Rotorua to support your favourite trail runner, or you’re a runner yourself, it’s a real treat to see Mountain Jade carvers at work. Behind-the-scenes tours are on offer too, running daily from 10-10.30am and topped off with you choosing and stringing a piece of New Zealand pounamu, turning it into a necklace to treasure forever.
The Tarawera Ultramarathon is New Zealand’s most prestigious trail ultra; athletes and their support crews come from around the world to run through Rotorua’s iconic landscapes. Runners can complete the 21km, 50km, 102km distances or the ultimate 100-mile endurance run. Spectators are highly encouraged to cheer on the athletes as they put their endurance and mental faculties to the test. The event organisers also welcome volunteers to put their hat in the ring to support the event and runners.