History of the Great Naseby Water Race

(The above video is from Tarawera Ultra race director Paul Charteris and looks over the figure 8 cross over and what will now be the start/finish area of the Great Naseby Water Race)

The Great Naseby Water Race director and ultra runner Jamie Sinclair gives us a little back ground on the G.N.W.R, which will be run for the 7th time this August. But be warned- upon reading the below you might just be tempted to turn up in Naseby the last weekend of August and part take in what has to be the most social, relaxed (and coldest) gathering of ultra runners in New Zealand.


Some of the GNWR course- scenic, rolling forestry road. Photo: Andrew Shelly

The birth of the G.N.W.R. came about after the demise of That Dam Race 100km at Kurow.  The organisers were moving north and no-one else was picking up the mantle. The Legendary Jim Kerse and I were bemoaning the fact over a few Speights that the Ultras we wanted to go to were so far away- Molesworth, Kepler, Western States, etc, then we thought “it can’t be that hard, let’s start our own race” ( We of course didn’t know much about organising a race at that stage!).  Jim suggested Naseby for a venue and as Aileen (she who must be obeyed) and I had never been there we went up for a weekend. We were entranced.  A Quiet, Picturesque, Historic, Gently undulating course and not many other forest users in late August.  The only down side to it all was every 2nd year there is a Curling Tournament on the same weekend so accommodation can be a little tight.  That’s this year actually.


The multiple lap course at GNWR give’s plenty of opportunity for family and friends to be involved in what is normally a lonely experience- adding a much needed boost in the later laps.

In 2007 we had 14 starters and it was cold. The frozen ground turned to mud and then at 3 in the afternoon started freezing again- truly enjoyable. We had a race. Over the years we have had everything from cool to downright freezing, muddy with a weak insipid sun, to snow covering large parts of the course.  It shouldn’t be unexpected though, after all it is Winter in Central Otago.  The field has grown over the years in numbers and characters, and last year we had 97 entrants.  With the introduction of the 100 mile distance this year we are expecting a few more than that.  Ironic that the only 2 off road 100 mile races in the country are in Otago.  Northburn in mid March in Cromwell and us in August.  We get repeat attenders from all over the place, we even have Sean coming back from Tasmania for a crack at the big one.  Yes, we do take Australian dollars.

Dunedin’s Helen Chignell has ran every year so far (6) and Matt Bixley is only 1 year behind her.  He reckons he had a race in Czechoslovakia and couldn’t come that year. Yeah Right!



Its a pretty classy Buckle and there is only one way to get one!

Naseby is all about extending yourself, if you have done a half marathon, do 30 kms in the team race.  Done a full marathon? do 50 kms, and so on. Why have it in August? it doesn’t conflict with too many other races then, time to recover for the next race. Kepler maybe?
C R Lawton once said ” If you only do what you have done before you will never grow”  Could be something to that.
The course is a gently undulating 10 km figure 8 loop, half on Forestry gravel road, half on grassy single track beside the water race and it does get a little steeper each lap somehow.  The only aid station is at the crossover point of the figure 8 so every 5 kms you will have access to your support crew and food, warm dry clothes, first aid, etc. You don’t get bored running this loop course as the scenery is constantly changing, you could get tired though.  Aileen & I have met some truly remarkable people at ultra races, real Ultra Loonies,and have become good friends with quite a few. Come to Naseby this year, August 30th & 31st and see what we mean.

Great Naseby Water Race- 30th-31st August, Naseby, Otago. 60km relay (2 x 30km), 5okm, 80km, 100k and for the first time 100mile options. It is not too late to enter!

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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Ey UP
    Val has run at Naseby twice and she doesn’t like off road (visual problems) but the race is one of the best run , most enjoyable events we have ever been to.
    Jamie and Aileen make sure everyone is catered for. The course is demanding and changeable but everyone enjoys themselves. It is a great day out for athletes, helpers and spectators alike.
    Take plenty of warm clothes and a thermos and enjoy an iconic New Zealand event.

    • well said John!! Can’t agree more!
      Is val running this year? 16 laps maybe??

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