Run Report

Sherwood Reserve parkrun recap

A few years ago, while living in the UK and preparing to return to New Zealand, I thought it would be awesome to run all the parkruns in the country.

That was December 2017.

This week I finally did it.

I ran my 34th different New Zealand event at Sherwood Reserve, and I’m going to recap that run here, and share my countryman musings in another post.

About the parkrun

Sherwood Reserve parkrun is the seventh event in Auckland. It’s on Auckland’s North Shore in Browns Bay.

It’s a three lapper through two parks and is designed in such a way that you run past the start/finish area six times.

I heard it described as a kite, rather than a lollipop. You start at the bottom tip of the kite, around the edges and then down the string, turnaround and repeat twice.

For this event I drove up to Auckland on the Friday and stayed overnight with Claire Taylor, co-Event Director at Millwater parkrun. She lives just around the corner from Sherwood Reserve, which was very handy.


There had been a lot of rain the day before so the grass underfoot was a bit boggy – there is a grass section on the course so if you don’t like running on grass much keep this course for dry weeks.

Before we started we acknowledged the donation of a defibrillator from local businessman and athlete Garth Barfoot. I’m sure he won’t mind me calling him an athlete; in spite of his 85-89 age category he remains fairly active.

We also did a group Scottairplane at the start to celebrate the return of Sherwood Pines parkrun in England.

And then we were off.

The run

As well as being three laps this course is also a bit bumpy. There are some downs, and some ups and also some flats. Most of it is on concrete path but there’s also the grass section (at Stonehenge) and a wooden bridge.

The course highlight though was Eely bridge. Sherwood Reserve is home to the short-finned eel, which is a protected species. You don’t need to stop and look for them, they were very apparent even while running!

When I ran it was the run directing debut of Helen Watson, who is known in parkrun circles for her baking.

We were treated to chocolate cake and a Victoria sponge, but volunteers had a cake of their own once the tail walker (Claire with Garth) had finished.

We headed to the café for the main event, where I enjoyed a slice of chocolate roll and a flat white. The café had a wide range of gluten free offerings.


There are many other things that made this a great day. Dan Joe brought the book tour copy from Kapiti Coast; meeting Fudge and his human James; hanging out with other parkrun EDs from around the country (Liz Henry flew up from Invercargill, Julie Collard from Owairaka was also running); doing Scottairplanes on the course and achieving a number of unofficial achievements.

I scored a new stopwatch bingo number (45), a Wilson Index number (this was event 6, I’ve now increased my WI to 7) and first woman to run the Sherwood double on top of the countryman status.

After the café I went back to Claire’s before heading back to Rotorua. The drive was a great opportunity to reflect on the journey and ponder on what next.

Meeting Fudge and his human James

It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot, and the main answer is to stay on top of all new parkruns in New Zealand.

It’s inevitable that new ones will start and that’s what we want as it means it’s growing.

Run Report

Dunedin parkrun recap

I’d heard so much about Dunedin parkrun and how tough it was that I didn’t quite believe it.

I knew about the two laps of the lower gardens and two laps of the upper gardens. And I knew about the stairs of despair.

Maybe it’s because I live on a hill and run on hills that any mention of a hill doesn’t scare me as much as it used to?

Either way, I can report back to say that yes, it was harder than I expected.
Dunedin parkrun was the first parkrun on the South Island, it started in January 2014.

It was my final South Island parkrun to complete the region. I think they would agree that I saved the most memorable for last.

Getting There

It was memorable before I even arrived in the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. I was due to arrive at 10.15am on the Friday, but due to fog in Rotorua I was grounded until after 11am.

That put paid to my sightseeing plans but I did get to lunch with Liz Neill in Wellington beside the Ataturk Memorial.

I finally arrived into Dunedin Airport at 4.30pm, picked up a hire care and drove the 26km into Dunedin.

I’d planned to visit the botanic gardens that day so as to familiarise myself, but instead I checked into the motel, walked down the street for pizza and settled in for the night.


On parkrunday I was awake early, not that I needed to with it being a 9am start.

Dunedin parkrun is unique in that it’s currently the only parkrun in New Zealand to not allow dogs.

Wheelchair and buggy pushers are also recommended they contact the event team beforehand to discuss the course suitability.

When I arrived I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, even though I followed the directions in my book!

It turned out that I was just super early and the first volunteers appeared around 8.30am.

It was great to chat with regulars, including Gail and David Sharp, who I met at the University of Waikato parkrun when they were running their U.

The run brief is below the café, and there’s an undercover area where you can leave clothing, but don’t leave them on plants as they may eat them, according to the run director of the day.

After a run brief we assembled on the footpath ready to go. I’d already stripped off my thermal as it was warm enough for me to run in short-sleeves.

The run itself

I forgot about my gloves though and spent the first 10 minutes wishing I had them on.

The run goes through the lower part of the gardens, twice, then over the bridge, turn right and two laps of the upper part.

There’s something about running through gardens in winter that makes you want to return in spring and summer. You can almost sense how fragrant and colourful they become.

The first two laps were nice and easy, but a nice way to warm up for the main event! After the bridge the path was still somewhat gentle with a few rolling undulations as we ran beside the Water of Leith.

I used to run beside the Water of Leith most weeks when I lived in Edinburgh (before parkrun) and running beside it here brought back happy memories.

You almost reach the other entrance to the gardens, but instead of carrying on to the street you take a left turn and start to climb.

If you’re used to technical trail running then this won’t be a challenge for you, but for someone who mostly runs the streets of suburban Rotorua it reminded me of what I’d got out of the habit of doing.


Any thought of running was quickly replaced with one of relentless forward momentum. It’s a bit of a climb, that’s for sure.

The stairs aren’t what I was expecting. I guess I was thinking of something more urban, rather than trail.

Compared to the ones on the forest tracks near my home they were far tamer, it was the elevation that made them challenging.

When you reach the top of the trail you can see a vista of the city. Don’t stop for too long if you are gunning for a time (ha! I was just aiming to finish!).

You start to run down, then before you do it all again there’s the small matter of an out and back. Up a hill just as steep. Oh well, one more part of the run to feel smug about.

After the turnaround it’s all downhill to the bridge. There you use your downhill momentum to keep yourself going for another lap of the same.

It was great to reach that turnaround the second time as it was all downhill from there. Somehow I found the legs to finish feeling quite strong.

A 40:53 parkrun is far from my fastest, but owing to the difficulty and photo stops (which accounted for about a minute themselves) I am pretty proud of that.

The finish is on the same straight as the start. The view from the top of the finish was pretty cool.

You don’t have to travel far to the café, it overlooks the run brief area. I enjoyed a flat white and cheese and red onion scone.

Verdict? The airport said it for me.

I’d love to come back, once I’ve done some hill training that is!

Run Report

Trentham Memorial parkrun recap

Trying to run at each New Zealand parkrun during a pandemic poses even more of a challenge than in normal times.

When I eventually got to run Trentham Memorial parkrun at its 21st event it wasn’t for lack of trying.

I got wind of this parkrun many months before it officially launched after chatting with event director Allan Hartley for one of my first blogs.

First, the launch date changed by a week. I quickly rebooked flights so I could be sure of visiting at the 6th event (my first Wilson Index gap).

The week before that rescheduled trip all New Zealand events were off.

Everywhere but Auckland plunged into a Level 2 alert – Auckland went to Level 3.

So I cancelled my flight.

Getting there

After consulting with NZ countryman Liz Neill (who had kindly offered to be my host) I rebooked again. This time for July and without consulting my Wilson Index, I just wanted to get there!

Then 10 days or so before my planned trip, there was a Covid case in Wellington. All Greater Wellington and Wairarapa events were on pause for a week.

I had my fingers crossed for a lifting of restrictions and thankfully that happened. So on Friday July 2 I set off from Rotorua airport to Wellington.

Due to work commitments and the launch of Sherwood Reserve parkrun I had a change in host, Stu and Heather Leslie.

Stu was run director this event so I didn’t have to worry about how to get there or arriving late.

When we rose on Saturday it’s fair to say it was one of the coldest days I’ve ever parkrun. My phone weather app said it was 1C but it sure felt colder while Stu and the team set up.

Running the course

Trentham Memorial is best described as a lollipop course.

You start on one side of the lollipop (the footpath beside Barton’s Bush). Run down its stick (Hutt River path), turn around and come back. Then you then go around the other side of Barton’s Bush (and through it for a short section).

The finish is back where you started.

There were a few patches of ice on the path and plenty of frost on the grass.

Most runners were well wrapped up against the cold (including yours truly) but some hardy runners were in shorts and t-shirt.

I like to stop and take photos along the course when I’m visiting for the first time and this run was no exception.

However, taking gloves off and not being able to feel the tips of my fingers made it a challenge.

There’s a section of course beside the river that will likely be out of action soon.

Due to recent rapid erosion of late. The orange fence that keeps pedestrians away from danger is now midway along the path.

For this event – and for future events until an alternate course is brought in, there’s no buggies allowed (simply not enough room).

Small but perfect

It was a small field, just 56 finishers, but in among them a new age category record for first female finisher Michele Allison.

The first finisher was gunning for a course record but fell 12 seconds shy.

With a small field I found myself running alone for almost all the run (aside from on the out-and-back section).

That gave me a challenge to try to catch the group ahead of me. Alas I couldn’t reach them, but it was certainly a good work out.

After we’d all packed up it was over to The Fig Tree Café, the official post-parkrun hangout.

There I enjoyed a cheese omelette with a side of sausage and hash brown, plus a flat white. And a date and caramel scone to take away for afternoon tea.

It’s a great-sized café and we took over a large table.

Eventually, once results were processed, breakfasts eaten and stories shared, it was time to go.

While in Upper Hutt Stu and Heather took me to visit Rivendell in Kaitoke Regional Park. Wa also walked to Birchville Dam.

It was a great trip and I’m so glad I got to enjoy it, even if it was freezing!

Run Report

Wanaka parkrun recap

The last (and only other) time I visited Wanaka was 2001, so not only pre-parkrun in Wanaka but before parkrun in general!

This visit was a long time overdue, Wanaka parkrun turned three earlier this year.

Thanks to some reasonably priced flights (thanks Air NZ, #notsponsored) I was able to fit in a trip before winter well and truly took hold.

To get to Wanaka I flew Rotorua to Auckland, then Auckland to Queenstown. I hired a car (a Subaru XV) and drove over the Crown Range to Wanaka.

I booked this trip prior to the transtasman bubbling even being announced, so I scored a great deal with Edgewater Resort for two nights.

I’m not going to lie, it takes a long time to get from Rotorua to Wanaka. I was dropped off at the airport after school-drop off and arrived in Wanaka around 4.30pm.

Driving over the Crown Range isn’t always accessible to regular cars, particularly this time of year, so if you are heading to Wanaka in winter check the road conditions first.

I’d already made the decision to travel back to Queenstown the longer way around, so I could see more of the scenery.

Friday night I ate out at Ashraf’s Indian, amazing, highly recommend.


The forecast for parkrunday was not looking great. In fact I’d resigned myself to running parkrun and then bunking down in the hotel for the rest of the day. It was that bad. The temp was going to hit a high of 6!

So when parkrunday rolled around I was pleasantly surprised. Yes there was rain but it wasn’t full pelt.

I drove down to the car park off Homestead Close (I was taking books, otherwise I would have run/walked) and met Geoff the Run Director for the day.

I was early (hello! parkrun tourist!).

Geoff had laid out a couple of blankets for gear to be left on (and tarpaulin to go over the top).

There was a small hardy group of runners, several of whom arrived with minutes to spare. And by then the rain had disappeared 9hurray for the parkrun weather fairies).

The Wanaka course is an out and back, it starts in Wanaka Station Park, goes around the park a little before going down a steepish track (and potentially slippy with all the fallen leaves) and on to the Glendhu Track.

You turn left onto the track and if you have a moment, you can see the famous Wanaka Tree.

The track is well formed, but there were a couple of puddles along the way (but passable). We ran through some trees, but for the most part there were mountain and lake views.

There was a turnaround marshal and then time to head back.

Because of the small field (29 finishers) it was a lonely run, but nevertheless, I enjoyed it. Towards the park I caught up to one of the Australian visitors (decked out in puffa jacket still). I ran up the slope (seemed easier to get up than to slow and walk and potentially slip), caught up with Prue and had a wee chat as we negotiated the grass (and chestnuts).

And then we finished.

Despite the small numbers there was plenty of chat at the finish, and we continued at Edgewater where the fact there was a menu for scones delighted me.

I enjoyed the Buttermilk scone with raspberry jam and cream, delicious.

The aftermath

After some chat I’d decided what to do the rest of the day. While parkrunfresh (staying in your parkrun clothes after parkrun) I went for a walk up Mt Iron.

And then I drove a few minutes to Albert Town to the Pembroke Patisserie for a sausage roll. Definitely visit.

A visit to Wanaka wouldn’t be complete without stopping in at Puzzling World. My 9-year-old son had just got his first speed cube, so I bought another so we could learn with him, plus another puzzle.

But wait, there’s more. The Wanaka Tree. I thought I should get a pic of the book and the tree. But I’d left the book at the hotel…

So I returned, and then had a soak in the spa.

But the Tree was still at the back of my mind. After being told I’d regret not getting that pic I drove the five minutes back and got a selection.

So there are some highlights of my Wanaka trip. The next morning I set off early (8am) to drive back to Queenstown via Cromwell.

I met up with Chris and Jamie from Queenstown parkrun and made ourselves at home at Obladi café.

There were high winds, which led to my flight being delayed and then cancelled. But I was able to get home in a timely fashion (and ready to book another trip south).

Run Report

Pegasus parkrun recap

Pegasus parkrun is a week older than my home parkrun, and yet it’s taken me almost five years to visit it.

They say that good things take time and in this case, the wait was worth it.

Not only did I get to stay with a friend, but another friend was also visiting Christchurch. What was initially just going to be a trip to parkrun ended up as a catch-up that refilled my happy tank to bursting.

Christchurch is a direct flight from Rotorua. It takes almost two hours and I like to catch the lunchtime flight as it means I can leisurely take my time.

Anna picked me up and we headed to The Tannery.

Neither of us had had lunch and by this time it was afternoon tea time. After much deliberation we settled on Penny Black Victorian Tea Rooms. Definitely worth a visit if you enjoy Eccles Cakes, Cornish Pasties and Cheese Rolls (unsure what the Victorians would have made of those but so delicious).

My preamble to parkrun was an enjoyable one.


Onto parkrunday. Anna drove me to Pegasus and we arrived as the sun was rising over the lake. I had been told the sunrises were stunning and I was not disappointed.

I’m glad I visited in late autumn as I would have missed this had I come when the weather was warmer.

It was a balmy 13 degrees, very different to the previous week I was told, when there was a rolling fog and cold temperatures.

The parkrun course changes in winter. Instead of the two laps around the man-made lake and across the bridge, we ran an out and back.

After the entertaining run briefing from run director Trudi Diggs we were quickly on our way.

The run

I was unsure how I would run this week given that the previous parkrunday felt like a struggle. I needn’t have given it a second thought.

All I needed to do was get a finish time for my effort to count.

I stopped a couple of times in my first kilometre to get photos (and my split times show that!). It was easy to get into a rhythm despite not knowing the course. As an out and back it was simply a case of following those in front.

You know you’re near the turnaround when you see those who had been just a little way ahead now on their way back.

For the last 1.5km I really wanted to walk, but I gave myself the talking to that I could keep on running. That the finish was in sight (just look for the bridge for a rough estimate) and that walking was not on the game plan for today.

I’d passed a few people, which gave me extra confidence in a good (for me) time.

As I was nearing the final 250m I had an opportunity to pass the runner in front. I didn’t as I wasn’t sure of the flight path to the finish.

The final 30 metres or so were on grass and by then my nemesis pulled away from me to finish one second clear.

I liked my finish time though – 33:33 and a royal flush negative split to boot (each kilometre faster than the previous).


After parkrun I went to the Flat White Café for a debrief, obligatory refreshment. There’s also the Pegasus tradition of a group contribution to the Stuff quiz.

I chose the date and orange scone and a hot chocolate. Both were delicious, and I’ll admit to being tempted to get some shortbread as we left.

Former event director Jackie Hancock is a glass artist, so afterwards I went back to her house to visit her studio.

If you’re into one-of-a-kind art work (and amazing glass jewellery) then check out Aroha Glass.

Anna picked me up and we headed to the airport to pick up another friend.

The rest of Saturday included a visit to the Queen Elizabeth II pool complex and dinner at Rangoon Ruby (Burmese cuisine, very tasty).

I went for a walk around the Parklands neighbourhood on Sunday morning, which set me up for the flight home.

If you’re planning a trip to Pegasus parkrun there’s plenty to do while in Christchurch.

Next time I’d like to visit the  Tūhaitara Coastal Park and Waikuku Beach. I also didn’t get to Sumner to Utopia Gelato.

Thanks Anna and all at Pegasus for an enjoyable stay. That’s 30 out of 33 New Zealand events now run.

Run Report

Kapiti Coast parkrun recap

Kapiti Coast parkrun is one of the more unusual parkruns I’ve been to, in that it’s not near to a major settlement.

It reminded me a little of some of the forestry commission parkruns I’ve run in the UK in that you have to make an effort to get there, but even then is still very different.

At those events (Wyre Forest and Sherwood Pines) there was a visitor centre, cafe, a Gruffalo trail (ideal for parents of small children) and other activities.

Kapiti Coast parkrun is not in a town. It doesn’t have a visitor centre or café, and there are no other attractions in the immediate vicinity.

But don’t let that keep you from visiting.

Instead you will enjoy a serene parkrun with beautiful surroundings.

I visited on Anzac weekend, staying in Otaki Beach with the O’Sullivan whanau. I drove down from Rotorua on the Friday and back on the Sunday.

It was a long drive through some stunning New Zealand countryside. I often wish I could spend more time travelling to these further afield parkruns so as to make the most of it.

This time I was planning on enjoying the public holiday at home, recovering from the drive and readying myself for work on Tuesday.


Back to the parkrun.

We set off from Otaki Beach around 7.15am, the O’Sullivans the lead vehicle. It was further than I remembered from my Longest Run visit.

There had been heavy rain in the night, but parkrunday dawned to be a beautiful golden autumnal morning.

There were a few milestones to celebrate and a call for a last minute volunteer. Soon we were off.

My son was reluctantly walking with Mark’s son Michael and his aunty Chrissy. I set off at a pace I hoped I could sustain.

My run

The week prior I’d made a change to my diet and removed all sugars and grains. The response to this is a sluggish feeling for a while.

I’d run this course the month before, but it’s one thing running as a freedom run to running for a time.

As I’d run it as a freedom run I knew where the kilometre markers were – and where to expect the turnaround.

On the way back I soon found Axel, who was desperate to get back to the car but not under his own steam. We did a mix of sprinting, jogging and walking. We admired the river and dodged the puddles.

And soon we were back in the park where I ran to the line and Axel moved to the side so as to not confuse the timekeepers.


Sadly the coffee cart wasn’t present. When everyone was finished we made arrangements to visit Olde Beach Bakery at Waikanae Beach.

I’m glad I’m off sugars and grains right now as I would have struggled to make a choice as to what to eat! Axel ate a steak and cheese pie, which he said was delicious.

Later that day I got to walk the new Otaki parkrun course with Mark and Jo. Their dog Daffy has walked and run it so often she knew all the turns instinctively.

I’m looking forward to running that one officially when it launches. It’s going to be a stunning course with a mix of scenery.

As the parkrun ages the plantings will grow and there will be an abundance of birdlife I’m sure.

Run Report

The Longest parkrun

The Longest Day parkrun or 6x5km, as this was termed, is an annual unofficial bus trip involving all lower North Island parkruns.

It was organised by Bruce McCardle (Lower Hutt and Greytown Woodside Trail parkruns) and attended by 30-odd parkrunners.

This year it took place on Sunday, March 21. This is a recap of the day from my viewpoint.

Lower Hutt

Time started: 6.51am

Time recorded: 46:45

As the first parkrun course of the day one would have expected it to have been a bit quicker. Except my legs really didn’t feel like it (maybe I was already giving too much thought to what lay ahead).

The sun was still rising as we set off.

Martin O’Sullivan picked me up from my digs and we pulled up to the car park to find a few others already ready to get going. It didn’t matter when you started, so long as you were on the bus by 8am.

So almost as soon as I arrived at the car park I was off to get it done.

Julia Gordon heading towards the finish.

I spent this event chatting and catching up with Julia Gordon, who was one of the few countrymen on the bus (she has officially completed all 33 courses in New Zealand).

Lower Hutt is a predominantly flat out and back parkrun with a couple of rises along the stopbank. You go on grass at the turnaround (you can see the regular path taken by parkrunners) and you finish on grass at the end.

After a quick pitstop (the nearest toilets are about 300m away), the bus was on its way to Porirua.


Time started: 8.33am

Time recorded: 36:09

Surprisingly, this was my fastest 5km of all six. I say surprising, I ran it officially on the Saturday and with 44m of elevation gain (according to my watch), it’s not the fastest of courses!

We parked on the road and walked into Bothamley Park.

Walking to the start

There’s really cool sign just as you near the car park and since I didn’t get a photo on the Saturday I decided that I needed to get it this morning.

Me and the famous sign.

I measured this course short on Saturday (because of the trees and gullies) so I ran past the finish post at the end to make sure I ticked over 5km.

This run I ran the whole way, I’d found my running legs and felt excited to run this again.

I think I’d spent the first run thinking too much about running 30km in one day (I very rarely go over 8km in one run). By the time I ran here it was, run this one and tick it off.

It was at this course that I briefly met Peter Murmu, who was walking all six in jandals and taking photos along the way.

Pic by Peter Murmu

Coffee stop

You can’t have a parkrun experience without coffee. Our bus driver did a great job of driving into the Palmers car park at Plimmerton.

Organiser Bruce had given them advance warning and the customers already there were grateful to have ordered just before we arrived.

Lizzi Elton-Walters had reminded us earlier in the week to bring our keep-cups, this was the first outing for my new parkrun mug.

As I wasn’t sure how my lunch would hold up, I bought a couple of sausage rolls too, that would prove to be a good move later on.

Pic by Peter Murmu

Kapiti Coast

Time started: 10.42am

Time recorded: 36:58

Out of all the six events, this was the one course that I had not yet run on an official parkrunday.

We stopped on the roadside and wandered down to the start/finish. The tactic for a lot of people was to get started as soon as we arrived so as to give some leeway at the end.

We weren’t going anyway quickly after this run, but it was good to have more time for lunch.

Near the start

This course is an out and back beside the Waikanae River. I learned that occasionally the river will flood and wash away the gravel , and that the council will re-gravel sections quite regularly.

Pic by Peter Murmu

After this run we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the Otaihanga Domain. I was glad for the sausage rolls, the donburi I had bought the day before was not enjoyable, so I fed it to the ducks.

Pic by Peter Murmu

Palmerston North

Time started: 1.53pm

Time recorded: 40:45

The first three parkruns were reasonably close to one another, but to get to Palmerston North was about an hour. I made the decision to change my clothes at Kapiti, so I enjoyed the drive in fresh clothing.

We were ahead of schedule at this stage, which was a welcome surprise.

This section of the trip allowed for a nap, book reading, chatting or just looking out the window.

We drove through Otaki, which may be the next parkrun to get started, and had a quick look at the start as we went over the river.


We arrived in Palmerston North and headed for the toilets in the playground area. Then we made our way down to the river path, which was being used by a lot of runners, walkers and cyclists.

Walking to the start

The start line wasn’t as clearly marked as the previous two so I started my watch and hoped for the best (ultimately I knew I would be recording a minimum 5km).

By this time it was quite warm, and this course (another out and back along the river) is quite open.

Dave White from Greytown Woodside Trail parkrun

I walked most of the outgoing leg, chatting with Chrissy from Kapiti Coast who was nursing a sore knee.

As we neared the turnaround we were greeted by Palmerston North event director Kate Southern, who had brought out a turnaround cone to ensure we didn’t go too far!

Group pic with Kate

As we turned back Julia said she wanted to run to the 3km mark. So I decided to run too, and then I kept on going.

I had a couple of walking breaks (where the path went ever so slightly uphill!). Consequently I finished feeling so much better than I had started out.

The finish area

At the finish we learned the bus driver had smashed his face against rocks when he fell on the path looking for the toilets.

He had a number of cuts to his face, and thankfully there were nurses among us.

There was some delay to see if he needed to switch drivers immediately. In the end we ended up going all the way to Greytown.

Greytown Woodside Trail

Time started: 4.56pm

Time recorded: 42:25

In between Palmerston North and Greytown we had a toilet stop at Carterton. Others took the opportunity to dash across the road to New World for cold Coke and salty potato chips.

I didn’t think about that and I missed my opportunity. I will know for next time!

Greytown Woodside Trail parkrun is another out and back, except this one is along an old railway line.

The outward leg

It’s quite deceptive in that you don’t realise you’re going downhill, until you turn around and head baak!

I ran this event in August last year. It was my 50th different event, known as a Cow. For more on that read this blog.

Because I knew this nuance, I decided to run the outward leg and then see how much of the return my legs could handle. It turned out not a lot.

Then began the battle between the brain and my legs.

In the last 350m the brain won out and I finished the courses with a run(or at least my definition of a run).

Trentham Memorial

Time started: 6.49pm

Time recorded: 46:56

Back on the bus, one parkrun ahead of us. We were still ahead of schedule (which I found quite amazing), so we were confident we would be running in daylight.

There were a few of us who had never run here before. I was concerned about taking a wrong turn, but I needn’t have worried as Martin kept me company.

Trentham Memorial is New Zealand’s newest parkrun at the time of running. It was described as a reverse lollipop. You start on the lollipop, go down the stick to the turnaround and then come back along the stick and around the other side of the lollipop.

We started in the park, ran around a sports field (could have been cricket but I have forgotten!) and then up and over the stopbank.

We were lucky to have a lead bike and turnaround marshal. This meant no one had to worry about going so far down the river that they ended up at Lower Hutt!

It was such a welcome sight to see Neil, who is one of the run dircetors at Trentham Memorial.

Neil the turnaround marshal

By this stage my legs had won the battle of whether to run or not and I was okay with that. I’ve been managing an injury the last few months so getting to the final parkrun was an achievement for me.

Martin was great company, I have no idea what nonesense we were talking about by then though!

More company

Just past the turnaround we were joined by parkrun tourist Sarah Jantscher. I think the first time I met Sarah was at Puarenga parkrun on Christmas Day.

She and her partner had travelled from Tauranga for parkrun (moving to New Zealand was dependent on finding a local parkrun). We’ve met again at Hobsonville Point and I’ve enjoyed watching Sarah’s name climb the most events table.

She’s now on 30 NZ events.

The day before she ran Foster parkrun, she and her partner had flown to Christchurch for a car part, which is the most random reason I’ve heard when it comes to parkrun tourism.

Regardless of the reason, it brings her closer to completion.

Chatting to her about her future tourism plans helped tick over the kilometres. Before I knew it we were at Barton’s Bush (the headlight was helpful in here.)

Entering Barton’s Bush

Just a few hundred metres later and we were at the finish, not just of Trentham Memorial parkrun but of the whole day.

There were lots of smiles on weary faces. Each and every one of us stoked to have completed the challenge.

At the finish!

A big thanks to Bruce McCardle for organising this trip and inviting me along. I had an awesome time getting to chat with other parkrunners. One thing was clear, parkrun means a lot to all of us, for our own reasons.

Run Report

Porirua parkrun recap

Porirua parkrun is one of New Zealand’s older parkruns, it’s first event was July 7, 2013.

It’s now 388 parkruns old – there aren’t that many New Zealand parkrunners with that many runs to their name!

Completing all parkruns in New Zealand is one of my 2021 goals, and since I’d not yet visited Porirua that meant I had to make a special visit.

I was invited along to Bruce McCardle’s infamous bus trip. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and run one of the Wellington region events I’d not yet been to.

My weekend started early Friday with the 7am flight from Rotorua. After landing in Wellington I walked to the bus stop (about 10 minutes) and then got the bus to Courtenay Place. There I alighted and headed towards Te Papa.

It doesn’t open until 10am so I sat by the harbour, enjoying the blue skies and calm waters until then.

Te Papa has a good cloakroom facility, so you can leave weekend bags there while you enjoy the exhibits.


I’m staying in a Lower Hutt homestay (motels were in short supply!) and was offered a ride to Porirua by Brent and Gina Foster. We left at 7.15am and parked up in Bothamley Park about 20 minutes later.

There aren’t many spaces in the car park and we nabbed one of the last. There’s plenty of street parking if you miss out.

One thing I noticed about this parkrun was the art works, particularly this one (on the back of an artwork featuring native widlife).

It’s a compact parkrun in terms of the start and finish being in the same location. This makes it easy to leave jumpers. It was a bit chilly when we arrived but I knew I would warm up quickly.

I had heard a few things about this course so I was curious to experience it for myself.

And we’re off

As soon as you start there’s a noticeable up. While it peters off in places, you are definitely climbing for the majority of the outgoing run.

That being said, when you’re running in something that feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere, rather than in the middle of Porirua, then it doesn’t matter much.

Each kilometre has a post, so if you don’t have a fancy watch you can work out your splits as you go.

At the first timers’ briefing we were told that there was a noticeable rise at 2km. I would say there was a noticeable rise throughout! But at the 2km post you know you only have 500m to go before you can head downhill.

The return leg was noticeably faster than the outgoing, I’m pretty confident that most people will negative split on this course.

As we neared the finish regular parkrunners put their foot down. There were several sprint finishes ahead and behind me. Since I was already booked in to run six freedom runs the following day I didn’t feel the need to bust a gut!

Final thoughts

If your GPS watch measures this course short you won’t be alone – but it won’t mean that it’s not accurate.

Due to the trees, the fact you’re in a gully and the twists and turns, it makes it difficult to record an accurate 5km. All parkruns are accurately measured with a wheel, so no worries there.

Porirua parkrun’s cafe is at McDonalds. I didn’t get the complete Porirua parkrun experience as Brent and Gina wanted to return to Lower Hutt to farewell Lower Hutt regular Lizzi Elton-Walters who is returning to the UK.

If you’re looking for a tranquil parkrun, with a challenge, then Porirua would fit that bill.

It’s one that would be a great parkrun to visit when the wind is blowing at Lower Hutt.

Run Report

Blenheim parkrun recap

Blenheim parkrun has been on my radar for almost as long as I’ve been involved with parkrun.

They first came to my attention when I was getting Puarenga parkrun set-up as they launched the week after us (it was a busy time for parkrun with three new events in three weeks).

But getting there always seemed to be tricky. Flying from one regional airport to another isn’t cheap, and to go just for parkrun it seemed excessive.

I’m not a wine drinker, so wineries and touring around them has no appeal. But combining parkrun with other adventures does.

For this trip I opted to take my 8-year-old son Axel and have a long weekend away enjoying some wildlife tourism.

Our car, we loved the push button ignition.
How we got there

We flew on Thursday from Rotorua to Christchurch, hired a car and drove to Kaikoura, our first stop.  There we clambered over the now exposed seabed (thanks to the 2016 earthquake) to see some seals. Axel was thrilled, which was a good start.

On former sea bed, elevated from the 2016 earthquake.

I’d bought us a trip on the Whale Watch tour the following day as a Christmas surprise. He wasn’t overly keen but got excited on the drive up from Christchurch as I explained the significance of the Kaikoura coast.

That was a big mistake. The weather turned and we woke on Friday to heavy rain, no visibility out at sea and reports of rough seas. Tour cancelled.

So we made the best of a bad situation, got a sad selfie and made the decision to head to Blenheim earlier than expected (and go to the movies once there).


We swapped Axel’s car seat over to the driver’s side so he could look for seals. He saw a few but the weather was that bad that it was hard to see past the rain.

Once in Blenheim we headed straight for the cinema (we were too early to check into our accommodation) and enjoyed the new Croods movie. The laughter made up for the disappointment earlier in the day.

We stayed in the Blenheim Bridges Holiday Park (formerly Top 10) and if we had any reason to return we’d probably stay there again.


Come parkrunday we left early and arrived at 7.35, only to discover I’d left my barcode in our room. Good job we were staying close by. We were back within 10 minutes.

There’s free parking until 9.30am and it’s a short walk to the start.

Aim for here, the river is just below. Turn left.

From the car park you head to the river. Once on the footpath you turn left and from there you should be able to see the flags.

At this event the finish was under the bridge – it was a bit overcast and I suppose the event team thought there was a chance of rain. This altered the start and finish but it appeared to be a regular occurrence as the alternate lines were marked.

A stubbed toe

Axel is not a parkrunner normally, but he said he wanted to run with me this time.

We started near the back of the field and I stopped every so often to get photos or video. Axel is a run walker – or more like a sprinter and walker. However he was in bare feet (which is normal for him) and he kept catching his toes.

At the half way to half way point he stubbed his toe badly enough that it started to bleed (and profusely). We had to stop, he wailed, and sat in the middle of the path.

Would I have to return to Blenheim another time?


Luckily the tail walkers were soon in sight. And this week there were two, one of whom we had met at the start of the event and chatted (for she is a blog supporter).

A huge thank you to Robyn Richards for accompanying Axel back to the start/finish.

By this point the first two runners had already passed us on their way home – they had one kilometre to run while I had almost 4!

Once Axel was in the safe custody of Robyn I set off to run as fast as I could go without giving myself a heart attack.

I’m not a fast runner at the best of times, but my splits showed where I was with Axel and where I wasn’t.

My run

The course is an out and back alongside the Taylor River. You wouldn’t know you were in a town for much of it.

It’s a shoestring parkrun, in that there are no marshals on the course (and as a visitor with no other runners in sight I would have enjoyed seeing one or two in key points).

I found the turnaround mark (it’s a painted orange cone on the footpath) and quickly headed back.

I stopped a few times to get photos, along the path there are huge boulders with plaques on them, each of a poem pertaining to the river.

If you have more time in Blenheim it might be nice to enjoy them at a more leisurely pace.

As it happened there was nothing leisurely about my return leg. I passed a couple of parkrunners who had been far in the distance and was greeted at the finish by Axel and Robyn.

Me, Axel and Robyn Richards

By then he had a huge grin on his face, and he showed off his plastered toe – a neighbour in his garden had heard the commotion and raised his first aid kit.

The aftermath

Due to another tour booked in Kaikoura (Albatross Encounter, which did go ahead and I have only rave reviews) we didn’t stay for the parkfaff.

The path to Raupo Cafe

Instead we went to Raupo Café and ordered takeaway (it has a separate entrance near the road). I had a flat white and Axel a hot chocolate.

The takeaway counter at Raupo

My brief impressions of Blenheim parkrun are that it’s a nice small event but given the size of the town and the tourism in the area it should probably be a little bigger.

That being said, small parkruns give you the opportunity to chat and feel connected (and a low token number).

Run Report

Invercargill parkrun recap

When Invercargill parkrun started in February 2017 it became the world’s most southerly parkrun.

It held on to the title until October 2019 when Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun started in the Falkland Islands.

Titles are arbitrary in parkrun world, regardless of geography, Invercargill parkrun is a parkrun not to be missed.

Like most parkruns, Invercargill parkrun gave me the opportunity to explore a part of the country that I had not yet visited. Until this trip the furthest south I’d been to was Dunedin (pre-parkrun).


I arrived in Invercargill on New Year’s Eve and was met at the airport by parkrun event director Liz Henry. We went for a walk around Queen’s Park, where parkrun is held, and I could instantly see the attraction of parkrun here.

I would have to wait until January 2 to experience it as Balclutha parkrun was our New Year’s Day destination.


It was a cool morning but luckily no rain (New Year’s Day having been wet for both Invercargill and Balclutha parkruns).

We drove to the park, only a few minutes from the city centre. It was only on leaving that I noticed the Bert Munro statue so no pic of that.

After a first timers’ briefing (there were tourists from Lower Hutt, Dunedin and Queenstown) and the run briefing, we assembled at the start line beside the duckpond it freezes over in winter!).

Queen’s Park

The course is a lap of Queen’s Park with several twists and turns (and one tiny out and back dog-leg).

Underfoot it’s a mix of gravel and sealed footpath. On a dry day I’d imagine it very fast.

It’s a beautiful course, running past a bandstand, rose garden and many golfing greens (there is a golf course in the park).

There’s also a statue of Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, which prompted me to suggest to Liz that they twin with Peter Pan parkrun in the UK.

You run down the avenue on your way to the finish and turn left at the statue to the finish.


With it being a Stat Day the usual parkrun cafe The Cheeky Llama wasn’t open, but there was a coffee cart instead.  

It was great to hang around at the finish chatting with other parkrunners but the wind soon picked up.

After a shower and then a breakfast barbecue (Liz really did know how to make our visit to Invercargill memorable) we headed to Bluff.

It was a blustery day, definitely not we had expected from summer in the south, but regardless, it’s been an adventure.

I flew to Invercargill with Air New Zealand from Rotorua airport via Christchurch. I stayed at Ibis Styles on Tay St.

Meals were enjoyed at Speights Ale House, Lone Star and Hell Pizza.

Run Report

Balclutha parkrun recap

I didn’t have to wait long to get started on parkrun tourism in 2020. I started the year in New Zealand’s Deep South.

Way back in June when New Zealand was moved back into Alert Level One I started my planning of parkrun adventures. Back then of course we had yet had the news that New Year’s Day Doubles would be no longer.

If you’re new to parkrun then previously we’d been able to run two parkrun events on New Year’s Day and have both results count, events would stagger their start times to allow a double with a neighbouring run.

My plan was to run the Invercargill/Balclutha double and then get to Dunedin parkrun on parkrunday. When events are so far away from home you want to try to pack in as many as possible in the one trip!

Of course that was all off within a couple of weeks of the flights to Invercargill being booked!

With that news I decided to stick with Invercargill and Balclutha but await New Year declarations before choosing where.

Getting there

I was lucky to be joined by friends Cate and Jeff from Rotorua. They had planned on visiting Queenstown and Wanaka but a couple of hours after discussing my trip their tickets were booked. Queenstown doesn’t run on NYD due to the town’s revelry.

We set off from Invercargill around 6.10am on New Year’s Day, stopping at BP to get coffee for the drive. It was a wet journey – a sign of what was to come. We took the SH93 Old Coach Rd option, turning off at Mataura rather than go via Gore.

We arrived around 7.40am. The park was very easy to find but there is limited parking within the park (we got one of the last spaces).

The toilets are close to the car park (and beside the aviary).

The run

It was raining and many people were huddled under umbrellas while waiting for the briefing to start.

Balclutha parkrun starts and finishes in Naish Park, you run towards the stopbank (over a cattle grid – there are sometimes livestock on the course) and turn left.

It’s mostly grass, and the path had been mown recently (the mower received a cheer at the briefing). There’s a little amount of gravel but it’s a very narrow strip.

The track had been freshly mown for us.

After less than a kilometre you turn around and head back in the opposite direction. You get to run past the finish funnel volunteers who give you a resounding cheer.

The other turnaround is the historic Clutha Bridge which spans the Clutha River. There are river views for the vast majority of the parkrun.

The Clutha Bridge

You get to run over the bridge – and run under it on both sides too. There was also one cattle grid to cross before joining the bridge. These are slippery in rain so I walked on the plank at the edge.

The rain stopped once the run had started, but I was halfway before it started again with a vengeance.

To finish you turn back off the stopbank, over the cattle grid and through the finish funnel.

With the grass and cattle grids it’s not a fast course.

I stopped for photos and video (and I hadn’t slept well so wasn’t feeling in good shape) so my time was a lot slower than I expected. Given it was my first visit there it was still a PB.

A small event means a low token number.

Here’s a link to my instagram video.

The aftermath

Balclutha parkrun’s usual cafe was closed for the holidays so we went to the one place that was open – The Gate Cafe.

It was there that we had the good fortune of meeting Suzie, a local who knew The Catlins like the back of her hand.

We’d picked up a map from the counter to plan our drive back to Invercargill and Suzie quickly let us know where to stop and which roads to avoid.

We eventually arrived back in Invercargill at 5pm, the longest I’d ever remained parkrun fresh* .

There were 39 finishers at Balclutha, with visitors from Lower Hutt and Dunedin as well as ourselves from Rotorua.

Me and event director Rod Deverson under the tree

It’s always one of the smaller events and as such a great run to meet the locals and find out the best places to visit while in the area.

* parkrun fresh – staying in your parkrun gear while getting on with your day.

Run Report

My 2020 round-up

Like pretty much everyone on this planet I had no idea that 2020 would turn out the way it did, but I’m pleased to report that I achieved some of my parkrun-related goals.

At the start of the year I was on 134 parkruns at 42 parkrun courses.

My main parkrun goals were:

  • Run 12 new events (one a month average)
  • Run 40 parkruns
  • Volunteer once a month, or 12 occasions overall.
  • Complete the alphabet (letters required were D, I, O and Z)
  • Complete Staying Alive (3 B parkruns and 3 G parkruns, required two Gs)

I’m very grateful to have been able to have spent Christmas 2019 and New Year 2020 with my family in the UK.

This meant I started the year with a New Year’s Day double at Irchester Country parkrun and Daventry parkrun.

I chose this pairing after scouring the Tailrun New Year’s Day Double Finder. I wanted to run two new (to me) events, within a 90 minute drive from my mum’s house and new letters for my alphabet. This pairing also meant I achieved a new low number for my Wilson Index as Irchester was still quite new.   

Also in January I ran at Severn Bridge parkrun (a bucket list parkrun as you run from Wales into England), and Oaklands parkrun in Birmingham (another letter and Wilson Index number).

While back in the UK I’d started planning a trip back for European summer to visit Zuiderpark parkrun in the Netherlands with my mum.

It would have completed both our alphabets. I have a few other northern hemisphere bucket list parkruns that I’d hoped to visit (The Pastures, Bressay and Lews Castle among them).

That trip will have to wait another year or two!


What I did achieve in 2020 was 13 different New Zealand parkruns, nine of which I attended for the first time. I finished on 156 parkruns at 55 courses.

I visited 13 new events in total and on August 1 celebrated my Cow (50 different parkrun events ) at Greytown Woodside Trail parkrun.

My 13 new events were: Irchester Country, Daventry, Severn Bridge, Oaklands (UK), Gisborne, Anderson, East End, Greytown Woodside Trail, Whanganui Riverbank, Owairaka, University of Waikato, Queenstown and Foster.

The four parkruns I revisited were: Puarenga (my home run), Tauranga, Taupo and Western Springs.

At Greytown I also celebrated the Staying Alive challenge (Barry Curtis, Grangemoor, Bushy, Gisborne, Banbury and Greytown Woodside Trail).

Achieving 40 parkrun finishes was out of my control, but I did manage 22 runs this year from  a maximum 34 opportunities.

There were also 12 parkruns where I volunteered instead of running, mostly run directing at Puarenga but I also wrote run reports for University of Waikato and Queenstown parkruns.


Other things I’m grateful for is bringing the Puarenga parkrun community together when we had to be apart – we met via zoom on parkrunday to chat about our week, our running and show off our baking.

I’m grateful for Air New Zealand lowering their fares when we went into level 1 so I could jet off to more parkrun venues.

And I’m so very thankful to the wider parkrun community I’ve met, who have literally given me a bed and shown me the most amazing hospitality.

My 2021 parkrun goals are:

  • Run a minimum 40 parkruns
  • Complete my parkrun alphabet (Z remaining)
  • Wilson Index of 20
  • Achieve Countryman status (currently on 24/32)
  • Publish my book!

I have lots of other goals for Runs With A Barcode, starting with parkrun Resolution. Keep an eye out for my Seven Days To parkrun challenge, which will be coming in January.

This will be aimed at non-parkrunners and those who have lapsed.

What are you proud of achieving this year and what goals have you got for 2021?

Run Report

Foster parkrun recap

Here’s a run recap of my visit to Foster parkrun on December 19, 2020.

“You’re going where?” When I told friends I was spending the weekend before Christmas in Rolleston that was the general reaction I got.

It was closely followed by “why?”.

Of course, to non-parkrun folk, saying you were travelling all the way from Rotorua to just outside of Christchurch in order to run a 5km, that is not only free but is on every Saturday, sounds very odd.

But I know that other parkrunners, especially those who tour, get it.

My son didn’t quite get it, but he views parkrun as something that his mum does every Saturday regardless of where we are, and that we go to places just for parkrun and everything else is a bonus.

I tend to do a lot of my tourism solo, but on this trip I decided to bring along my almost 9-year-old son, Axel.

Foster parkrun’s Event Directors Greg and Suzy Peterson had told me there was an amazing playground – and they have two young daughters – so I knew there would be other children there.

Getting there

We flew from Rotorua to Christchurch on the Friday lunch service. It took about 90 minutes, and because it was lunchtime we brought a packed lunch on the plane.

When we landed our bag was first on the carousel (and again on our return flight home!) so we were outside fairly quickly. We found one of the Pop-Up Penguins, which would be a main feature of our weekend away, and then got the shuttle to the car rental hire office.

I used RAD Car Rentals and booked a smallish car. I was expecting a Nissan Tiida, but ended up with a Latio (a sedan).

Foster parkrun start

Our first stop was the International Antarctic Centre. It’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for many years but the opportunity has never arisen. It was the perfect first stop with a child in tow.

After a couple of hours here (highly recommend it, by the way, and would visit again), we found some more penguins before driving to Rolleston.

I’d booked a room on booking.com, kind of like an Air BNB option, rather than staying in a motel. It’s suitable for someone travelling alone, as a couple or if you’re a parent travelling with a child.

Dinner was curry from A Pocket Full of Spices, which turned out to be beside Foster Park (not the closest Indian restaurant to our accommodation, but the reviews were good).


The parkrun course is in a purpose-built park for the new town of Rolleston. As well as the footpaths it has sports facilities for a variety of codes, including hockey, softball and rugby, as well as an amazing playground and a new indoor sports facility under construction.

I liked that there were water fountains in the park, as it was so warm I needed to stop at one about halfway around. There were also sprinklers going, which was very welcome!

It felt flat and was easy to follow with lots of little cones on the ground. I didn’t stop for photos, but the cones have the names of other parkrun courses in New Zealand written on them. I didn’t spot Puarenga, but I was assured it was there.

As it was the week before Christmas there were people dressed up in Christmas costume and others on holiday from other parts of New Zealand.

After the run I took Axel over to the playground, where we could have easily spent the next couple of hours enjoying the equipment.

As it was we left after half an hour to go to Robert Harris Cafe for refreshment.

A lot of parkrunners were also there. I didn’t feel like a full breakfast, instead enjoyed a date and orange scone with a hazelnut frappe. Axel had a chocolate milkshake.

There were 67 finishers, so this is a nice intimate parkrun where you don’t feel lost in a sea of runners.

But if you don’t like running by yourself then it’s probably not the run for you. I was mostly on my own but with runners slightly ahead and behind.

After parkrun

The next 24 hours were spent looking for penguins.

We drove into Christchurch CBD, via Lincoln, to go to the Margaret Mahy playground. It was a very hot day (33C) and there wasn’t much shade.

As we’re both red-haired and fair-skinned I didn’t want to risk burning.

Outside Rolleston College, spotted on our way to the cafe!

We met up with a friend in the Botanic Gardens and spent the afternoon collecting penguins in that vicinity. The next morning we drove back into the CBD to find some more. All up we found 62 out of 120).

Saturday night dinner was at Little India, Axel opted for Indian again so we tried the place nearest to where we stayed. I’d revisit both.

Final thoughts

If running Foster parkrun you don’t need to stay in Rolleston. In fact staying in Christchurch is probably just as easy, though it all depends on how much of an early start you want.

We left our accommodation at 7.40am and arrived five minutes later.

Hiring a car is advisable, getting around was pretty easy using the maps app on my phone, even with Christchurch’s one-way system.  

Walking around the CBD looking for penguins also gave me appreciation for how much there was to see in Christchurch. The next time I have time to spend there, I’d like to revisit the Riverside Market, wander through the Botanic Gardens and go to the art gallery.

Run Report

Queenstown parkrun recap

Here’s a recap of my visit to Queenstown parkrun, from December 12.

Way, way back, when parkrun was preparing to restart, I decided to look at flights to the South Island.

With Covid putting a long pause on international travel (and the kybosh on any return to the UK for a lengthy holiday to see my mum and sister) I decided to see how far I could stretch my airpoints and dollars.

I had hoped that 2020 would be the year I got to complete Countryman status (all parkruns in New Zealand), but like everyone else I didn’t know that Anderson parkrun in March would be the last trip for a long while.

When it was clear that parkrun would be restarting in July I started booking flights. Air New Zealand had started adding more flights to its schedule (almost back to normal) and prices were low as Kiwis hadn’t yet cottoned on to this domestic tourism lark.

parkrunday morning
Getting there

I’d already mentioned my tentative parkrun tourism plans to other event directors, and when Queenstown ED Chris Seymour said I could stay with him and his wife if the dates worked out, I made sure they aligned. I got a good return fare too.

It takes a while to actually arrive in Queenstown from Rotorua. I eventually landed at 2.45pm (due to work schedules I was dropped off at Rotorua Airport at 8.15am for a 10.25am flight).

To get into the town centre I caught the bus outside the airport. They arrive every 15 minutes and the fare is only $4.

I was meeting Chris and Jamie after work, so spent the afternoon soaking in the lake and mountain views (I spent an hour at Queenstown Airport using the free wifi in the comfy chair area near the baggage carousels).

We dined at Paddy Gaddy in Queenstown Mall. Pre-Covid the place would have been full on a Friday, but like so many other establishments, there are more tables than available patrons.

For dessert we stopped by at the Cookie Time store on Camp St. They have a happy hour from 6pm to 7pm where freshly baked cookies are half price.


Onto parkrunday. Chris was run directing, so we arrived at the event start/finish area at 7.20am. It was very windy and I was regretting my choice of run outfit, though once we started it was perfectly okay.

If you’ve not run Queenstown before it’s an out and back made up of three loops, pretty simple once you’re running.

The first loop is up a hill and down a hill. It separates the locals from the visitors (or at least, the ones who set out too fast, not knowing what’s around the corner).

Then you run two laps of the gardens and lake path. It’s varied scenery so you get a taste of everything. There are quaint gardens, a bowls club and bandstand. Then a forest with a carpet of soft cones and needles, and finally the lake and mountain views.

My first lap of this loop I stopped for photos and video. I already knew it wasn’t going to be a PB course so didn’t worry about the clock time, I was here for a good time!

The second lap I wanted to run and enjoy it, which I did.

After your second lap of the second loop section you run back to the finish straight – remembering to turn onto the grass and through the finish funnel to collect your finish token.

There was a small field of 37 today but that didn’t detract from the experience. Instead I think a small field makes it more homely as you can connect with the volunteers and other runners.


With a small field the majority went on to Yonder Cafe for parkfaff – and the results processing.

It has a great menu selection and baked goods, with plenty of vegan options.

I had the Full Yonder and hot chocolate. It beat me!

There’s much to do in Queenstown, especially if you’ve never visited before. I had no plans aside from parkrun. In the afternoon we drove out to Gibbston Valley, where there are a plethora of wineries.

I learned that there are more than 140km of cycle trails, so if cycling is something you’re into you can either bring your own bike (off-road tyres are best) or hire one to tour the wineries or other parts of the area.

Cargo Brewery

We went to Cargo Brewery, which looked like a converted church building. There was plenty of outdoor space for games or lying on a blanket.

I probably didn’t do my trip to Queenstown justice by not partaking in a full winery tour or engaging in adventure tourism.

However, I’ve been before and this time I just wanted a chilled trip away. And I got that.

A bonus was enjoying the Mandolorian season finale, episodes of The Chase and a great Thai takeaway.

When I was back at the airport on Sunday morning I couldn’t help but plan another visit, longer and with bikes.

Run Report

University of Waikato parkrun launch

My run report from the inaugural University of Waikato parkrun, November 7, 2020

My very first sporting event in New Zealand was in the grounds of the University of Waikato. It was the Special K Women’s Triathlon, held over Waitangi weekend of 2004.

The swim was in the pool, the cycle on Raukura Rd and the run around the University of Waikato campus.

Aside from the swim, where I stopped at the end of each 50m length, and the feeling of elation as I crossed the finish line, any memories of the run were long forgotten.

At least until this parkrun.

The course

At the run briefing Event Director Nicola Clayden gave an intricate explanation of the course. It sounded very confusing (and likely had a few people wondering if they would get lost).

However, once underway it was an easy course to follow (I’ve been at more confusing, Banbury parkrun in the UK springs to mind).

The start and finish is in the village green area of the University of Waikato’s Hamilton campus.

parkrunners were already ready at 7.30am

To get there you park at Gate 1 (about 100m from the gate there’s a car park on the left). Park up and walk towards the building, follow the footpath until you see the Unimart (there are signs showing the way).

Follow the arrows!
On arrival

As you walk into the village green area you’re greeted with a lake view and beautiful greenery. It’s going to be an event that will gain lots of fans for this alone.

The toilets and cafe are on the other side to the start (to the left as you arrive), but the distance is negligible.

Nicola’s never been involved with parkrun before but with the tutelage of parkrun veteran Lex Chalmers (and also a professor at the university), she’s received fine schooling in what the event is about – and her inexperience didn’t show.

Nicola Clayden gives the run brief

Lex had the honour of cutting the ribbon before the assembled parkrunners gathered in the funnel to get underway.

University event

I’d said ahead of the run that I thought the attendance would break Owairaka’s inaugural two weeks prior of 209. And it would have if several events hadn’t coincided – the Waitomo Trail Run and The Taniwha attracted runners from the Waikato area, while the New Zealand Road Race Championships were on in Auckland.

As it was, some 190 experienced the first taste of parkrun on campus – and New Zealand’s first university event. Click on the image below for video of the run start.

Video from Runs With A Barcode facebook page

There are others elsewhere: University of Stirling in Scotland shares its name with its parkrun course, Colney Lane parkrun is at the University of East Anglia campus in Norwich, England, and Woodhouse Moor parkrun in Leeds, England, was started as a means for sports management students to get involved in sport at a voluntary level.

Here’s to a successful student involvement at both running and volunteering at University of Waikato.

And we’re off

Back to the run. We started (on the whistle) with a small lap around the lake. Back past the start straight and chalk arrows directed us for laps 2, 3 and 4.

Runners in the distance during the first lap.

The second and third are the same – known as the sportsfield loop.

It’s here I was reminded of my launch into triathlon (I would find myself on the start line of Ironman some 13 months after the Special K experience).

My triathlon run went in the opposite direction, but the memories came flooding back (it was a struggle to run just 3km!).

Count to 4

The sportsfield loop runs alongside Knighton Rd on wide footpath, turns and crosses another footpath (there was a marshal), goes past what I think was changing facilities (and where the transition was for my triathlon!), past university accommodation and up a gradual incline. Before you know it, you’re back at the start again.

Sportsfield loop heading back to the start/finish (it’s just behind the trees on the right)

On the fourth loop you head towards the sportsfield loop again, but instead of running around the field you turn right and join the lake loop.

Sounds complicated, but in reality, it’s not. So long as you know what lap you’re on (and can count to four!) you shouldn’t go wrong.

At the end of your fourth loop you run along the lake and turn left by the cafe, then left onto the grass and to the finish.

The first and last 70 metres or so was on grass, the rest is all on path and mostly flat. I recorded 11m of elevation gain overall.

The aftermath

It was a humid day (the parkrun weather fairies held off the rain until the finish) and there were some biting insects around the finish area, so if you’re susceptible to bites (like me) then I’d suggest you wear insect repellant over the warmer months if you don’t want to be swatting and itching.

After chatting at the finish area we headed for Kahurangi Cafe, the student cafe opposite the finish.

The line was long and I guess a bit overwhelming for the baristas. There’s a selection of cabinet food but no full English so head elsewhere if you’re after something more substantial or have dietary requirements.

This was my 53rd event and 22nd in New Zealand.

As this is the first event to start with a U in New Zealand it will be popular with those who like to complete the various running challenges (all unofficial but makes parkrun a bit more fun).

What I enjoy about parkrun is the parkfaff afterwards. Never a dull moment when you’re with other parkrunners.

Run Report

The inaugural Owairaka parkrun

My run report from the inaugural Owairaka parkrun, October 24, 2020

When it comes to inaugural parkruns this year has led to much more anticipation than usual, and Owairaka parkrun was no exception.

It’s the second parkrun to start after a pause – Whanganui Riverbank parkrun was due to start in April but was delayed until July. Luckily for Owairaka their delay was only by one week.

We have one more event to come this year (the entry on this site for University of Waikato parkrun goes live on Saturday), but back to Owairaka.


Every parkrun has its own uniqueness and what makes Owairaka unique is its place in New Zealand athletics history.

You can read a bit more about that in the inaugural run report, written by Steve Darby.

Running past Arthur Lydiard’s old home makes this parkrun a must for anyone who wants to pay homage to athletic greats. Barry Curtis parkrun is another, part of the course is John Walker Promenade, Walker won gold at the 1976 Olympics in the 1500m.

Arthur Lydiard’s former home is in the top right.

I drove up to Auckland from Rotorua on the Friday afternoon and stayed with a friend. She’s not a parkrunner, but her husband is, so I suggested he find his barcode and join me for this event.

We took separate cars as I intended to stay for the parkfaff.


There are several places to park, if you want to leave your car in the same spot for the run and the cafe, then I would suggest the small car park off Owairaka Ave – it’s also the one closest to the park toilet.

If you want to be close to the start then Hendon Ave is your best bet.

We arrived around 7.30am, along with a number of other keen parkrunners. It was a short walk to the start and there we gathered and chatted, ready for the run brief.

There were a large number of milestone shirts in attendance, as event director Julie Collard gave the run brief I could see six green 250 shirts in a close bunch.

As you stand on the start you can see Lydiard’s old home, I wonder if its occupants will gravitate towards parkrun themselves.

The start

The run starts in Owairaka Park, you quickly run over Oakley Creek and turn to your right. The run follows the creek, you run over Te Whitinga bridge over State Highway 20 and past the entrance to the Waterview Tunnel.

There are four parks that form this parkrun course – Owairaka Park, Underwood Park, Kukuwai Park and Alan Wood Reserve Park. The path takes you from one to the next with ease.

It was a hot and humid morning and with little shade this is going to be a hot run over summer. However, the restoration work along the creek and the bridge, make this a parkrun not to be missed.

I was a little dubious of the out and back in two directions, but I needn’t have been too bothered. I’m not a huge fan of running past the finish when I still have a kilometre or so to go.

At Owairaka you run past the bridge to the finish, but like Gisborne and Whanganui Riverbank, it’s not too much of an add on.

Rookie mistake

I made the rookie error of not starting my watch at the start. It was only when I was some 700m in that I realised. So on completion of my parkrun I went back onto the course so my watch would show 5km.

Yes, I know I would have received an official result, however it was for my personal record-keeping (and a cumulative run challenge I’m participating in).

Going back on the course meant I saw other people still enjoying their parkrun.

With it being an inaugural, and nearest neighbour Western Springs cancelled, there was a bumper parkrun attendance of 209. It will be interesting to see how Owairaka parkrun grows as an event in its own right.

The aftermath

There was a lot of hanging around at the finish finding out how others got on. There were also cakes to celebrate two milestones of the day.

The parkrun cafe is L’Oeuf, about 500m along Owairaka Ave. You can leave your car at parkrun and walk to the cafe, which is what several of us did.

Even though I was eyeing up the Sticky Toffee Cake (next time!), with a name like L’Oeuf I couldn’t skip past having bacon and eggs. The service was prompt given how busy we’d suddenly made the cafe and they brought over a carafe of water and glasses without us asking, which was welcomed.

Eggs and bacon

I ordered the Chai Latte, my usual post parkrun hot drink of choice. It had a bit too much cinnamon, so next time I’ll order coffee, which I hear was excellent.

Highly recommend

I had a great time at Owairaka parkrun’s inaugural event. It was only my third inaugural of my parkrun life (one I was run director at and the other was Tauranga) so I don’t have much experience to compare it to.

However, with 150 parkruns now to my name and this being my 52nd event, I can state that it was a parkrun to remember.

If you are heading to Auckland and not sure what parkrun to attend, choose Owairaka if you want to run where Olympic champions have trained.

Run Report

Whanganui Road Trip

It was a case of third time lucky running at Whanganui Riverbank parkrun.

New Zealand’s most recent addition was due to start in April, 2020 and I’d planned to visit on Anzac Day (April 25).

But then Covid struck and the Whanganui team were forced to postpone their launch.

They finally got underway on July 4 when New Zealand became the first parkrun country to reopen. 

I didn’t go straight away as I’d already booked a family trip to East End parkrun (I was due to go there the first week of pause).

I also wanted to run my 50th event at Greytown. So instead I booked a motel for August 15 and event #7.

And then we had the second wave.

The Second Restart

It was quite fortuitous that when parkrun announced we could all get started again – bar Auckland – that my home event was cancelled for the marathon.

This was a solo trip. I left work at lunch on Friday and drove directly to Whanganui, a 300km journey of about four hours.

After checking in to the Kingsgate Hotel I made my way to 282 Taupo Quay. I wanted to a) recce the driving route for the morning and b) walk a bit of the course to stretch my legs.

Definitely recommend doing this if you have the time.


It was a stunning spring morning when I arrived on parkrunday around 7.40am.

There was a small crowd at the start line – almost all were volunteers – and we chatted among ourselves while observing the new parkrun Covid framework.

I met event director Judy Mellsop at the start. Also there was fellow tourist Liz Neill, who was running Whanganui to reclaim her countryman status (all events in the country).

Me, Liz and Steve, with Francois in the background.

Liz also wrote the run report and completed her 25th volunteering stint. Congratulations Liz on joining the V25 club.

Steve Darby had also joined us, turned out that after running over 500 parkruns he’d never attended a 7th event so this helped his Wilson Index.

There ended up being just 20 finishers, with eight of these visitors from other parkruns.

As well as me, Liz and Steve, first finisher Francois Joubert was from Whangarei parkrun and there were visitors from Wellington and Palmerston North also.

Running their first parkrun in New Zealand were Luke and Leigh Solomon, who have recently moved from Durban, South Africa, to Whanganui.

They sounded excited to be out of managed isolation and able to run without a perimeter fence.

The run

Whanganui Riverbank parkrun starts with an upriver run of just over 2km.

You run under a couple of bridges, onto a boardwalk and to the Bearing sculpture where you turn around.

This is a large stainless steel sphere with the shape of the Whanganui River carved into it – worth stopping for a photo, I thought.

You make the return run, and depending on the wind could either be enjoyable or less so.

At the starting point you keep running for another 200m or so (and encounter the only rise of the parkrun), turn around and head back to the finish on grass.

I hung around until the tail walker completed her 5km and then it was off to the café.


Whanganui Riverbank parkrun’s café is at the local Mitre 10 Mega, in the Columbus Café. A few of the volunteers joined Liz, Steve and myself for a coffee and chat.

After three hours it was time to get moving – I had aimed to be home by mid afternoon and was already more than an hour later than I expected.

Thoroughly enjoyed Whanganui Riverbank parkrun, and I hope to return so I can explore more of the town than just the parkrun and parkrun café.

The macarons at the Riverside Market (which you run past at the far end of the course) come highly recommended so I must return to give them a try.

Run Report

My Cow Run

What I love about parkrun is that it’s taken me to places I’ve never been before and where I’d probably never even consider.

Like Greytown. For years I thought it was on the South Island, but I kept getting mixed up with Greymouth (there’s no parkrun there, maybe one day).

As I started climbing towards 50 different venues – and the prospect of a Cow run – I started to think about where I could celebrate it.

Somehow Greytown Woodside Trail seemed the obvious choice. Some other parkrun tourists had let me know they have cows near that event, and the G would complete another unofficial challenge too so Greytown it was.

Initial planning for this began in February, but you know, Covid and lockdown put paid to an Easter trip.

So when we got the news we would be restarting in July I started planning my away trips.

My 49th parkrun course was at East End, New Plymouth. I had my heart set on there instead of visiting Whanganui (plus I’ve got a trip there booked in so I can help my Wilson Index).

So Greytown.

Fellow tourists Julia and Paul Gordon offered me a bed at their Eastbourne home. The Lower Hutt regulars have visited Greytown a few times before, and as it turned out, it would give them another Wilson Index number.

I flew Rotorua to Wellington Friday afternoon, my return flight was booked for Sunday afternoon so we could take our time in Greytown.

We’re all early risers so were on the road to Greytown at 6.10am. The drive from Eastbourne (according to GPS) would take around 1 hr 10 minutes, so we were early but hey, might as well get going if we’re ready.

There was a spectacular sunrise as we drive over the Rimutaka Range, but photos rarely do it justice!

There’s a toilet at Woodside Station but we stopped at the Featherston public toilets. Was a good opportunity to feel the air temperature and make a decision about what to wear.

We were very quickly in Greytown and turned off towards the station and the far end of the trail. Arriving at the station we were the first for parkrun (only two other cars that had been parked overnight).

Woodside Station

Soon other parkrunners joined us, so we ventured out of the warm and across the tracks (via the road crossing) to head to the start.

It’s a short walk from the car park to the start of the trail. There was a marshal there to make sure we found our way – Nneka was dressed as a cow too, which was a great surprise.

Me with Nneka and Paul

It’s only 100m or so to get to the first pinch point that you’ll encounter. On the other side is a picnic table used to keep jackets dry (there was a container) and handy to get some elevation for a run brief.

Co-Event Director Phil Cox gave the first timers’ briefing – there was only me and one other, then other co-Event Director Dave White got the run brief underway.

There were a couple of people celebrating their 50th, plus visiting parkrunner James O’Sullivan was completing his 25th volunteering stint. And then Dave started talking about different challenges, it was a big surprise to hear about the Cow and how it came about. Thanks Nneka for arranging the shout out.

So onto the run.

Greytown’s parkrun is a simple course, it’s an out and back along the Greytown Woodside Trail.

There are a few features along the way – a wooden bridge beside a body of water, a number of pinch points, a farm track, a short section near the road (there’s a marshal there to make sure you keep to the trail) and then a sleeper set into the trail indicating where to turn.

If you had a buggy you’d have to work out a technique to get through the several pinch points, runners have their own techniques to get through, including side stepping.

You don’t really notice it, but it’s downhill on the way out. When you’re about 1km from the finish there’s an uphill climb to the wooden bridge. You can see the finish far in the distance, which is either cruel or motivating depending on your stance.

After finishing people mill around the picnic table, swapping stories. After a few pictures – and lots of chat – we decided to make a move for the cafe.

Me and Julia Gordon, who has also run 50 events.

The Offering is perhaps one of my favourite cafe experiences after parkrun.

We drove back along the road to Greytown, turned left and looked for the butcher on the right. The cafe is the other side of it. It was a pretty large space with a big menu and plenty of cabinet choice.

I chose the eggs on toast and subbed the toast for hash browns and added two sausages. I’d not yet eaten and we had discussed a walk up to the Rimutaka trig on our return journey.

I ended up going back up to the counter for a doughnut. We did stay for a long time!

We spent about two hours in the cafe, and at one point we filled the centre of the cafe. I’d reckon this parkrun has the highest percentage of parkrunners at the cafe.

After a long time chatting, getting to know the mayor of Carterton, one of Lower Hutt’s founding parkrunners and learning how this parkrun came to be, it was time to head back over the hill.

In the end we didn’t get up to the trig – the temperature dropped and we thought it best to stay safe.

I really enjoyed this parkrun and I’m glad I chose it as the location for my Cow run.

Thanks to everyone who made the drive to join me and to Paul and Julia Gordon for their hospitality.

Here’s a list of all the parkrun courses I’ve run to date.

Run Report

East End Road Trip

What: East End parkrun, New Plymouth, 49th course and 18th NZ course

Distance travelled: 598km

When: July 17-19

When parkrun announced the restart of parkrun in New Zealand my planning for parkrun tourism got into full swing.

The first week of pause I had planned to be at East End parkrun, so I was keen to get there as soon as possible.

Since it was school holidays we made it a family weekend (rather than me travel solo). We left Rotorua on Friday morning and began our leisurely 300km drive to New Plymouth.

Whakamaru Dam
Between Piopio and Awakino Gorge

We’d booked to stay at the Plymouth International hotel mostly because it had a heated swimming pool, I thought that would be a hit with our 8-year-old son (I was right). It also had a spa pool which I enjoyed soaking in.

There’s plenty to do in New Plymouth and you can do a lot of stuff for free. I’ll get onto our non-parkrun activities after the run report.

On parkrunday we were up bright and early (family trait) so we headed to the beach at 7.30am. We parked at the car park at the end of Nobs Line, it was easy to get to from our accommodation.

The sun was coming up and it was pretty spectacular.

Casey and Axel made a beeline for the beach and the waves, while I did’t want to get sand in my shoes so I stayed up on the walkway.

The startline is to the east of the car park and there was a parkrun flag on a rise, always a comforting sight to know you’re at the right place.

I met a few other visitors, including Sarah Fish from Millwater parkrun. I’d been told to look out for her by Scott Arrol of Scottairplanes fame, so of course we got a pic for him.

After the briefing, led by run director Andy Walmsley, we were off on our run. The run starts to the left of the path to avoid other path users being bowled over. After about 100m you’re on the walkway itself.

On the way to the bridge.

The turnaround

The parkrun follows the coastal walkway all the way to just past the famous Te Rewa Rewa bridge. This is where you see the iconic view of Mount Taranaki through the middle, but not this day.

No mountain view but still got my pic – mid-run.

It’s mostly flat but with a few undulations. Suitable for buggies and wheelchairs – there were a few around.

The finish is on the grassy space where we had the run brief, very spacious and a great place to hang out and chat afterwards.

For post-parkrun refreshments we headed back along the course for a few hundred metres to the Kiosk Beach Cafe at Fitzroy Beach Surf Club. It’s outdoor seating but luckily we had a mild and calm day.

I had a hot chocolate, Casey a flat white and nothing for Axel, he wanted to hurry up and get moving.

We didn’t stay too long as we had a busy day planned.

As soon as we got back to the car we took our bikes out from the back and prepared for a ride back along the walkway.

It’s about 13km end to end, but we went to the Bike Park at Bell Block and then back past the car to the Len Lye Wind Wand (about 20km all up).

It’s wide in most parts and suited to any cycling ability. I was on a commute MTB (almost 20 years old and super heavy frame), Axel and Casey on full suspension MTBs.

If you can take your bikes then I’d highly recommend this.

On our arrival on Friday we went to Brooklands Zoo at Pukekura Park and then a wander around the park afterwards.

Dinner was south Indian cuisine at Arranged Marriage. Highly recommend!

After our bike ride on Saturday we feasted on a hot roast chicken then enjoyed another swim in the hotel pool.

A friend mentioned they had climbed Paratutu Rock when they visited New Plymouth, so we decided to have a venture up there.

Now I don’t have a head for heights, so I got halfway up and called it a day. That was where the steps make way for rock and chains to hold on to.

Casey and Axel didn’t go much further, so we drove to Oakura instead. By then we were pooped.

Dinner was fish and chips from Blowfish Takeaways, they scored a 5/10 from us – we’ve been spoiled in Rotorua and while the fish was nice and fresh, the chips were no match for home.

We headed home early on Sunday morning so we could enjoy a leisurely drive with plenty of stops.