Submitted Story

Jacques Poot: See the country with parkrun

On January 15 this year I met Alison King during the usual coffee at Jack’s at my home parkrun, the lovely grounds of the University of Waikato.

She brought along some copies of her book Unofficial parkrun Guide NEW ZEALAND.

It is an interesting compendium of all 33 parkruns in New Zealand in 2021. 

Since then, another seven have been added, so a second edition is undoubtedly on its way.

Anyway, I made it my New Year’s resolution to do several parkruns around New Zealand this year, with the book as my guide.

Waikato parkrun stalwarts Lex Chalmers and Lynda Brahne introduced me to Hamilton Lake parkrun in 2014, but for various reasons I did not manage to participate in parkrun regularly until the restart after the COVID lockdown.

I have now also started volunteering and parkrun has become my regular Saturday morning activity.

With 80 parkruns in total, and volunteering on 16 occasions, I am now on my way to reach the 100 parkruns and 25 times volunteering milestones sometime next year.

So far I have been at nine parkrun locations in New Zealand (University of Waikato, Hamilton Lake, Cambridge, Tauranga, Lower Hutt, Pegasus, Palmerston North, Millwater and Whangarei).

I have also done some parkruns abroad.

Having all our three children working and living in London, my wife and I spend a fair bit of time in the UK. This has provided a great opportunity to run a few in London (Southwark and Mile End) and one in Scotland (Torvean in Inverness) while vacationing there. 

Being Dutch, it has also been nice to have been able to run twice this year in the Netherlands at Sonsbeek (Arnhem).

parkruns are mostly organised the same everywhere but starting times can vary. For example in the southern half of the South Island they start at 9am in winter instead of 8am, while in Scotland they start at 9.30am all year round.

One thing that stands out wherever you do a parkrun is the amazingly friendly atmosphere.

Visitors are always made to feel really welcome.

The encouragement from the volunteers along the way is also much appreciated.

Running in the 65-69 age group, I am not aiming for ever better PBs but run for fun with mostly ‘pass’ (50% or more) age grades.

It will take me probably several years to do all parkruns in Aotearoa at least once. And, as Run Director Wendy Watts said after my parkrun in Palmerston North, it’s a moving target with new parkruns being added all the time.

After I have done a parkrun for the first time, I now ask the Run Director to sign and date the first page on that parkrun in Alison’s book – that makes the book a very nice non-digital record of where and when I have done parkrun.

So what will be the strategy to try to sample as many parkruns as possible? 

From the Waikato it should be possible to do the Auckland ones and Puarenga (Rotorua) with early road trips on Saturdays.

The others will require some cleverly organised two-week vacations that have an itinerary with parkruns at three locations on three successive Saturdays.

The alternative is a bunch of getaway weekends. My wife doesn’t do parkrun but has not objected to my goal of doing various parkruns around the country – she enjoys the getaways.

parkrun has become a very enjoyable part of my life.

For  those starting out on this journey, I can strongly recommend it. It helps you staying fit and you meet some very nice people along the way.

November 5, 2022: Celebrating 2nd anniversary of parkrun at the University of Waikato (theme: “goldilocks and the three bears”)
Submitted Story

In My Own Words: Gary Holford

In this feature we hear from Gary Holford, A380651, a UK parkrunner. Gary is on the New Zealand most events table with 24 events run.

Back in 2016 we started planning our trip of a lifetime to New Zealand.

Having worked for nearly 40 years without more than a three week holiday, my wife and I finally had time for an extended trip to the other side of the world.

I had found parkrun UK back in 2012 and become addicted, therefore it made sense to me, to plan our tour around parkrun locations every Saturday morning.

At the time there were 11 parkruns [in New Zealand] and we would be visiting for about eight weeks, so quite a good fit to see both islands and take in the lion’s share of parkrun venues.

parkrun #1

We arrived in Auckland in January 2017 on a Friday lunchtime, giving us time to get over the jet lag and plan our bus route to Western Springs for early Saturday 8am, not 9 a la UK!

The friendly bus service delivered us to the parkrun set-up team and slightly surprisingly about half a dozen other UK tourists. You just can’t get away from them!

First NZ parkrun done, all very friendly, nice cafe, interesting chat and an early glimpse of the cheetahs’ morning exercise at the zoo.

parkrun #2

Next up was Hamilton Lake, having spent a brilliant week north of Auckland, all the way to Cape Reinga, absolutely beautiful.

I remember it being quite a busy parkrun, not unlike the crowded events in the UK. (I’ve just checked, it was almost 200) Again more UK tourists…

Cafe Fresca was very nice, brownies with yogurt was excellent, once we sussed the accent!

Our second week started on the Coromandel Peninsula with amazing views and beaches. By the weekend we had taken in the Rotorua attractions, including a familiarising freedom Puarenga parkrun.

parkrun #3

On Saturday morning I joined 46 other parkrunners to officially run Puarenga, one of the most unusual and interesting trail runs you are likely to come across.

At the time it felt like running on a different planet, steam rising from everywhere, I was very conscience of staying on the path.

parkrun #4

The following week took in freedom parkruns at Taupo and Anderson (visiting part of the Art Deco festival) before heading to Kapiti Coast parkrun for the out and back run with 54 other like minded runners. Loving the small groups and interesting stories of other people.

A couple of days in Wellington gave me the opportunity to freedom run both Porirua and Lower Hutt. Hilly and windy.

Crossing to the South Island for our stay in Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park meant an early start on Saturday morning.

parkrun #5

I think we set off about 6am to get back to Blenheim parkrun, well worth it for the intimate friendly event. Another out and back organised by a highly efficient team of three volunteers for 33 parkrunners.

All back to the Watery Mouth Cafe for coffee and cake, brilliant.

It would now be two whole weeks before my next parkrun. I can do this, I’m not obsessed!

Hokitika, Franz Josef Glacier, Wanaka, Queenstown, Te Anau and Milford Sound was a wonderful road trip, but at the time no parkruns.

The Otago Peninsula was our next home for a few days, watching test cricket at the University Oval and spending time on, what would become, some of our favourite beaches.

parkrun #6

Dunedin parkrun was my final and slowest run on our trip. Don’t be fooled by the flat start in the botanical gardens. Watch out for the steps of despair, twice!

As with most NZ parkruns there’s excellent refreshment and company at the Croque-O-Dile in the Garden cafe.

Our last few days were spent in a re-emerging Christchurch with freedom parkruns at Hagley and Pegasus.

So sad to leave with only 6 of the, by now, 16 New Zealand parkruns done.

Alison: Gary has returned a couple more times so hopefully we’ll get to hear more of his adventures.