Event Profile

Whanganui Riverbank parkrun

In 2017 the New Zealand Government passed a bill that recognised the Whanganui River as a living person.

It has guardians appointed to speak on its behalf in order to protect it.

The river is what makes Whanganui Riverbank parkrun special.

Run director Michelle Selby says even though most of the city’s runners run beside it regularly it never grows old.

“It’s really pretty and the river always looks different. We see people rowing, fishing, plus the market at our turnaround point.

“There’s quite a good vibe along the way.”

The path is also littered with sculptures, the turnaround is marked by a huge globe with a map of the river etched in it.

There’s also a set of pencils, which Michelle says is a reminder to stand tall and be strong.


Whanganui Riverbank parkrun was all set to start in April 2020 but was delayed due to Covid.

When New Zealand parkruns returned in the July, Whanganui Riverbank launched with 76 parkrunners and 13 volunteers.

Its record is 83 (week two) but this is one of New Zealand’s more intimate events with an average of 36.

The parkrun was founded by Judy Mellsop, who remains as event director, after she learned of parkrun via her son.

She joined him at one event and saw it was a way to get a community active together.

“So, without too much thought and with no idea of the hiccups and hurdles I’d encounter I clicked the ‘start a new parkrun’ button on the parkrun website,” Judy says.

It’s an out and back in two directions with the river in sight throughout the run.

The first turnaround is near the River Traders Market, which is another highlight to a visit to Whanganui.


Michelle says the event has slowly brought people together.

“When we started people would run and then leave. Now there are more people staying afterwards and talking to each other.

“Our parkrun is building its identity, even with all the interruptions.

“I love our community, it’s supportive to everyone from the fastest to the slowest.

“When I heard parkrun was coming to Whanganui I was very excited.

“I had been a regular at Kapiti Coast from when it started but we moved in 2016 so had a long wait.

“Another friend from Wellington moved to Whanganui and we would talk about starting a parkrun here but we felt we didn’t know enough people to get the volunteers.

“We’re glad Judy got it started.

“Through volunteering I’ve made some really good friendships.

“Saturday morning is about going to parkrun to see my friends.

“I volunteer more than I run because I like that side of it.”

After parkrun they head to Columbus Cafe at Mitre 10 Mega for refreshment.

“I’m a new convert to the toasted cheese scone with butter,” Michelle says.

“There’s always something yummy.”

While in Whanganui

The Whanganui River Traders’ Market is on Saturday mornings at the parkrun turnaround.

Highlights are cinnamon buns, fudge and macarons as well as crafts.

Visit the Durie Hill Memorial Tower and Elevator. The elevator is New Zealand’s only public transport elevator and in use today.

There’s also the Whanganui Regional Museum and New Zealand Glassworks.

Like the outdoors? Visit the exotic Paloma Gardens for plants from all over the world. There’s also Virginia Lake and the Bushy Park Wildlife Sanctuary.

And while in River City, get on the water, by boat or take part in the great walk and paddle the river.

What’s in a name…

Whanganui comes from the Māori for big bay, or big harbour.

Whanganui is known as the River City. The parkrun runs alongside the riverbank.

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