Chris Bishop: The politician who parkruns

Election campaigns tend to involve public meetings, canvassing the streets and attending as many public events as is possible.

For National MP Chris Bishop the 2020 campaign also included parkrun.

He spent his election Saturdays at Lower Hutt parkrun, recording a 26:33 on election day (October 17, 2020).

At the time of writing he sits on 48 runs, all of them on the Lower Hutt course dating back to 2017.

“I go through love-hate cycles with running.”

That’s evident by his parkrun profile – after registering in 2017 he ran seven parkruns in six months. The following year he managed four.

He was back to loving running again in 2019 with 21 runs under his belt.

“I’ve been running off and on since 2011. I always hated running, had an aversion to it. I started putting on a bit of weight and started going to the gym. The weight came off and I started running.”

He first ran a 10km and then a half marathon. He’s run three so far.

At his first parkrun back after the first pause.

“I find running hard sometimes but then I get into it. In 2017 I was in a ‘I don’t like running’ phase. A couple of my supporters told me about parkrun. They said it was really easy.

“I turned up, didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t have a barcode but I ran the course and really enjoyed it, so I kept coming back.

“It gets me out of bed on a Saturday morning. It’s a motivator. It gets the exercise for the weekend out of the way. I feel really refreshed at the end of it.

“I also like the sense of community. You start to see familiar faces. I know a few people monitor their performance by where they are in relation to me.”

Like most of us can probably appreciate, he says elections are “particularly stressful”.

“I did parkrun almost every weekend in the campaign. It was good to get [a run] out of the way. I’ve run during two election campaigns now.

“I like the community outreach too. Even when I’m all sweaty at the end people come up to me to talk about things they’re concerned about. It’s a good way of communicating with people.”

Chris with his wife Jenna and Samoyed Ladyhawke

So far there’s no parliamentary running club on the parkrun site, he says there are a number of MPs who attend the gym and both National and Labour MPs enter the annual Round the Bays event in Wellington.

But that’s not to say he’s not talking about it, like the organic growth of parkrun we may yet see more MPs turning up to their nearest parkrun on a Saturday.

Chris says he’s never been able to tie in a parkrun while overseas on parliamentary business (or even domestically) but pre-covid days he was “astonished” at the overseas parkrunners at Lower Hutt on a Saturday morning.

“You’d see all these people from different countries and think ‘how on earth did they end up here’. I thought it was really cool that parkrun is global.

“I like that community and that’s what’s so important in politics – it’s all about community and a shared sense of doing something together as a collective.”

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