The story behind parkrun in Gore

When you talk about parentage of parkruns Hamilton Park parkrun in Gore can trace its lineage directly to New Zealand’s second event at Cornwall Park in Auckland.

It was there in 2012 that Bridget McLeod ran her one and only parkrun. She was living and working as a teacher and moved to the South Island town of Gore soon after.

Now, some nine years later Gore gets its own parkrun with Bridget as Event Director.

“I did Cornwall Park parkrun and remember at the time thinking it was such a great initiative,” she said.

“There were no boundaries, no barriers. It stuck with me that it was great. Then we moved to Gore. I’m from the south; I grew up in the Catlins.

“The fact that Balclutha had a parkrun is what got me started. I thought if they could do it we could do it a little bit better!

At one of the test events. Photo supplied

Jewel in the crown

“I thought it would be great to have parkrun in Gore, we’ve got great parks and we’ve a great community.

“It’s a beautiful town with amazing things here. I thought parkrun would be another jewel in our crown.”

Bridget started the process in 2019 when New Zealand had its own country managers. She said she was pretty close to the launch when the structure changed and had to start the process again.

“I spent the summer trying to find a 5km course that started and finished in the same place. At that time I had a dog, a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a pregnant belly. I finally got a course, and then it flooded and my course was taken out.”

That was in February 2020. Then the pandemic hit and Bridget gave birth to Amelia at home in lockdown.

Waiting game

“parkrun was on hold to everyone but I couldn’t get down to Hamilton Park to see where it was at. When I eventually got there you couldn’t even access the park. It was annihilated.

“I had two other courses rejected as they didn’t meet the road requirements and we couldn’t get anything else to work so then it was a waiting game, waiting for the park to be fixed.

“There were lots of suggestions for other places but I wanted a course I would be proud of. My husband Mike is the athlete in the family. He went for a run one day and said Hamilton Park was open and it was awesome and this should be our course. We shot down there and we got the course really easily.

“It’s simple, intuitive and way easier than the first course.”

Getting started

She said things came together pretty quickly from there.

Invercargill parkrun Event Director Liz Henry donated a defibrillator through her business Mee & Henry Law Ltd and there have been two test events with 25 and 35 participants respectively.

Both events had visitors from neighbouring parkruns in Balclutha, Dunedin, Invercargill and Queenstown.

Bridget said their attendance helped locals understand more what parkrun was about, including earning milestones.

“It was neat to show the bigger picture of parkrun and how it can help you. You can meet locals and make all these connections.”

Hamilton Park parkrun is due to launch on October 23.

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