Martin O’Sullivan

It started out as a way of helping a friend’s son. 

Ten years on Martin O’Sullivan (A291411) is one the few parkrunners to have run all New Zealand events and one of the even fewer in New Zealand to have run more than 400 (at the time of publishing he sits on 447).

“My friend’s son needed to get in shape so she asked if I would mentor him, so I arrived at parkrun week 5.

“I’d been playing football all my life but I’d started enjoying it less.

“My friend from work, her son was in Year 10 at school, was out of shape and needed to improve his focus. She felt it was a good idea to start parkrun. He was there week 1.

“She told me about it and asked if I would go along and give him some company. That’s how I got started, by mentoring and motivating him.”

Lower Hutt was New Zealand’s first parkrun, and as a consequence Martin didn’t get into parkrun tourism until New Year’s Day 2014 when he visited Porirua.

That year he had a New Year’s Resolution to run all six of the current New Zealand events.

As a consequence when Debra Bourne’s book parkrun: Much more than just a run in the park was published Martin’s name appeared as one of the six to have run them all.

International tourism

“Later in the year I would run at St Peters in Sydney, Bushy in England, Main Beach on the Gold Coast and then Millwater and Hagley in New Zealand for their inaugural events. 

“By then we were hooked into parkrun tourism and completed some of the challenges. 

“I’ve completed all of the NZ parkrun events travelling to many with my two son’s Trent and James and my sister Chrissy Robertson, we all have countryman status.”

There are 36 events in New Zealand at the time of writing, Martin has run at 62 locations worldwide.

Some of his runs have involved more planning than others.

“We have had many early starts over the years, one of the most memorable ones was when I was away on a work trip in Asia. On the Thursday I left inner Mongolia  and travelled to England via Beijing, arriving at 9.30pm at Heathrow airport on the Friday night. 

“Richard McChesney, the parkrun NZ founder, picked me up early in the morning to run at Upton Court. After the run he dropped me off at the airport and I headed off to Germany for a show I was attending.

“Another time I was working in Sydney during the week and flew Friday night to Brisbane to run at Zillmere to complete the alphabet challenge. I did the same thing another time, this time flying to Melbourne to tick off a J at Jells parkrun.


“There have been many highlights to my travels. I really enjoyed New Zealand events with family and some of our parkrun tourist friends, running in Oxford with Richard and Kemp, Bushy Park with Richard and Zac (McChesney, Richard’s son), Yeovil Montacute with Richard and then two occasions in Singapore. I’ve also run 20 courses in Australia.

“We are fortunate in New Zealand to have some of the most picturesque parkruns in the world with stunning scenery, including Queenstown, Wanaka and East End, which are stunning on a fine winter’s day with snow on the mountains.

“Then you have the fast courses like Pegasus, Gisborne, Palmerston North and Lower Hutt or the trail courses such as Otaki River, Puarenga, Porirua, Greytown Woodside Trail, Kapiti Coast and Hamilton Park.

Top 3

“To settle on three would be Queenstown and Puarenga as they are very New Zealand, located in tourist spots. 

“Queenstown is a stunning course in winter with the snow on the mountains. The course is a mixture of pavement and trail through the beautiful trees and down to the waterfront. 

“Puarenga in Rotorua, you have thermal activity all around you, the smell of the sulphur in the air as you run around the two-lap course with steam bubbling up in various places around the course. 

“For my third, Glass House Mountains Conservation in Brisbane, Australia. I travelled to this event with my boys to complete #3 on the Wilson index.

“We drove an hour from our hotel to the middle of nowhere arriving in the dark at 6.30am ready for a 7am start. 

“We started to wonder if we were in the right place until headlights started to arrive. There were only 30 people in total, it was an out and back trail course, downhill on the way out and uphill on the way back. 

“I made the mistake of taking the lead and led for 4.5km before being overtaken and settling for third.”

Bucket list

Like every parkrun adventurer Martin has an ever growing bucket list of events he’d like to run. Though like many, one of his bucket list events is no longer operational.

“I’d liked to have run at Crissy Field in San Francisco. Running under the Golden Gate Bridge and past Alcatraz has always appealed to me.

“I’d also like to run at Hamilton Island. I’ve seen the Ironman on TV run in here and looks a great tourist destination.

“I was going to run at Albert Park in Melbourne but the motor racing was on so the event was closed. Running around Melbourne past the tennis stadium would be great.

“And Germany, anywhere there would be great. I visit every two years and have done a couple of freedom runs at Wohrder See in Nuremberg.”

Martin is keen to highlight the importance of volunteers at parkrun. He has his V100 milestone and his sons also volunteer.

“Volunteering is an important part of parkrun and without volunteers we can’t run events.

“There are plenty of roles which can be done at most events so please check out the volunteer roster and add your name to the list. 

“I would also encourage you to download the 5k app, it gives you all your parkrun data, go onto the app store, put in 5k and download the white runner on the purple background.”

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