My path to Countryman Club

Or how I travelled around New Zealand 5km at a time.

A few years ago, while living in the UK and preparing to return to New Zealand, I thought it would be awesome to run all the parkruns in the country.

That was December 2017. On August 7 I became the 20th person to have run all 34 of the current New Zealand parkruns.

It’s been a journey.

In this blog I’m going to share the whys and hows as well as some of the things I learned along the way.

At the bottom of the South Island, January 2021


In January 2016 I ran my first parkrun at Barry Curtis parkrun with my friend Carin and Jim and their children Freya and Jake.

After running at Barry Curtis I decided I would be the one to bring parkrun to Rotorua and on June 25th, 2016 we launched.

Two weeks later I was on a plane to the UK as my dad had died. I ran my second and third parkruns at Stratford-upon-Avon.

On returning from that trip my husband and I decided we would spend a year in the UK where I got bitten by the parkrun tourism bug.

As we planned our return I decided it would be a cool challenge to run all the events in New Zealand. By then I was on three, having run at Cornwall Park and Puarenga before we left.

At this stage there were 18 parkruns in New Zealand. I thought running the other 15 would be challenging, but not out of reach. How I can look back and laugh now.

In 2018 nine new events started, taking parkrun New Zealand to 27. The growth slowed over the following years and we now we have 34.


I got off to a good start. We arrived back in Auckland on New Year’s Eve 2017 and on New Year’s Day I went to Western Springs parkrun. Looking back now I wish we had done the double as it would have saved a trip!


In 2018 I ran mostly at Puarenga. I didn’t have a steady income and air travel was prohibitive, especially when also needing to book accommodation.

I visited Taupo on Ironman day (watched the swim start first) and Hamilton Lake that same month. At this run I ran with British legend Dave Moorcroft.

With Dave and Linda Moorcroft at Hamilton Lake parkrun

On April 28 I ran at the Tauranga parkrun inaugural and in September I visited Whangarei – I was staying in Warkworth and decided that a 100km drive was acceptable.

In October I visited Cambridge NZ parkrun. I’d been at an event in Auckland on the Friday and decided to set off early Saturday morning and take in a parkrun en-route and get home at a semi-reasonable hour.

End of 2018: 9 events out of 27.

New runs: Invercargill, Wanaka, Tauranga, Balclutha, Gisborne, Queenstown, East End, Foster, Greytown Woodside Trail.


In 2019 I took part in a four-month business development programme where I could get reimbursed for travel.

With my friend Michelle at Hagley parkrun

Through this I managed to run at Millwater, Hagley, Palmerston North, Lower Hutt and the newly launched Hobsonville Point (I went to event 2).

At a foggy Hobsonville Point

In 2019 I also ran at Flaxmere on event 3. I’d learned of the Wilson Index earlier in 2019 so I was trying to fill some of the early gaps.

I travelled back to the UK for Christmas and New Year and managed to run at seven new events.

End of 2019: 15 events out of 29
New runs: Hobsonville Point, Flaxmere


Between arriving back in mid-January and parkrun going on pause in March 2020, I ran at Gisborne parkrun on Leap Day and Anderson parkrun the week after.

I had the idea to write my book in early January so was even more keen to get to all events, but I still had 12 to go and most of those were on the South Island.

I consider myself a Covid success story. At the end of 2019 I decided to study to become a high school teacher.

However my university couldn’t provide me with the necessary paperwork to prove what I had studied and so I was unable to go down that path.

At the same time I was contacted to see if I would be available for communications contracting. I said yes and started work as a contractor for Lakes DHB in March.

I’ll be honest and say my income prior to that was enough to live on but didn’t extend to luxuries such as weekends away purely to run parkrun.

The overnight trips I had been on prior mostly consisted of sleeping in spare rooms, or, if the family came along, the cheapest motel rooms.

The unpause

So by the time parkruns came back I had booked a number of flights for trips to the South Island. Air New Zealand were offering free cancellations and credits so you could book flights without fear of losing your money.

In July I visited East End parkrun in New Plymouth. I took along my husband and son and we made a weekend of it.

We found a reasonably priced hotel at $99 a night, it had a fridge and toaster (no microwave) and a swimming pool.

In August I flew to Wellington and stayed with Paul and Julia Gordon and celebrated my 50th different event at Greytown Woodside Trail parkrun.

WithJulia at Greytown Woodside Trail parkrun

Then we had another pause and I had to wait until the restart before I could visit Whanganui Riverbank parkrun. I drove down and stayed one night. I would like to return as a family and explore more.

In October I visited Owairaka parkrun for its inaugural, and in November University of Waikato started, so I went there too. I was keeping up with the new events but not catching up on the older ones.

In December I made two trips to the South Island and ran at Queenstown parkrun and Foster parkrun. The Foster trip was with my son. We hired a car and went searching for the Pop-Up Penguins.

Queenstown parkrun

End of 2020: 24/32

New runs: Whanganui Riverbank, Owairaka, University of Waikato


For New Year I’d got a leave pass to visit the South Island for four days. This meant I could squeeze in Balclutha parkrun on New Year’s Day and Invercargill parkrun on January 2.

To try to save myself some money I’d booked myself a room at a backpackers. As soon as I arrived I knew I’d made a mistake.

I stayed the one night but in the meantime made a booking for the Ibis for the rest of the trip.

The Ibis was luxury in comparison – my own bathroom, a comfortable bed and a TV made the wet weekend a lot more bearable!

A week later I was back on the South Island, this time with my son.

With Robyn Richards at Blenheim parkrun.

We flew into Christchurch, hired a car and headed for Blenheim parkrun via Kaikoura. It was cheaper to do this than to fly Rotorua to Blenheim.

In March I ran at Porirua parkrun, the day before the Longest Day bus trip.

I would have also run at Trentham Memorial earlier in March but for the one week pause, I had to cancel that flight and rebook using my credit.

Getting Closer

In April I drove Axel and myself down to Otaki where we stayed with the O’Sullivans and joined them at Kapiti Coast parkrun. It was a long drive but an opportunity to see the changing landscape.

In May I flew back to the South Island for visits to Pegasus parkrun near Christchurch (stayed with a friend) and Wanaka (hired a car and stayed at the Edgewater Resort).

Pegasus parkrun

July was bookended by travel. On July 3 I finally got to Trentham Memorial, staying with Stu and Heather Leslie and enjoying their hospitality.

I’d booked the flights before Sherwood Reserve announced their start date, otherwise I probably would have run there.

At the end of July I was in Dunedin to run my final South island run of the current events.

And so to August and Sherwood Reserve. I drove up on the Friday afternoon and stayed with my parkrun friend Claire.

August 7: 34/34

New runs: Trentham Memorial, Sherwood Reserve

Travel Tips

Book motels with free cancellation, just in case plans change (hello Covid!)

Book car hire as soon as you book your flights so you have a greater selection. I mostly used RAD Car Hire and would recommend them.

I use Booking.com and because I’ve used them several times I qualify for more discounts. They also do free cancellation.

Tell people your plans; you may end up with a host, or at the very least suggestions of where to stay and what to do.

Be prepared to have your plans change. Flights get delayed, traffic holds us up, and as we’ve seen these past 18 months, parkruns get cancelled at short notice.

Know where you’re going. If you have time, scout the parkrun location the night before so you know exactly where to go.

Don’t forget your barcode. Make sure you have one in carry-on luggage and an extra for in your wallet.

Cue up podcasts for long drives and plan where to refuel/stretch your legs. Give yourself extra time for unscheduled stops to take photos or explore.

And finally, soak up the landscape, New Zealand is a stunning country with so many different features.

Elevated seabed at Kaikoura

4 replies on “My path to Countryman Club”

Thank you Margaret. Next goals are keeping up with new parkruns as they appear and working on P index (but likely staying home a lot more!).

Congratulations Alison, great to share #34 with you. Definitely good advice to try to take in more than just the parkrun when visiting other locations, so many wonderful things to explore in NZ! Good advice too to remain as flexible as possible, I think we’ve all learnt that over the last 16 months or so!

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