parkrun = Instant Friends

Joe and Emma Walsh arrived in Whangarei in August 2019. Thanks to parkrun they found instant friends. They have recently returned to the UK.
Joe shared his thoughts and experiences about parkrun with Runs With a Barcode.

“Prior to moving to New Zealand I’d dabbled at parkrun on just two occasions.

We lived in Edinburgh at the time so I had the choice of two parkruns locally: Edinburgh and Portobello.

Edinburgh parkrun goes down the promenade at Cramond beach. A flat and fast lollipop shaped route I only did this one once.

Portobello, on the other hand, was a touch closer and was three loops of a nice park called Figgate Park; but again only managed this twice.

Interestingly my final parkrun in the UK was the Market Harborough parkrun on May 25, 2019. This was the morning of my wedding day, and so I managed to drag my groomsman along for the fun. 


We arrived in Whangarei in August 2019. I’m an Emergency Department doctor and my wife Emma was working in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department. We were both working at Whangarei Hospital.

I knew there was a parkrun in Whangarei. In my head I’d thought “well the weather in New Zealand will be great, don’t really have an excuse not to be a parkrun regular now”.

Joe at his final Whangarei parkrun on December 12

We landed in New Zealand on August 13, moved to Whangarei on the 15th and then attended Whangarei parkrun on the 17th.

The first run was great.

It was a smaller parkrun than I was used to previously, which gave it a real community feel.

It was interesting to hear about the course, and its quirks such as the bridge which goes up from time to time for the boats to pass below.

One thing I also noticed was the presence of the Hatea Harriers local running club who help co-ordinate the Parkrun, and I had the chance to chat to people there about it.

My wife is certainly not a keen runner but she watched that day, then volunteered the next week, then ran the course the week after!


Being a parkrunner helped me to get rapidly integrated into the community and the local running scene.

Within a few weeks I was a regular at the Hatea Harriers and was able to make many new friends via the parkrun community.

parkrun always seems to bring people together from such a wide range of backgrounds and so there was always a new face to chat to and get to know as each week passed.

Also my first volunteer came at Whangarei parkrun which gave me a completely different perspective on how the event works.

Emma Walsh

Volunteering specifically was a great way to meet new people whilst everyone else was running the course. The nearby Christie’s coffee bar was always on hand with tea and coffee to keep us fueled. 

For anyone moving to a new town or country where there is parkrun I’d say get involved and put yourself out there!

parkrun was such a great way for my wife and I to get settled into a new community, especially when we had moved so far from home. 

We tried to fit them in whenever we travelled around New Zealand. We ran at Blenheim, Wanaka and Queenstown and each was unique and welcoming in equal measure. 


We will miss Whangarei parkrun, especially the people. I made some really great friends in the almost 18 months we lived in Whangarei, and the vast majority came from my involvement at parkrun.

The parkrun is going from strength to strength in terms of both numbers and community spirit and I’m excited to visit in the future (or maybe come back permanently) to see how things change.

One thing I won’t miss however is that previously mentioned bridge going up and down during the parkrun though!

We’d definitely recommend people make the effort to visit Whangarei parkrun if they ever come to New Zealand. One thing we’ve been telling people is how we miss being able to do parkrun each week.

Currently the UK is in a national lockdown due to worryingly high rates of coronavirus. As such parkrun is on hold nationally and may not be back for many many more months to come, which is a real shame.

It’s been lovely to keep an eye out for the run reports and excellent photos taken each week at Whangarei, so in a small way it feels like I can still be involved.”

One reply on “parkrun = Instant Friends”

It was a privilege to meet Joe and Emma, and get to know Joe while they were here. They’re a wonderful couple, are already missed, we hope to see them back someday. Thanks Park Run

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