Run Report

Dunedin parkrun recap

I’d heard so much about Dunedin parkrun and how tough it was that I didn’t quite believe it.

I knew about the two laps of the lower gardens and two laps of the upper gardens. And I knew about the stairs of despair.

Maybe it’s because I live on a hill and run on hills that any mention of a hill doesn’t scare me as much as it used to?

Either way, I can report back to say that yes, it was harder than I expected.
Dunedin parkrun was the first parkrun on the South Island, it started in January 2014.

It was my final South Island parkrun to complete the region. I think they would agree that I saved the most memorable for last.

Getting There

It was memorable before I even arrived in the Dunedin Botanic Gardens. I was due to arrive at 10.15am on the Friday, but due to fog in Rotorua I was grounded until after 11am.

That put paid to my sightseeing plans but I did get to lunch with Liz Neill in Wellington beside the Ataturk Memorial.

I finally arrived into Dunedin Airport at 4.30pm, picked up a hire care and drove the 26km into Dunedin.

I’d planned to visit the botanic gardens that day so as to familiarise myself, but instead I checked into the motel, walked down the street for pizza and settled in for the night.


On parkrunday I was awake early, not that I needed to with it being a 9am start.

Dunedin parkrun is unique in that it’s currently the only parkrun in New Zealand to not allow dogs.

Wheelchair and buggy pushers are also recommended they contact the event team beforehand to discuss the course suitability.

When I arrived I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, even though I followed the directions in my book!

It turned out that I was just super early and the first volunteers appeared around 8.30am.

It was great to chat with regulars, including Gail and David Sharp, who I met at the University of Waikato parkrun when they were running their U.

The run brief is below the café, and there’s an undercover area where you can leave clothing, but don’t leave them on plants as they may eat them, according to the run director of the day.

After a run brief we assembled on the footpath ready to go. I’d already stripped off my thermal as it was warm enough for me to run in short-sleeves.

The run itself

I forgot about my gloves though and spent the first 10 minutes wishing I had them on.

The run goes through the lower part of the gardens, twice, then over the bridge, turn right and two laps of the upper part.

There’s something about running through gardens in winter that makes you want to return in spring and summer. You can almost sense how fragrant and colourful they become.

The first two laps were nice and easy, but a nice way to warm up for the main event! After the bridge the path was still somewhat gentle with a few rolling undulations as we ran beside the Water of Leith.

I used to run beside the Water of Leith most weeks when I lived in Edinburgh (before parkrun) and running beside it here brought back happy memories.

You almost reach the other entrance to the gardens, but instead of carrying on to the street you take a left turn and start to climb.

If you’re used to technical trail running then this won’t be a challenge for you, but for someone who mostly runs the streets of suburban Rotorua it reminded me of what I’d got out of the habit of doing.


Any thought of running was quickly replaced with one of relentless forward momentum. It’s a bit of a climb, that’s for sure.

The stairs aren’t what I was expecting. I guess I was thinking of something more urban, rather than trail.

Compared to the ones on the forest tracks near my home they were far tamer, it was the elevation that made them challenging.

When you reach the top of the trail you can see a vista of the city. Don’t stop for too long if you are gunning for a time (ha! I was just aiming to finish!).

You start to run down, then before you do it all again there’s the small matter of an out and back. Up a hill just as steep. Oh well, one more part of the run to feel smug about.

After the turnaround it’s all downhill to the bridge. There you use your downhill momentum to keep yourself going for another lap of the same.

It was great to reach that turnaround the second time as it was all downhill from there. Somehow I found the legs to finish feeling quite strong.

A 40:53 parkrun is far from my fastest, but owing to the difficulty and photo stops (which accounted for about a minute themselves) I am pretty proud of that.

The finish is on the same straight as the start. The view from the top of the finish was pretty cool.

You don’t have to travel far to the café, it overlooks the run brief area. I enjoyed a flat white and cheese and red onion scone.

Verdict? The airport said it for me.

I’d love to come back, once I’ve done some hill training that is!

One reply on “Dunedin parkrun recap”

So enjoyed reading this – we loved our trip to do the Dunedin Parkrun!
Your photos are super and give people a good idea of the challenges AND the views that reward you from the top ????

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