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In My Own Words: Gary Holford

In this feature we hear from Gary Holford, A380651, a UK parkrunner. Gary is on the New Zealand most events table with 24 events run.

Back in 2016 we started planning our trip of a lifetime to New Zealand.

Having worked for nearly 40 years without more than a three week holiday, my wife and I finally had time for an extended trip to the other side of the world.

I had found parkrun UK back in 2012 and become addicted, therefore it made sense to me, to plan our tour around parkrun locations every Saturday morning.

At the time there were 11 parkruns [in New Zealand] and we would be visiting for about eight weeks, so quite a good fit to see both islands and take in the lion’s share of parkrun venues.

parkrun #1

We arrived in Auckland in January 2017 on a Friday lunchtime, giving us time to get over the jet lag and plan our bus route to Western Springs for early Saturday 8am, not 9 a la UK!

The friendly bus service delivered us to the parkrun set-up team and slightly surprisingly about half a dozen other UK tourists. You just can’t get away from them!

First NZ parkrun done, all very friendly, nice cafe, interesting chat and an early glimpse of the cheetahs’ morning exercise at the zoo.

parkrun #2

Next up was Hamilton Lake, having spent a brilliant week north of Auckland, all the way to Cape Reinga, absolutely beautiful.

I remember it being quite a busy parkrun, not unlike the crowded events in the UK. (I’ve just checked, it was almost 200) Again more UK tourists…

Cafe Fresca was very nice, brownies with yogurt was excellent, once we sussed the accent!

Our second week started on the Coromandel Peninsula with amazing views and beaches. By the weekend we had taken in the Rotorua attractions, including a familiarising freedom Puarenga parkrun.

parkrun #3

On Saturday morning I joined 46 other parkrunners to officially run Puarenga, one of the most unusual and interesting trail runs you are likely to come across.

At the time it felt like running on a different planet, steam rising from everywhere, I was very conscience of staying on the path.

parkrun #4

The following week took in freedom parkruns at Taupo and Anderson (visiting part of the Art Deco festival) before heading to Kapiti Coast parkrun for the out and back run with 54 other like minded runners. Loving the small groups and interesting stories of other people.

A couple of days in Wellington gave me the opportunity to freedom run both Porirua and Lower Hutt. Hilly and windy.

Crossing to the South Island for our stay in Nelson and the Abel Tasman National Park meant an early start on Saturday morning.

parkrun #5

I think we set off about 6am to get back to Blenheim parkrun, well worth it for the intimate friendly event. Another out and back organised by a highly efficient team of three volunteers for 33 parkrunners.

All back to the Watery Mouth Cafe for coffee and cake, brilliant.

It would now be two whole weeks before my next parkrun. I can do this, I’m not obsessed!

Hokitika, Franz Josef Glacier, Wanaka, Queenstown, Te Anau and Milford Sound was a wonderful road trip, but at the time no parkruns.

The Otago Peninsula was our next home for a few days, watching test cricket at the University Oval and spending time on, what would become, some of our favourite beaches.

parkrun #6

Dunedin parkrun was my final and slowest run on our trip. Don’t be fooled by the flat start in the botanical gardens. Watch out for the steps of despair, twice!

As with most NZ parkruns there’s excellent refreshment and company at the Croque-O-Dile in the Garden cafe.

Our last few days were spent in a re-emerging Christchurch with freedom parkruns at Hagley and Pegasus.

So sad to leave with only 6 of the, by now, 16 New Zealand parkruns done.

Alison: Gary has returned a couple more times so hopefully we’ll get to hear more of his adventures.

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