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Jacques Poot: See the country with parkrun

On January 15 this year I met Alison King during the usual coffee at Jack’s at my home parkrun, the lovely grounds of the University of Waikato.

She brought along some copies of her book Unofficial parkrun Guide NEW ZEALAND.

It is an interesting compendium of all 33 parkruns in New Zealand in 2021. 

Since then, another seven have been added, so a second edition is undoubtedly on its way.

Anyway, I made it my New Year’s resolution to do several parkruns around New Zealand this year, with the book as my guide.

Waikato parkrun stalwarts Lex Chalmers and Lynda Brahne introduced me to Hamilton Lake parkrun in 2014, but for various reasons I did not manage to participate in parkrun regularly until the restart after the COVID lockdown.

I have now also started volunteering and parkrun has become my regular Saturday morning activity.

With 80 parkruns in total, and volunteering on 16 occasions, I am now on my way to reach the 100 parkruns and 25 times volunteering milestones sometime next year.

So far I have been at nine parkrun locations in New Zealand (University of Waikato, Hamilton Lake, Cambridge, Tauranga, Lower Hutt, Pegasus, Palmerston North, Millwater and Whangarei).

I have also done some parkruns abroad.

Having all our three children working and living in London, my wife and I spend a fair bit of time in the UK. This has provided a great opportunity to run a few in London (Southwark and Mile End) and one in Scotland (Torvean in Inverness) while vacationing there. 

Being Dutch, it has also been nice to have been able to run twice this year in the Netherlands at Sonsbeek (Arnhem).

parkruns are mostly organised the same everywhere but starting times can vary. For example in the southern half of the South Island they start at 9am in winter instead of 8am, while in Scotland they start at 9.30am all year round.

One thing that stands out wherever you do a parkrun is the amazingly friendly atmosphere.

Visitors are always made to feel really welcome.

The encouragement from the volunteers along the way is also much appreciated.

Running in the 65-69 age group, I am not aiming for ever better PBs but run for fun with mostly ‘pass’ (50% or more) age grades.

It will take me probably several years to do all parkruns in Aotearoa at least once. And, as Run Director Wendy Watts said after my parkrun in Palmerston North, it’s a moving target with new parkruns being added all the time.

After I have done a parkrun for the first time, I now ask the Run Director to sign and date the first page on that parkrun in Alison’s book – that makes the book a very nice non-digital record of where and when I have done parkrun.

So what will be the strategy to try to sample as many parkruns as possible? 

From the Waikato it should be possible to do the Auckland ones and Puarenga (Rotorua) with early road trips on Saturdays.

The others will require some cleverly organised two-week vacations that have an itinerary with parkruns at three locations on three successive Saturdays.

The alternative is a bunch of getaway weekends. My wife doesn’t do parkrun but has not objected to my goal of doing various parkruns around the country – she enjoys the getaways.

parkrun has become a very enjoyable part of my life.

For  those starting out on this journey, I can strongly recommend it. It helps you staying fit and you meet some very nice people along the way.

November 5, 2022: Celebrating 2nd anniversary of parkrun at the University of Waikato (theme: “goldilocks and the three bears”)

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