Allan Hartley – The Man Behind the NZHL Deal

If it weren’t for Allan Hartley’s running mate getting injured, we might never have got so many other parkruns in New Zealand.

Back in 2012 Allan was the New Zealand Home Loans Lower Hutt franchise owner.

“I’d started running a bit of fitness about a year before the first parkrun. I did have a running buddy who had a sore ankle so I was trying to run by myself and there was no real motivation behind it.”

Then in April 2012 he saw an article in the Hutt News, there was to be a free 5km launching in Lower Hutt the following week.

“I thought it was bloody awesome and that NZHL needed to be involved. I ended up putting Richard (Lower Hutt event director at the time) in touch with our marketing manager and CEO at the time.

“Then one thing led to another when [founder] Paul Sinton-Hewitt came out. I met with him and made sure the other two met with him when he went to Auckland. Then I got out of the way.”

As a result NZHL formed a partnership that spanned seven years.

Allan has run a large number of his parkruns with his sons, here he’s with Hayden.

The initial deal involved covering the costs of up to four new parkruns a year. In the early days they also provided the 50 and 100 miestone shirts.

Three parkruns were started as a result of the NZHL sponsorship with Hamilton, Millwater and Blenheim all having a franchise owner involved from the get-go.

“I wasn’t surprised that the sponsorship happened. It was just a good grassroots thing to be involved with. NZHL were looking to sponsor something across New Zealand, they like to sponsor things that its people were involved in.”

Allan has ticked off 13 of New Zealand’s events, he had plans to visit several this year until the pause derailed that.

He’s run at 264 parkruns, with 235 at Lower Hutt.

Celebrating a double miestone.

So what was it about that first event that’s kept him coming back?

“I liked the fact there was a whole bunch of other people; that I wasn’t doing it alone.

“When it came along I thought it was motivating. Looking back it changed my whole weekend.

“I’d beaver away all week with work, then get to Saturday and blob out and do not a lot. But when you had to get up and go for a run at 8, it turned into ‘what can I do next’.

“My wife noticed a change to our whole weekend, I’d get more done. I loved it for them.”

Allan is now a sales manager with Quinovic, he sold his NZHL franchise at the end of 2018.

He’s now working on getting funding for a new Upper Hutt parkrun, so keep an eye out for news of that launch.

As lead bike volunteer, except on rollerblade – his mum ran with the buggy this day!

With Us Now – Nicola Forwood

With a four-year-old as a travel companion, Nicola Forwood added New Zealand to her parkrun country tally with a trip in 2017.

She’s probably best known in the parkrun world for being one half of the With Me Now podcast, a weekly unofficial parkrun tourism show, and previously co-presented the parkrun show.

Nicola is a member of the 500 club and has run at 144 different parkrun events in seven countries.

Nicola at her 500th parkrun. Poppy now has her 100 shirt.

In 2017 she visited New Zealand, taking in Cornwall parkrun and Blenheim with her daughter Poppy.

They have family in New Zealand, with Poppy’s uncle living in Auckland, but they only had two parkrundays in the country before flying on to Australia, a trip that resulted in Poppy achieving her J10 milestone with runs in four countries.

She picked Cornwall park after checking the volunteer roster. Jeff Parkinson was on the roster and as an expat Yorkshireman from the same running club – Hyde Park Harriers – she couldn’t pick a different event.

Jeff Parkinson is a long-time volunteer and runner at Cornwall parkrun.

“We met up with family as well, they don’t really do parkrun but Poppy hadn’t seen her grandparents for a long time.

“Four of her family members happened to be visiting so we met up with them all and afterwards we went to the cafe and had a catch up over a lamington. They did a great smoothie too.”

A post-parkrun smoothie and lamington.

She said Jeff then took her and Poppy to the beach to look out to Rangitoto Island and were kindly invited to Geoff’s home in the evening for a barbecue dinner.

The following weekend they were at Blenheim.

“The parkruns couldn’t have been more different!

Poppy at Blenheim parkrun, she and Nicola achieved their highest finishes.

“We were trying to decide between a parkrun in Wellington and Blenheim but travel arrangements meant Blenheim fitted into the trip much better. It was so different to Cornwall park.

“Cornwall felt like a UK parkrun, I couldn’t tell if it was because of Jeff with his Yorkshire accent or not, but in terms of set-up, number of participants and when people arrived, it felt like a UK parkrun.”

Poppy at Cornwall parkrun

“In contrast Blenheim felt like parkrun-light. We turned up by the start and finish area and there was no one there.

“It’s a small place, and our travel operator said there weren’t many places to stay in town, we needed a car really because it was really expensive in a taxi from where we stayed and the driver had no idea what parkrun was.

“We turned up half an hour early, there was no one about, not a soul. You know when you start to think you’re definitely in the wrong place, there’s no signs and not one person.

“By 7.45 I was a bit panicky, but then one or two runners showed up and then at five to the run director turned up, got the signs out and did a short briefing.”

One highlight was Nicola and Poppy’s highest parkrun finish due to the small field – 34 in all and they loved the beautiful out and back by the river.

Blenheim parkrun

So what tips would Nicola have for parkrun tourists, wherever they are travelling?

“Always contact the event teams. I don’t think I did for this trip, we had to replan things at the last minute because of the Kaikoura earthquake.

“I think people are worried to contact event teams and don’t want to cause any hassle but they’re excited to hear about visitors.

“Do your homework and speak to the people who know.

“The best thing as a tourist is we have this wonderful opportunity to spend time with the people from the local community who know everything about where you are. It’s invaluable.

“Speaking to people and them telling you where to go and what to do, there are loads of hidden spots.”

She said this paid off in Singapore, where Poppy achieved her J10 milestone.

“The community gave us some really amazing suggestions of where to go and what to do and as a result we had an incredible time.”

Another New Zealand trip is on the cards when the climate permits, this time there will be more parkruns to choose from.