Barry Curtis parkrun

Barry Curtis parkrun
Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

Barry Curtis parkrun route
Barry Curtis parkrun route.

Barry seemed a problem. I looked last week, wondering if I could see to the further-away run before the more central Cornwall park. Out east, 20km or so from my hostel. No hostels or cheap Airbnbs closer. No trains, and buses couldn’t get me there for 8 (which now seems like an excellent start time). Taxi-wongatastic, and I don’t really get taxis on my own even when I’m earning. A bike, I’d need a bike.

So yesterday I had the plan of arriving in Auckland, bussing back to the hostel, dropping off stuff, back to town, bike back. But I arrived at 3, they shut at 5 – rather than faff, I ended up leaving a bag with the bike shop and cycling back with my rucksack.

From the centre to Mt Eden is about 5k, but several of those are uphill. I didn’t extend my ride.

Start sign in front of a wide path and slim, new trees
The start – run to the right.

Up in the morning, I cycled through quiet roads – even the Great South Road is quiet at 6.30 – and was at the park by 7.30. It’s a new park for a new suburb, with a town to appear. The area for the centre is marked on the map. “Future town centre”, it says. It’s a much lower-key run than many of the others; there was no one there for the run till 7.40, when the organisers came along, though a trainer had her group shuttling up and down the grass nearby, and plenty of people were walking the perimeter with intent. A car marked Auckland Council arrived, and that was the two organisers, lovely couple, who had one other helper to do disks. That’s it. With council backing things are so much easier, and they have a locker right at the start, holding signs, cones and, I think, a bike or two. Certainly the council half of the couple rode off to set the course up, and the female half rode a lead bike through the first section.

I had checked past results and knew not to expect to be up the front*. Time to really enjoy a run, cruise through in a time that just wouldn’t matter. Several people introduced themselves beforehand, drawn in by the 100 shirt, and one said to a fit looking man – “here’s the competition”. I went over to let him know he was probably safe, though he pointed out he was jet lagged after returning from Hanoi the previous day.

View over greenery and a distant hill from the top of the park
Top of the park, wide views.

We set off. No marshals needed, and the course can be laid out pretty simply in part because it’s a two lapper. For possibly the first time, I thought it a fabulous enough loop to want to do twice, though not going full out may have helped that view. Or, at least, not going out as fast as I could two months ago, which has been my mistake for a few weeks. Nice that I can still do the first mile under 6 minutes, but it hurts.

After a short, relaxed briefing, we were off. I eased into it, warm from the bike ride there but nothing else. I soon found people weren’t going away from me, only a youngster and a 50 club member ahead of me. I passed the youth and tucked in behind mr 50, as we headed round the path at the edge of the park. After a second left turn, heading back into the main part of the park, I eased past, and was to keep 1st in view from then on. The route stayed on path before hitting a pebbly trail and the 1k marker came up so quickly I couldn’t quite believe it – this the difference in running more gently. Pleasingly, it was still a 6.09 first mile; I thought I’d have to drop much more to be comfortable. There was a short, twisting grassy section, a loop round young trees – their size will mark the age of park and parkrun – and onto an undulating track, before one final twist through greenery and back up to the start. Great views over the valley from there, and I enjoyed the second lap just as much.

I still need to work on realistic pacing, as my mile splits slipped, 6.15 followed by 6.23, but jet lag kicked in on Richard up ahead, and what he gained in mile two I pulled back in mile 3, a comfortable 2nd and 10 seconds adrift.

A tarmacced path to the right and concrete/gravel one ahead, bisecting green lawns
Turn left here.

And then the chatting. I learned more about New Zealand, met several lovely people before they dashed off, and thanked the organisers several times, stressing that they ought, as a matter of justice, to have some help. They’ve each run it just the once, but it is growing nicely. Those regular walkers are an obvious target, probably needing no more than for the event to be there, rather than any direct selling, as one came up at the end to ask how to register. “Oh, I’m here every day” she said; a once a week run/walk will fit in nicely, add to the pool of potential volunteers and ensure it’s run by lots of groups.

I was last to leave as Richard, of first place fame, had jet lag chat to use and time to kill before he reunited himself with family at the airport. I cycled back in the sun, thoroughly satisfied with my morning.

Reading: The Eternal Prison, Jeff Child.

*probably I hadn’t, I realised later – my time would have put me at the front for 3 of the previous weeks, and up there from time to time outside that. I’d probably have gone the wrong way if I’d gone for it.

NZ vs India, 3rd ODI, Eden Park

3rd ODI, Eden Park
Auckland, New Zealand

Auckland, New Zealand

New Zealand vs India, and I am neutral, though usually end up finding myself rooting for one team without having realised I’d favour them. The hostel is close. I am here because I spotted the stadium on a stroll last week and realised how easy it would be to get there. With the start time at 2pm for a day/night game, I was sold, even before I found the price was $35. On the walk down to the stadium I passed the girl who literally blinked yesterday and found it was five o’clock. I stared at her, making sure that she didn’t blink. I didn’t want to miss that much of the game.

Eden Park looks empty, but the fans are making noise in the sun
Indian fans make some noise.

Frankly, I arrived a little later than I’d wanted for build up purposes, but the ticket pick up and entry were so slick that I was in my seat 15 minutes before the action started. There had been a lot of noise while I walked in to the stadium, I assumed for some warm up activity. 10 minutes later I revised that opinion. A few of the Indian players wandered on to the pitch for a photo, and the noise was immense. Check the first picture – this was one empty stadium. Immense, I tell you. Three seconds later i made a mental note – watch some cricket in India. It must have been deafening as Sachin came out into a full stadium. I was sure this match wouldn’t affect me emotionally, but that noise did it. It’s the ‘I’m really here’ factor again – I thought there wouldn’t be a sense of occasion for me, no spine tingling quiet moment of “crikey, MCG, Boxing day’, but the Indian fans created one for me.

Much fuller stadium, except the upper tiers, as the match gets underway
Filled up nicely. Not the upper tiers, but a decent crowd-capacity 50,000

They did it again. The noise built and built as the players readied themselves. The crowd cheered, clapped the bowler in, the odd whooooooo escaped… Guptill cut it nearly to the boundary, and they cheered it all the way there, too. I even waved my 4 card in celebration. New Zealand’s innings started with a flurry of runs, slowed as Ryder was out for 20, though buoyed by 16 early extras, and Guptill and Williamson dug in and gradually accelerated. Williamson made 50, Guptill 100, but once they were both out the innings stuttered, included two crazy run outs-both risking the same fielder’s arm-until some bashing from Ronchi looked likely to take them well over 300, then even getting there looked unlikely with the lower order at the crease, Southee unable to lay bat on ball. He managed it in the end, run out off the last ball with the total at 314. The kiwi crowd found their voice in the middle, but with a flurry of wickets they were drowned out by drums and dancing from Indian fans.

“Now would be a great time to grab a combo.”

They might be right, at the change of innings. But that message was also put up on screen indiscriminately, often at times when the action was most intent. It really wouldn’t, I like to think everyone was thinking.

India’s innings got off to a quick start after a quiet first over, Dhawan watching 3 balls from McClanaglenahanaeverything* before driving the fourth into the stands, with the openers proceeding in similar vein for 9 overs. After that the shackles were put on by Bennett and magic arm Anderson-a crowd favourite, he’d already been cheered to the crease when coming in at number four, watched a ball, driven the second into the stands and then got out for 8. After 15 overs, India were 75-3. Kohli’s wicket was a relief – although he’d stopped by then, a flurry of boundaries would surely have restarted the witless, loud, “Kohli, Kohlay” from just behind me.

I’d christened Anderson ‘golden arm’ when he picked up a wicket in his first over, roared on with chants of “Corey, Corey”, but he soon had 3-11, India were 79-4 and Microsoft Dhoni was at the crease. Blame The Guardian for that name – their writers suggested they couldn’t think of anything else whenever they saw ‘MS Dhoni’, and now nor can I.

Raina and Dhoni made a decent partnership, but Raina fell just short of 150, which was my marker for ‘don’t lose another before then’. Even so, they ticked along, the rate rising but not to disaster point-from over 34, 5-6 an over would get them to around 100 from victory from the final ten, and that would be the time to have a go.

I read him wrong. He took the power play in the 36th over, lofted a straight six and was then caught past square leg; magic arm, 4-29, India 184-6, 9.14/over required, game and series surely done. A few of the Indians drifted away. Bridge over troubled water played on the tannoy.

After 39, Ashwin had shown he can bat, though English people don’t need reminding, and McClenaghan had given Jadeja the opportunity to show he can put away the rubbish balls, too. 219-6, Not over yet the soundtrack. An over later and Jadeja had shown Southee that a length ball can be dismissed too. 231-6, 84 needed from 60, no one leaving now. It was apparently still a great time to go get a combo.

42 gone, 249-6, Ashwin 56 (37), Jadeja 24 (19), noise only from one lot of supporters.

44 overs, 261-6, ticking over.

45th over. McCollum has to bowl through to the end now, and has been neat and economical. Until Ashwin deposits him with a swing, into the second top tier. Indians are cheering then biting their nails behind me. A couple of singles then Ashwin launches one, is caught near the boundary and fortunately the fielder realises he is near the edge, throws the ball back up and steps back on to complete the catch. The level of fielding these days is so impressive. Blackcaps fans find their voice, their feet and a single finger each. 271-7.

46 overs gone, 276-8. The sound system suggests blaming it on the boogie. At least when compared to the moonlight we have now or the sunshine from earlier.

47 overs. McClenaghan has never seemed a threat, been expensive and been hidden, rather than saved, till the end. 284-8 after a big six from Jadeja, 42 (34) and a huge appeal for a catch off the last ball that no Blackcap expected to be turned down.

48 overs. I was wrong about McCullum, Williamson must have served up more than 2 overs of filth. Golden arm is back, and my script is working – a cheap over sees him pick up his fifth wicket. 286-9 and various enormously fat ladies are rushing to pull combo meals out of their mouths in preparation.

49. Whichever fat lady Jadeja has in sight is not ready to sing, as he smites six down the ground. Bennett misjudges a catch and he has his fifty, from 38 balls. The scoreboard is reluctant to give us numbers any more after some harum scarum cricket, but eventually we find 18 are needed from the last. 297-9.

Golden arm’s first goes for four, second is wide, the repeat a dot. So is the next, though only because Jadeja turns down a single to stay on strike. An attempted yorker is given wide. A four makes it 8 needed from 2. Ball 299 goes for six, and the place is bedlam. 2 needed, everyone on their feet.

They get 1. The golden arm isn’t entirely tarnished. A tie, and what a fight. Fabulous. I discovered I was totally neutral, happily clapping every boundary, every wicket, brought to my feet by that last six, and with no preference for an outcome from the final ball.

*McClenaghan. Not that difficult, but he’d appeared as “McC’GHAN’ when batting, so it took me a moment to work out who this Clena-something was.

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