Auckland, New Zealand
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.
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.
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.
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.