Lower Hutt, New Zealand
For me, parkrun number 139. My fourth in New Zealand and the home run of Richard McChesney, who I met at Portrush parkrun in Northern Ireland, much nearer the beginning of my time off.
Richard is responsible for my having accommodation with parkrunners here, having put me in touch with Rob in Hamilton and now Mark, just down the road from Lower Hutt. We aimed to leave at 20 to 8, to give us time to get whichever of his children were running into the car by 5 to, which was when we really needed to go. In the end it was just the two of us – the weather had been foul through the early morning, drumming off the roof of the luxury suite in which I had been put up.
The run is along the river, which gives locals over 60km of trail and path along which to run or cycle. For parkrun we just use 2.5km out and then back, towards Wellington from the suburb. The route is on tarmac, barring a couple of hundred metres on grass at the turn and finish, so it’s a quick course. Not the very quickest, though, thanks to a few small rises and falls as the path moves from riverside to embankment and back again. Slightly more descent than climb, if anything, but just enough to add a few seconds to your time. I hadn’t counted the ups and downs and expected one more climb before the end, which never came, and was running without a Garmin so thought I reached 4k way before it actually popped up. I only realised I was at 4k because at that point I finally spotted the km marker, painted onto the path. I’m sure other markers are in place, too – I’m claiming to have been looking at the scenery.
I was also probably working too hard. I didn’t know what to expect, and was caught napping at the start. Richard had introduced me to the crowd – another group wondering at the level of dedication that can take someone to well over 100 different parkruns – and one of them introduced himself and congratulated me just as ‘go’ was called.
No matter, I worked my way through and was on the heels of the lad in 5th from 2km and through the turn. At that point I briefly headed him, but he dug in and took it on. All of which effort meant I was working hard and with the first lady somewhere near behind – she had come with me when I passed after 1km or so – I had enough motivation to push on even without knowing how I was doing.
One last push along the grass, grateful for not having to climb again, and I had finished another and could cool down while my host Mark finished his 50th parkrun behind me. It’s a real shame no one (yet) sponsors New Zealand parkrunners to a 50 club t shirt, but the achievement is still celebrated. The man in second also joined the club today.
The cafe is just over the road from the finish and there I realised that I had met Paul, at that point the only person to have run all six NZ parkruns. Mark’s brother was just completing his sixth that day, though, and I now know several of the people on 4 or 5. There will be a number of completists before the 7th run is started up, perhaps by Kieran in Napier (editor’s note – it was not).
First place was long gone, finishing in a shade over 17minutes, and with the gap so big I figured I might have run 19:xx, steeling myself for that xx to start with a 1 rather than a 0. But in fact I had made it to an 18:49, a second quicker than in the week and very satisfying. Add that to all the people I met and Mark’s fabulous hospitality and energetic four kids keeping me on my toes and I can safely say Lower Hutt was a happy place for me.
Results from Lower Hutt parkrun, event 95, 8/2/14.