Dunedin parkrun

Dunedin parkrun
Dunedin, New Zealand



Dunedin parkrun route
Dunedin parkrun route.

Number six! Set completed! No one else has finished the six NZ parkruns today, so I’m the fourth to do it, first from overseas.*

It was hard work, mind. I’d been warned. It is flat to start with, then there’s a hill to go up twice. Two laps of the lower part of the Botanic gardens make up the flat bit, then cross a bridge and two-larger-laps of the upper part. That second section starts with a couple of short uphill drags, and I wondered if that was it for the hill. Having walked round the gardens the evening before I knew there was more of a climb above me, but maybe from here it was a flat loop round the hill?

Running down a slope on a gravel path, yellow, green and orange growth to the left, bank of green and lilac to the right
Down the slope. Come down here twice. The second time you head over the bridge to the finish.

No. No, it wasn’t. Instead, a left turn before some swings-beware running out of the park if you miss it-took us onto a shallow section and then on and up some broad steps for a lung busting climb to the top. It would have been lung busting had I run it hard, at least-the second time round, only sheer bloody mindedness kept me running the whole thing at all. Once at the top there’s a short flat section, one more plodding climb during an out-and-back section and then a swooping descent. Lovely, but of course run in the full knowledge that every metre you’re dropping on the first loop round this part is a metre you’ll be climbing up again. The final descent is particularly steep, one to practise so that the legs go; the less braking you can do, the better (unless it leads to a fall, of course).

Watching people warm up, I could see there were some handy looking runners up ahead, so I wasn’t too surprised to be 7th. Still, this was event 7, I’m the 15th fastest overall, 7th on the day, so that shows how many quicker bods showed up on the day. First man and lady both set course records-she was just behind me, nearly caught me on the first up, did on the second but opted not to pass, mindful either that I’d so far been the quicker over downhill sections, or that chasing me had pulled her to a big pb so she didn’t need to push harder. I was grateful. 20:51, 2 minutes slower than Lower Hutt two weeks ago. I’ve another go next weekend to see if I can improve with different pacing but still, that is one tough run. First Lady was 20:53, man 17:49-talking to the bloke just ahead of me, the leader is a 15:xx runner elsewhere, which would figure.

I chatted to the event director. I’d been told she was lovely and sure enough she is; a doctor, so interested in the public health side of parkrun, and she’s already learned the names of pretty much anyone who has run there before. She also knew to look out for me – “I was warned about you” – because Leanne had mentioned I was on my travels. Great. And Leanne was the one event director I didn’t even meet, shyness kicking in at the end of the Cornwall parkrun.

I had to get back and check out, so jogged the couple of miles back to the hostel without chatting more, but I wasn’t too worried because of that extra go at this one. The most events table for New Zealand is most pleasing – I sit fourth of the completists on goal difference, not having run an inaugural in NZ, and having run only 6 parkruns here. Job done, till someone starts a new one here and I have to come back. Though in an ideal world I’ll be coming back here in any case.

Kaikoura. River in the foreground, mountains behind
From Kaikoura, 17th Feb.

Reading: Carl Hiaasen, Sick Puppy.

*spoke too soon! Number five was at Barry Curtis today. Five of us. The more that do it, the more it is publicised and the more will join us, I’m sure.

You’ve Dun my Edin with this museum

You’ve Dun my Edin with this museum
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin, New Zealand

Pacific islands exhibition
Pacific islands exhibition.

Perhaps punning is the lowest form of wit.

After a long bus ride, I was in Dunedin by early afternoon. Wandering in town I spotted ads for a festival, coinciding with the start of term for Otago university, which explained why so many backpacker hostels had said no (on the BBH site you can’t see which have rooms available, just submit a request to a group and see which says yes). Those further away from the university were okay, though, and although it’s a bit ramshackle, the Stafford Gables is a charming old building.

Botanical Gardens, masses of trees and a well-tended lawn
Looking down at the Botanic gardens. I’m running up this hill tomorrow. Twice.

Not that I spent long there. I dumped my bags and was up and out, to see the city and find parkrun’s start ready for the morning. The city was all a-bustle. It is known for its Scottish influence – even having its own tartan – and the railway station is a contender for ‘most photographed building in NZ’. It is a lovely Edwardian structure, probably over large for the traffic going through, judging by the scarcity of rail services here, though there are a couple of scenic routes from Dunedin. The octagon, in the centre, is the public transport hub and a place where tourists come to stand. In the way, mostly.

Once through, I was making good progress to the Botanic gardens when it occurred to me that it would be light till after 8, but the museum wouldn’t be open for much longer, so I diverted. Otago museum is a grand building, just to the north of the centre and set on several floors, with exhibitions on nature, maritime, people and a special on Dunedin’s Scottish links. I was pleased that the video at one end had a Scotsman talking in vaguely positive terms about independence – the London based media seems to be so full of the idea that breaking off is an outrage, and anyway why would they, and, and, bah, England would immediately cut them adrift out of spite – the only way to explain the more hysterical/’comic’ reactions to the idea of Scotland having its own EU membership, defence and finance. It’s good to get the other side, in this case along the lines of “it’d be nice for Scotland not to raise the money and have the English spend it”, which idea would surprise the brainwashed English right now, but seems to be broadly true.

Large skeleton of a Fin Whale in a museum
Fin Whale. Just a juvenile

Though this was my final stop, not my first. I found myself on the first floor and wandered into the pacific islands’ exhibition. Staggering. A phenomenal collection of artefacts, arranged by island with maps to show just how far apart these places are. I’m not sure why the galleries impressed me so much, but I wandered in a kind of daze; possibly I’m so used to the ‘new world’ having little history to show a European, yet here was an ancient culture – and one revealed without the usual ‘and the spirit fathers said’ cover story, or at least not overplayed. There’s a slide show and explanatory diagram from a recent archaeological dig; a few of the slides show the team’s tiredness from working in 30 degree heat, which makes the photo of a local holding up a find whilst wearing a woolly hat a standout. I go to a lot of museums, and they’re always interesting, but can’t remember the last time I was so impressed.

I found the botanic gardens, and the start for the next day. The course seems as clear as mud from the diagram, so I couldn’t check that, but I climbed the hills in the park and confirmed to myself that yes, Mark hadn’t been kidding when he said there was a short sharp hill to climb, even though I wasn’t sure which route we’d be taking.

Stone statues from Pitcairn Island
Pitcairn Island. Rudely shoved off when the mutineers landed

Walking back I took a back road, which seemed populated entirely by students. Probably not so, but anyone else was keeping their head down. And installing triple glazing. At every tenth house or so, a group of youngsters was gathered outside, shooting the breeze on whatever chairs they could find and searching for 11 on their stereo’s volume knob. I liked it, the atmosphere was, well, banging. I’d patronise their musical choices, but I’m not well enough informed to know whether they were old school or not. It wasn’t quite Radio 6’s latest, but neither was it the Spice Girls’ original-the latter treat was saved for my evening in Cromwell, played without irony, so far as it is possible to tell, from an open window. Many of the houses were named; this, perhaps, is how you spot the student ones, helpful in digging out a party late at night. The Fridgette was at the end, and I grabbed a cold beer as I swept past.

I didn’t really. Otago University campus was at the end of the street. Along with museums, I’m a sucker for a campus. It seemed a charming one, despite construction work on the main thoroughfare right through the middle, which spoils pictures. It all made Dunedin another candidate for ‘where I’d live in New Zealand’. I cracked out the laptop and used the eduroam network, more because I could than anything else. The hostel has free wifi, and it’s actually effective. Eduroam was quick, too, so Dunedin is perhaps ahead of the game in getting fibre broadband.

Charming city. I’ve saved the sporting experiences exhibition (at the railway station – I knew it was too big just to be for trains and passengers) and steepest residential street for next week’s visit.

Otago museum showing some of its storerooms
Some of the collection not normally on show.

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