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?
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.
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.