Anderson parkrun, NZ

Anderson parkrun route
Anderson parkrun route – 2 clockwise laps, with a short additional loop at the end of lap 2.

Mention Palmerston North, and any NZ runner who has been there will say “ooh, fast!”. Anderson doesn’t get the same comments, but it is fast and flat; just that loop at the bottom, which you do at the end, might slow you a bit, because of the tight turns (and narrow paths, if you’re in traffic). More significantly, perhaps, from the top left bend round (I am not sure how far, but a few hundred metres) used to be grass. Now it is a perfect, wide, pavement all the way round, so the course has got significantly quicker, presumably that has happened since several people I’ve met actually ran it.

Anderson park, Napier – running the wrong way round the course.
Anderson park, Napier – running the wrong way round the course.

At the moment there is construction which makes for a detour onto the grass shortly between the start (green dot) and finish (shaded) points, and so it isn’t quite as quick as it might be.

Anderson park, Napier, 1km marker.
Anderson park, Napier, 1km mark.

But it is quick. I had a decent run, if a lonely one – other than Hannah racing off ahead of me, I had no one ahead, and no one all that close in behind, so I just had to motivate myself. With the sun low in the sky, green grass and trees all around it was a day to be happy just to be alive and tearing round a park as quickly as possible.

Near the start, South side of the park, a sunny day.
Near the start, South side of the park, a sunny day.

I can’t say I noticed the details during the run itself, though I’d spotted the mini railway when warming up, and the scenery (oil rig, lighthouse etc) on the mini lake while cooling down. There’s plenty to see, even if the park itself is surrounded by suburbs.

Near the start, South side of the park
Another parkrun with a mini railway nearby.
Model lighthouse, Anderson park.
Model lighthouse, Anderson park.
Model lighthouse, Anderson park.
Model lighthouse, Anderson park.

Post-run socialising is in the New World (supermarket) nearby. It wasn’t that near to where I’d parked, as I’d managed to park at the far side of the park, but it is a fairly short walk from the park carpark itself. However you get there, it has a decent variety of coffee and cake to feed the inner person.

Kapiti Coast parkrun, North Island, NZ

Kapiti Coast parkrun map.
Kapiti Coast parkrun map.

A new Saturday, and a new parkrun in New Zealand. Kapiti Coast started back in January 2015 so has run for a good while. As I spent 6 nights in Paraparaumu last time I was here, I had noticed that parkrun had started very nearby and always fancied doing it.

I rolled up at 7.45 and it was very quiet. Flags showed the thing was happening, but there were only a couple of runners by the start, a handful warming up and a couple getting out of cars. The scene below, with a line of cars appearing, didn’t occur till nearer 8am.

Cars arriving, Otaihanga domain – not much before 8am
Cars arriving, Otaihanga domain – not much before 8am.

The run itself, despite the name, starts inland and heads away from the coast. It’s pretty, though, with the Waikanae river always on one side of you and greenery aplenty. It is also fairly quick. The course is as flat as you like, with very gentle turns in the course and a 180 at the 2.5km point. It isn’t super fast, though, because of the gravel (and larger stones) underneath that mean you need to pick a path and keep your eyes open. Certainly I felt I’d worked pretty hard for a flat parkrun. The cloud-covered humidity would have contributed to that, too.

Event director imparts wisdom
Event director Andy Jenkins dispenses wisdom (and parkrun wristbands).

The post run social is right at the finish line, with a coffee car arriving just before we all set off, ready for customers at the end. I felt like I talked to half the field, helped by already knowing a number of them – I had been in touch with Mark O’Sullivan, who put me up last time I was here, and he brought the family. The whole event is super friendly, though, with a welcoming (British) run director and other runners happy to share wisdom and stories at the finish. Looking through the event photos on Facebook, I felt like I had spoken to half the people there – not impossible, with under 70 runners, but really just an indication of the open and friendly atmosphere.

Crowd gathered at the finish
Crowd gathered at the finish.

Taupo parkrun

Taupo parkrun route
Taupo parkrun route.

Taupo parkrun is a straightforward out and back, starting and finishing near a convenient car park on the shores of the lake at Two Mile Bay reserve. It undulates and turns gently, but nothing to prevent it being a quick course. More likely to inhibit your run is any wind whipping across the lake, and the fact that the path is narrow in places and has to take runners in both directions.

Neither were any problem today, aided probably by the heavy rain I woke up to around 7, which surely had a few potential runners groaning and going back to bed. The run itself, and even my jog there, were dry, but the rain started again afterwards, keeping post run chat to a minimum.

Taupo parkrun start/finish
Taupo parkrun start/finish.

It’s a gem of a run, though, and the volunteers even managed to stay cheerful as the rain fell.

I was super happy for the rain keeping numbers down, as I bagged a first place – one of the slower ones seen here, as is my wont. The Buller Gorge marathon might have swiped a few runners, too, despite being on the South Island. The course is simple enough to follow on your own, and there was a marshal to turn us around, so I didn’t get the sense, as I had at Fritton Lake, that I had headed off out front and might disappear off onto a course all of my own imagining.

Highly recommended if you can get here. The lake is a lovely spot to visit, of course, albeit better in the sunshine.

Paraparaumu to Auckland, from there to Northland

Paihia, where I am now, is a great place to chill out. Or at least, that’s what I’ve found myself doing. Before that, there was a fair amount of travelling.

From Christchurch, I moved a car to Blenheim, staying there a couple of nights, giving one lad a lift to work (and the foreman a moment of discombobulation, as my presence made the right number of people, but I was clearly too old to have a working visa) and running the parkrun. Journeying up SH1, as it is repaired post 2016 earthquake, is never dull – quicker, safe sections replaced by 30km ‘crikey, if this is how it looks now…’ parts. The road is currently shut between 8.30pm and 7am, so check conditions before moving.

Sandcastles on Paraparaumu beach.
Sandcastles on Paraparaumu beach.

I got to Paraparaumu on the Saturday evening, staying there to revisit an old haunt.

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo.

On the Sunday, I just had to shift, with the car due back at Auckland airport midday on Monday. Time to stop and look at Lake Taupo, though, with much of the distance done (in that it was only 3 hours or so from there).

Lake Taupo
Lake Taupo.

Time enough, also, to pick up a crack in the windshield, courtesy of a truck. Drat. It turned out to be just a $60NZD charge, which I took (despite having insurance – external, not via the company) as a very cheap SUV rental fee.

Sunset in Pukekawa.
Sunset in Pukekawa.

This view was from Shekinah farm, 45mins South of Auckland airport. It’s in a valley, so the views dropping away from the farm are stunning. The compost toilet put off my tall (2m) Dutch cyclist roommate, but otherwise it’s hard to fault.

5k start at O’Hagan’s, Auckland.
5k start at O’Hagan’s, Auckland.

On the Monday I dropped the car off, leaving my stuff at a hostel in Auckland first so I could run back there after the drop-off. Slightly injured (though not from that 10-mile route through Mangere, which is recommended), I opted to just visit the informal 5k at O’Hagan’s on the waterfront in Auckland. $8 to enter, and that includes a pint of Guinness at the end – so essentially, you get a 5k for -$2. For me, a chance to catch up with fellow parkrun tourists, Steve and Hannah, though Hannah and I had already caught up for a beer or two. She assures me she doesn’t drink.

Me, stirring beer ingredients at Brewer’s World, Whangarei.
Stirring beer ingredients at Brewer’s World, Whangarei.

I left Auckland on Wednesday, hopping on the Intercity bus to Whangerai. I stayed here before last time, and assumed I had booked the same hostel. But no, Bunklodge was immediately, and obviously, new. But great! I stayed 5 nights, helped by having very friendly roommates, who took me along to Brewer’s World, where the charismatic BK, in between customers, showed us how to make some home brew and showed how to live the dream. Wife, three kids, house on 4 acres, 35ft boat, lots of your own beer and a quad bike, in outline.

Whangarei Hatea loop, riverside.
Whangarei Hatea loop, riverside.

Whangerai is a pretty enough town, if you wander away from the central busy bit.

Cars parked everywhere for Waitangi Day, Waitangi beach, Paihia.
Waitangi beach, Paihia.

I have many reasons to travel, and a hankering to see new places, but I am also happy to return to almost everywhere I’ve been before. Standing on top of the list of places to go back to was Paihia, in the Bay of Islands, North of Auckland, and I finally made it there on Monday 5th, heading back to Seabeds, a lovely hostel I stayed in last time. It felt like an accomplishment, this simple thing of returning to somewhere I had a great time, and where I met Emma and Nicki.

Waitangi beach, as busy as it gets.
Waitangi beach, as busy as it gets.

I walked to these falls last time. This time around, I ran there.

Haruru falls, Paihia.
Haruru falls, Paihia.

The day before, the military boat was a large, looming presence in the bay. Today, it is dwarfed by a cruise ship.

Bay of Islands.
Bay of Islands.

Whangerai parkrun, NZ

Whangerai parkrun route
Whangarei parkrun route. Start at bottom, head SW, sharp turn to head over the bridge to the right, out and back, then up along the river’s left bank and back to the start.

To North New Zealand, for Whangarei parkrun. It’s a complicated-looking course, but isn’t so when running it. Loop round from the start to cross the big new bridge – which may open for boats, or at least so they’ll have you believe. One out and back, then back to the left side of the river for another, longer one before finishing where you started.

The day was a mixture of cloudy (during the run), rainy (for a while afterward) and then brightening into sunshine (for the coffee stop afterwards, down in the town basin. Or, ‘up’ in the town basin, as you look at the map.) It’s a scenic run, plenty to see – enough that I didn’t spot everything, like the park and sports facilities on the far side of the river, until I walked the Hatea loop on Sunday.

Riverside location, path twisting away by the water
Riverside location.

I’d been told that other tourists would be there, and as it turned out I got to talk to the Lanes, who had sported their 250 shirts last weekend at Blenheim, and Peter Thomas, who run without his at both. Along with them were Hannah and Steve, who I’d met up with in Auckland at another 5k. Between us we had over 2,000 runs completed, which was fewer than all the other runners, but not by much.

Whangerai finish funnel
Whangerai finish funnel.

The course is pretty flat, but isn’t totally so – 20m of elevation across the course, my GPS reckoned. The bridge looks a little high as you stand under it for the start, but it’s a gradual incline in both directions. The far side of the river has a gentle incline on the way back. There’s another, foot, bridge to cross in both directions on the left-hand out and back, which has a smaller gradient. But that’s it – you’ll work harder on the flat bits.

Tourists gather at the start
Tourists gather at the start – Steve, Helen, Hannah, Andy.
Post-run photo of the bridge
Post run, Hannah photographs the bridge, Andy photographs her, I get them all while Steve commentates.

It’s a run the community has taken to heart, with plenty of volunteers, all confident and comfortable in their roles – the lady photographing, for instance, is always looking for new angles and better shots. I was introduced to a run director or two (they cover a month each in turn, to give each other plenty of time off) and was happily welcomed.

Which is, I suppose, so normal at a parkrun that to some extent I took it for granted, but it’s a marvellous thing in any case.

As for the run, the 250 club members were up the front, none of us could get close to Hannah, who broke her own course record. I managed to stay within two minutes, which is something, I suppose.

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