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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