Jim Kettlewell, Event Director of Whangarei parkrun in Northland gives us his insight into this very scenic parkrun, the northern most one in New Zealand:
I first became aware of parkrun during a visit to Noosa where I discovered that parkrun was right throughout Australia. The concept of parkrun appealed to me and on my return to New Zealand I enquired about getting one started here in Whangarei. My running club, Hatea Harriers was right behind the idea of making it happen and together with enthusiastic help from Lian and Noel we put it in place for a February 2016 start.
Our course is part of the Hatea Loop walkway which follows both sides of the Hatea River from the Town Center. We have a “U” shaped course starting and finishing under the bridge at the bottom of the “U”. The bridge provides good protection for volunteers in adverse weather.
We have two bridges on our course, both of which can open to allow the passage of boats and this has happened several times. The main bridge is called Te Matau A Pohe (the fish hook of Pohe) and is a Bascule bridge and is often the highlight for visitors when it is operating. This bridge is definitely what makes our event different as it provides a unique experience for runners and walkers, especially given that it might just open during the event.
We make all visitors to Whangarei parkrun very welcome and it is unusual not to have parkrun tourists at our event. Many come down from the Bay of Islands specifically to add Whangarei to their tally of parkruns, ours being the most northern in New Zealand. Our parkrun now has a container coffee shed, which is a recent addition to our car park and it’s great for the community to socialise after the event.
I continue to be amazed by the number of volunteers who keep putting their hand up to make our event happen. The new role of Tail Walker is our most popular task and is usually booked up weeks ahead. Volunteering is one thing that makes a parkrun such a success.
Our third birthday event last week saw a record turnout of 166 and we are averaging around 140 so far every Saturday this year. Seeing this number of people attending is a sure sign that Whangarei parkrun is having an impact on many people who have now become regular attenders. As one person said last week “parkrun is the social highlight of my week, I wouldn’t want to miss it”.
Says it all really.
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