Launching a new event on the first weekend parkrun resumed was a special thrill for new Whanganui parkrun Event Director Judy Mellsop. Having discovered parkrun on her travels, Judy was motivated to bring parkrun to her own community.
Walking around Western Springs Park in Auckland catching glimpses of my younger son running was my first experience of parkrun. Soon after we were visiting Rotorua so I joined him at Puarenga Park to walk my first event and before I knew it was doing a parkrun any weekend we were out of town getting ideas for establishing an event here.
I’m very unsporty and have never been involved with competitive team sport but have walked for exercise, sightseeing and to get around most of my life.
I could see parkrun would be a great way to get locals with a wide range of ages and abilities out exercising in my community without necessarily being competitive. So, without too much thought and with no idea of the hiccups and hurdles I’d encounter I clicked the ‘start a new parkrun’ button on the parkrun website.
After many setbacks, our launch date was set a year after that initial inquiry. Then New Zealand went into lockdown delaying our inaugural event by another 3 months.
As hard as I tried I couldn’t get my first two route choices to work due to road crossings and the need for a straightforward course. We finally settled on a course along the banks of New Zealands’s longest navigable river.
Legal personhood was granted to the river in 2017. It has special cultural importance to the Maori people and was a major transport route for early Europeans.
The course heads upstream where semi-rural views across to the eastern side of the awa soon give way to Putiki Marae followed by historic hillside homes and the towers above the Durie Hill Elevator which begins 200m inside the hill.
Meanwhile, on the west bank, many points of interest punctuate this scenic course including old railway buildings, the River Traders Market (open 9-1 Saturdays), the reflective Bearing sculpture and the Waimarie paddle steamer. The river’s mood is constantly changing due to lifting fog, the rising sun and tides. Birds and river craft including waka ama (outrigger canoes) come and go.
Any parkrun tourists can easily spend a week here, fitting in two parkruns, as a couple from Cook’s Beach did after running at the launch.
Another visitor commented, “This will prove to be a very popular addition to the existing 29 events in NZ with a picturesque riverside route, a welcoming cafe and a large & varied market near the course to pick up some excellent macarons afterwards!”
I’m particularly looking forward to seeing newcomers begin exercising and to completing the course myself.
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