Most university campuses are quiet places at 8am on a Saturday, but in Hamilton, New Zealand, you can find a mix of students, staff and others ready to finish a 5k.
The University of Waikato parkrun launched in November 2020 with 190 walkers and runners and 14 volunteers. It averages 58 finishers a week.
Its Event Director, Nicola Clayden, is also the University of Waikato sport development manager.
“Launching parkrun came about as part of our Living Campus Project, which is a programme of work designed to make the campus a more user-friendly space for the community.”
“The University of Waikato also encourages students to get involved in volunteering, through Work Integrated Learning and the Employability Plus Programme.”
“Setting up parkrun presents a great opportunity to volunteer, to engage in the local community and to gain some experience for their CV.”
Due to Covid there’s been several stop-starts along the way, the event has held just 42 events in 17 months. Still, Nicola says it’s been worthwhile.
“The parkrun community is so friendly, it is so wonderful having a chat and learning their parkrun stories.”
“The community is growing slowly but we are also lucky to have a loyal group of university staff members attending and a lot of support from the Hamilton Lake parkrun community.”
“We have had many student volunteers at the University of Waikato parkrun. The hours are recorded as part of a student’s Employabiity Plus Programme, where all their volunteer hours are shown on their academic transcript.”
One such student, Haylie Karngere, has now returned to Papua New Guinea.
“One of the benefits of volunteering at parkrun is it helps me to meet many incredible people, learn from their amazing roles and experiences and build your network/contact,” she said in feedback.
“It also gives the opportunity to practise important skills in the workplace such as teamwork, communication and time management.”
“It’s great time out from my study routine, good for mental and physical health. ”
Nicole says there are a few student parkrunners but had parkrun not been paused for Covid there may have been more.
“An 8am start on a Saturday morning proves difficult for many students but I am sure that once they experience the many benefits of parkrun we will develop a core of student parkrunners.”
“My personal ethos is that physical activity is needed for wellbeing and parkrun fits snuggly into this statement. Walk, push a pram, jog, run, just come along and do some physical activity.”
“The bonus is you meet many wonderful people along the way! I mountain bike, do yoga, and other activities so parkrun is part of my regime, whether volunteering or parkrunning.”
The course is entirely on campus and is a multi-lap, with a small loop, two longer loops and a medium loop. Run director Lex Chalmers refers to them as Baby Bear, Daddy Bear and Mummy Bear.
“Some common comments are that the course sounds confusing until you start parkrunning, but parkrunners also say the lake and tree sections are restful and picturesque.”
“They also like the smaller parkrunner numbers.”
Nicola says she enjoys Saturday mornings on campus.
“When you arrive at the Village Green the only noise is the birds, the dew sits on the grass and the view across the lake wakes up as the sun rises.”
“The anticipation of your volunteers arriving – they always do, and then parkrunners emerging from all paths. Then it’s time for parkrunning.”
“I enjoy the social camaraderie after the parkrun, relaxing on the scattered seats sharing times and stories. And then, of course, coffee at Jack’s!”
Coffee is at nearby Jacks Coffee Lounge.
After parkrun you can explore the 65 hectare University of Waikato campus.
There are three small community gardens on campus, as well as a Rongoā Māori medicinal garden, a threatened plant garden, over 6,000 mature trees and a diverse native bird life, including tui and a resident ruru..
The University also has a vast native fern collection hosting more than 70 New Zealand ferns, including three mature Kahikatea stands.
Check out the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts for any weekend performances. Local Bites Food Market is on campus every Saturday from 4pm. There is also a sculpture trail, which has an audio tour available.
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