Run Leeds… And Beyond!
On the morning of November 5th 2016 I ran my home parkrun at Cross Flatts Park, it was my last time there for over a month. Later that day I set off on an adventure to the other side of the world. I was going on holiday to New Zealand and Australia and I had planned at least four different parkruns and one race while over there.
I completed all five of my planned runs plus a solo run. People ask me if I went away just to run and the answer is no. I enjoy running and wanted to run in new places and experience a race and parkruns in the southern hemisphere. There is also the joy of showing off to my fellow runners at home!
My first run was a solo effort, I ran from my friend’s house up Mount Atkinson in Titirangi. Mount Atkinson is a dormant volcano which is now a nature park situated in West Auckland. There were stunning views from the summit and the town of Titirangi is a lovely place with interesting architecture and a collection of sculptures on a roundabout which closely resemble Monster Munch. I planned the run to coincide with the South Leeds Lakers’ run that week, with the time difference it meant that I was running at 8am.
I ran two different parkruns in New Zealand, the first being Western Springs in Auckland. parkrun in New Zealand is the usual timed 5k but it starts at 8am due to the heat during the summer. Western Springs Park is next to Auckland Zoo and I can honestly say that it was the first time that I have ever been cheered on by a pride of lions. I couldn’t actually see them but they made their presence known.
The run is a multi-lap run around a lake so I also encountered a few water birds, swans and geese mainly – who knew how much poo swans produce! I finished in 39 minutes and 52 seconds and came 63rd out of ………………… 63!
As with other parkruns, a lot of runners went to the local cafe and I was given a warm Kiwi welcome from a man from the UK and a family from Sweden.
The following day I ran in the Skecher’s Ladies 12k race, along the water’s edge in Auckland. It was a flat race; moving through industrial suburbs before hitting a more scenic landscape. For the first time, I ran alone. I usually have the company of a friend for at least part of the run, my friend who lives there came along to support me but she’s not a runner.
Towards the end of the race I got chatting to a lady who was struggling as much as I was and we helped each other along – she was from New Zealand and had family in Yorkshire. I even managed a sprint finish and completed it in 1:42:45.
My second parkrun was Puarenga parkrun in Rotorua. I finished 23rd out of 24 runners, slightly ahead of a lovely Australian lady who I had been stalking for the whole run. Rotorua is part of the geothermal area of New Zealand and has hot springs literally everywhere, there is also a slight smell of sulphur wherever you go. Running across a geothermal field with steam rising from multi coloured hot pools was a unique experience. Puarenga was also the smallest parkrun I have done in terms of runners. Unfortunately, I had to leave straight away and did not get a lot of time to chat.
A week later I was in Sydney, Australia and it was hot, hot and hot! I completed two different parkruns – St Peter’s and Paramatta. I was escorted to both by a lovely lady from Sydney who responded to my query about public transport by offering me a lift. She played “parkrun host” taking me to her favourite places for breakfast and introducing me to her friends and family.
St Peter’s is run in a large city park and was a very nice park but a little bit noisy. The noise was created by the local birdlife, mainly cockatiels. It was a fairly flat route, except for “that” hill, and what a hill!
Paramatta was my final southern hemisphere run on the day before I set of for home. It is an out and back route along the banks of the Paramatta river. The day started out quite pleasant, nice and cool and cloudy but soon warmed up. I never perform well in heat so I really struggled, but I did it and that’s what matters.
This trip has taught me that runners the world over are lovely, welcoming people. I have made some lovely new friends on the other side of the world thanks to running. I look forward to showing them some Yorkshire hospitality very soon!