Parkrun is a phenomenon. Hundreds of thousands of runners, in fourteen countries on five continents (pick up the slack, South America and Antartica), running 5km on a Saturday morning, completely for free, thanks to all the wonderful volunteers who run these events week in week out. New Zealand has 15, and one of my aims while travelling is to run as many of them as possible – can I catch them all?!
Western Springs is a three lap course around a lake next to Auckland Zoo. The joy of running around a lake next to a zoo is the plentiful supply of birdlife. The downside of running around a lake next to a zoo is also the plentiful supply of birdlife.
Never before have I been to a parkrun briefing where the run director had to utter the line “be careful not to slip over on the sheet” (‘sheet’ being how ‘shit’ comes out in a Kiwi accent). Being here in spring, when there are plenty of young swans about, adds an extra dash of danger. According to QI the whole thing about a swan breaking your arm is an urban myth, but I didn’t want to wait around to find out.
Being warned about “sheet” is odd. Being told to stay on the path otherwise risk falling through a crack into an active geothermic area and being poached like an egg is downright scary. That’s right, Puarenga parkrun, on the edge of Rotorua, sits on an active volcanic caldera.
The two-lap course winds it way along what’s known as the ‘Sulphur Track’, complete with steam vents, bubbling mud pools, and the waft of rotting eggs. Which is an odd experience – you both want to slow down to really appreciate the geological uniqueness of the course, the atmosphere of the place in the quiet of an unspoiled, sunny, Saturday morning. But equally, it pongs bad, so it’s best to keep moving.
While I’m pretty sure Fountains Abbey, run around a World Heritage site with stunning abbey and gardens, will forever retain it’s place in my heart as the most beautiful parkrun anywhere, Puarenga is in a strong second place.
What are the other courses that should be included on a bucket-list of global parkruns? Let me know in the comments below!
P.S. My favourite parkrun memory is and always will be seeing my Dad cross the line at his first event. He’s now done 24 – and it won’t be long before he’s caught up to me!