22 Mar 2020 Tour Down Under

No Weekly Roundup this evening, but I’m indebted to receive this report from Clem Clement detailing the trip he and Janice made to the Southern Hemisphere earlier this year….

Coming from Glasgow, the first thing we noticed was the change in temperature; the last run before we set off on our 35 hour journey to Queenstown, South Island NZ, via Dubai, Sydney and Christchurch, was at 3.8 degrees C and here, while it might only have been 11 degrees, it meant going from thermal top, gilet and leggings to vest and shorts.

Queenstown is at 45 degrees latitude south, the equivalent of La Rochelle in France in the northern hemisphere, and I suppose the beginning of February is the equivalent of the start of August at home.

Queenstown parkrun – this was amazing. I had contacted the Event Director Chris Seymour, to let him know that Janice and I were going to complete our alphabet with their “Q” and we had also saved doing our 200th parkrun for there. Chris Seymour latched onto it brilliantly and messaged back that they would give us a shout-out before the start, but on the morning they did far more, bringing a little plexi-board trophy with 200 on it, and getting Janice and me to go to the front for a photo with everyone cheering in the background.

Then it was time to set off on our 996k, but another runner tripped and fell and landed quite heavily on her knee in the first 50 metres. Instinct kicked in, and we both stopped to ensure she was okay, which thank goodness she was and so it was off again.

It is always nice to run at different courses and see what the layout is like, and Queenstown parkrun did not disappoint with a lovely 2-lap course around the Botanical Gardens at the edge of Lake Wakatipu, yet right in the heart of Queenstown. What a fabulous setting to complete our first 1000th kilometre of our parkrun-lives – to quote Blur “joggers who go round and round’ in their parklife.

Then it was off to a great little local café, Yonder, where a group of youngsters took us under their wing and talked to us all about parkruns in New Zealand and Australia, and were fascinated with Janice’s 50 t-shirt which is now adorned on the back with her first 50 different parkrun locations, and made us feel really special about our achievement so far from home.

Lower Hutt, Wellington parkrun – so we now moved onto North Island ahead of our half marathon the following day.

We were staying in Wellington and had about 20 miles to get to the 8am start, so it was early out of bed. The drive on the M2 was quite stunning in the bright morning sunlight and there were already lots of people messing about in boats in the bay.

The car parking for the run was alongside the River Hutt, and is shared at that time of the morning by parkrunners and the very popular Saturday market, which provided an interesting post-run attraction with some interestingly different fruit and veg.

This day I decided to wear my Welsh dragon vest, which confused a lot of fellow runners when I said we had come from Glasgow. Anyway it was spotted, and a man approached me ‘where in Wales are you from’ and so when I replied I was born and brought up in Llanelli you can probably guess what his response was. Yes!! He was also from Llanelli and had lived in the little village of Kidwelly, which I knew well.

The run itself was out and back on the flood prevention embankment alongside the river and so was virtually as flat as you could get, apart from the dips and rises under two of the bridges that crossed the river.

The surface was tarmac, apart from a loop at the turnaround in the course, which took you off onto a wide grassy area.

Post run was in at Café Buzz in the High Street and we sat about in the early morning sunshine enjoying parkrun conversation.

Brendan Foot – Round the Bays Wellington Half Marathon – this is what the entire trip downunder had been built around. It did not disappoint.

The 7:45 start for the half marathon seemed a little brutal, but it made sense when we were standing about at the start in the warmth of the heat of the day that was promised to follow.

There was a great atmosphere at the start with a MC trying to get the runners and crowd enthused, with a good group warm-up. I even managed to get us a mention that we had come from Glasgow.

The run itself was exactly what it said on the tin, around the bays. Wellington City Centre itself is on a bay and we edged that to start as we left the centre on our way to the finish in Kilbirnie Park, near the airport.

Kilbirnie Park was the setting for all the finishes, as there were 4 events in total; a Half Marathon, a 10k, a 6.5k run and 6.5k walk. The reason for the 6.5k is that is the distance from the City Centre to the park, so the HM had to go past and head out onto the Maupuia headland.

Once the euphoria of the City Centre and passing the park had gone, you realised that there was a wind, then that it was actually quite strong, and oh yeah! It is in your face! So time to dig in. Once around the headland it was behind you, but you knew that when you hit the turnaround point near Scorching Bay Beach it was going to be against you again; however there was also the knowledge that the wind would be with you between 9 and 12 miles.

It was lovely to finish amongst so many others in the park. Janice enjoyed a shout-out from the ‘commentator’ at the finish as her name was called out over the sound system, mentioning the fact she had travelled from Scotland.

The organisers then laid on multiple buses to transport everyone back to the City Centre.

Australia – Kawana parkrun, on the Sunshine Coast – by the following Saturday we had transferred to Oz, but unfortunately in the meantime on a simple early morning jog Janice had tweaked an old injury in a tendon on her right foot.

Again we messaged the Event Director to say we were coming and we expected to meet Mel who had shown great enthusiasm at our travels and the alphabet challenge. Unfortunately one of her children fell unwell overnight and so Rebecca stepped in with the welcome for us.

Still had to deal with a 7am start. Fortunately we were on NZ time, three hours ahead of Queensland!

I latched onto the warning at the start – Beware of snakes in this area – not a sign you see often in the parks of Glasgow.

This run was another out and back, with a loop around a highly decorated look-out tower at Point Cartwright. When I saw the leader coming back at me so quick, for a moment, I actually thought it was someone out training at pace; he was so far ahead of anyone else.

The surface was mostly concrete path with some sand blown over from the beach which was right next to it. The beach is used in the height of summer as an alternative course.

The finish team were very efficient, with the scanners sat down at a picnic table and the token sorter with them so they got all of those back in order very quickly.

Janice managed to walk the event, and met the two Lindas.

We got an invite join the group at Little Miss Saine, the café they support, and there we met the lovely Rountree family who made us so welcome and even invited us out for fish and chips the following evening.

I got also an invite to join a running group meeting on Monday morning at 6am!! (yet somehow it made sense and I made it and they were so nice)

Golden Beach parkrun, Caloundra, Sunshine Coast – having been woken by an almighty downpour at 5:15, and the fact that the sun was already up, it did not seem so hard to get up for the 7am start.

Again we met someone from South Wales as we got out of the car, this time from Newbridge, near Tredegar in the Gwent Valleys. There was spraying going on, and we were warned about mosquitos in the area.

The run was based at Caloundra Power Boat clubhouse, adjacent to Pelican Waters. The pre-run briefing included a warning to be careful on the boardwalks, which turned out to be over a mangrove swamp; again you don’t find those in Glaswegian parks.

Another out and back run mostly on concrete pavement with the boardwalk thrown in.

This time I was amazed to see that the first runner coming back at me was pushing a pushchair with child onboard. Hats off to those pushers who can still run so quick.

Glad to say that Janice managed to run again.

The iced lolly sticks handed out at the end were most welcome in the heat and humidity, even if it was still not quite 7:30am.

We then rushed from there to join the Kawana crowd back at Little Miss Saine.

When we got back to the apartment, two thoughts came to us – we had travelled, run, travelled, had breakfast, gone shopping at a sports outlet, travelled a little bit more, and yet it was still only 10:15 !!

And we could not help thinking about how lucky we had been on our travels, the warm welcomes we had received and how many lovely people we had met. As Jane, one of the ladies I had run with early Monday morning, said ‘have you noticed that you only ever meet nice and supportive people as runners?’ 😊


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