Linking two towns – Ashhurst to Esplanade

Date: 19 November 2017
Distance: 21.1km (we measured 21.5km)
Time: 3:25
Previous: 2014

This year saw the fourth running of the Ashhurst to Esplanade walking and running event, which is a gem on the local calendar. Organised by the Manawatu Striders Running and Walking club it is a lovely walk linking two towns.

The long course starts at the Ashhurst Domain and finishes at the Palmerston North Esplanade, roughly following the Manawatu River. It passes through private land and as such, participating in the event is the only opportunity to experience a different part of the river track.

Being on Tail-end Charlie duties, Gerry and I decided to make a day of it. All dressed up and ready to go, we were armoured with a small backpack, stuffed with a first-aid kit, water, electrolytes, nutrition and warm clothing to last us all day. Also, we could help out a participant in need with more than just a plaster or bandage, if such a situation might arise.

Starting at 8:30am for the walkers, and 9:30am for runners, we were off shortly after the last participant crossed the starting line. As is often the case with official events, everybody is rearing to go and usually fast out of the starting blocks. But, the enthusiasm and excitement fueled by adrenaline almost always wears off within the first two kilometres. We had all day, and decided to just take if very easy at the back of the field as we knew we will catch up with the back runners soon enough. On a very slow jog, stopping to take photos, waiting for someone to tie a shoe lace, we made our way around the sports field at the Ashhurst domain, before heading down SH3 for a couple hundred metres towards the river, where you turn right onto the river walkway.

On this well maintained gravel walkway, we kept the last participants in our view while staying far enough behind so as not to unnerve them. We walked bits and jogged little bits, while enjoying the scenery. After about 4.5 kms we reached the first water point where the course enters private land. Usually, at this point one would have to turn right and follow Raukawa Road out towards SH3 (Napier Road). But, by participating in the event we could continue on along the quiet gravel path through the Higgins aggregates depot yard.

At the 9km mark we reached the second water point at the main entrance/exit gate of Higgins, which is also the start of the shorter 12km course. The course is marked every kilometre, counting down, so you know exactly where you are and how far to go.

After answering nature’s call (this water point also has portaloos), we turned left onto Te Matai Road for the next four kilometres. At this point, we were walking all the way as the slowest runner was going at a comfortable walking speed.

With the walkers starting and hour earlier, there was no chance that we would catch any of them.

At the far end of Te Matai Road, we turned left onto Riverside Drive to reach the third water point before getting back onto the River Walkway and Bridle Track for the remainder of the course. On a gentle stroll, snacking on everything we had, just because we had it, and chatting away we got to spent a lovely morning out on a beautiful track right in our backyard. The fourth water point was at the exit to Albert Street, about 4km from the finish.

Back at the Palmerston North Esplanade, we made a few twists and turns through the gorgeous gardens before the final “lap of glory” at Manawaroa/Ongley Park towards the finish line. The cherry on the cake was seeing the elated expression of the last person crossing the finish line, being cheered on by friends/family, the joy and sense of achievement. A first time half-marathoner who only started running some eight months ago.

Being a very supportive community event and a well organised one to boot, there is really no reason not to take part. Most people can walk 21.1km in four and a half hours (which is the time it took from the start of the walkers to the finish of the last person). Not having any cut-off time, means you can potentially take longer. All it takes is the will to reach your goal, and the determination to keep going even if you might experience some discomfort. Just a little bit of training will make your outing much more enjoyable.

Included in the entry fee of $30 for the Half ($20 for the 12km and $5 for the 3km events), you get free bus transport from the finish at Palmerston North Esplanade to the start at Ashhurst Domain, four water points en route and one at the finish, a sausage sizzle at the finish, and of course the course marking (so no getting lost or not finding your way back) and excellent traffic management.

Pencil in the date for the 2018 event, which will take place on 18 November. Hope to see many of you there!

For more information on next years event, please visit www.manawatustriders.org.nz or follow the club on Facebook.

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Stride for Syria

Date: 2 July 2017
Distance: 7.6km (+4km)
Time: 47:31 (30:00)

A week out from our half marathon, we had to fit in a last “cutback long-run” and decided to throw the Palmerston North Boys High School and Palmerston North Girls High School’s event into the mix.

The Stride for Syria intended to raise funds for the Syrian Refugee Crisis. It is labeled as “the most urgent humanitarian crisis of our time” after six years of ongoing fighting and conflict in Syria. According to the brochure that was handed out at the event, 470 000 people have been killed, and more than 4.8 million have fled the country, while 6.1 million have been displaced. That is nearly three times the population of New Zealand that is either dead, misplaced or having to flee for their lives.

So, PNBHS World Vision decided to host a running/walking event, with help from the Manawatu Striders, to raise some funds for the Syrian crisis. (If you wish to make a donation, visit the NZ World Vision website.)

We arrived at about 9am to register and quickly go for a 4km trot before the actual event started at 10am. Going upstream, we ran 2km along the Bridle Track before turning around and running the 2km back. On the way out, we ran into Glen W, whom we had only known from Instagram. Nice to finally meet in person. Although it was quite cold, it was a windless, calm day with little pockets of sun still shining through the clouds early on. Back at the club rooms, we had time for a quick catch up, a sip of water and a trip to the loo. It was great to also finally meet Christine T in person – another online friend.

The school boys and girls did a good job of handling the formalities with guidance from the Manawatu Striders. Starting at the club rooms, the course followed the routes of other Striders events. The first bit is partially on the Super 7s course until you reach the river where you turn right to follow the marathon course downstream, around Waitoetoe Park and back the same way to the club rooms. These are trails we know very well, but it was still an enjoyable run away from the roads, through parks and next to the river.

With an entry fee of only $5, which included a sausage sizzle and banana at the finish, I’m surprised at the very small field of participants. One would have thought that at least both the schools’ students and their parents should have known about it, and made the effort?

Be that as it may, I’m pleased to have managed another run without much pain. Now to see how things will go at the half marathon in a week’s time.

#5 Manawatu Striders inaugural marathon

Date: 29 May 2016
Distance: 42.2km
Time: 4:38.44

A few years ago, Gerry and I did an unsupported, 800km in 26 days walk through the Klein Karoo in the southern parts of South Africa, covering roughly 30+km every day. Day after day, we’d get up before sunrise, walk the whole day, sometimes up to 54km and other times until after dark, before cooking dinner, washing our only other set of clothes, going to sleep, to repeat it all the next day. We carried a tent, sleeping bags, a small camping stove, one set of extra clothes, including warm clothing and some basic emergency food and health care. For the rest, we bought food as we went, so had to be sure to make it to the next town in time to buy supplies. It was challenging at times (I suffered from severe blisters, we were sunburned despite thick slathers of sunblock, and sometimes had to endure temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius), but it was also great to spend each day all day long outside and being exposed to whatever nature throws at you – rain, wind, baking hot sun etc. And as the days got shorter during that Autumn month and our trip nearer the end, we were filled with mixed emotions. It was such a huge life changing experience which we didn’t want to end, but at the same time we were getting a bit tired of the mundane task, having to repeat everything each day for days on end. With the only change being the scenery, meeting new people along the way and the sun rising later and setting earlier each day. Continue reading

#4 – Lords of the Ring – Massey 21 Circuit Marathon

Date: 22 May 2016

Distance: 42.2km

Time: 4:57.38

And just like that, it was winter. When Gerry and I woke up to get ourselves sorted and head over to Massey to do the set up for our run, it was three degrees Celcius. When we started at 8am, is was only five degrees and at the warmest point during the day, the temperature reached 13 degrees. As luck would have it, this day also marked the start of the first snowfall in our region. Continue reading

The 5-in-5-in-5 Challenge

Many running books I’ve read talk about being passionate about running. How you can only be a dedicated, committed runner if you love running. And while I do love the idea of running and everything it represents, and without fail feel better after a run than before it, I must admit that I often have difficulty getting myself ready and out the door for a run. Once I’m out there, it’s great, but beforehand I often simply don’t feel up to it, and would much rather be doing something else. Continue reading

Manawatu Striders Half Marathon, Palmerston North

Date: 9 August 2015

Distance: 21.1km

Time: 1:40:46 (Gerry); 2:21:42 (Wouna)

If you do any significant amount of distance training, you invariably end up running out of new routes in your region. And most likely, to simplify your daily routine, you end up regularly re-running the same routes day after day. In our case, our daily runs usually include Massey University and/or the Bridle Track along the Manawatu River.

As a result, lining up at the start line of the Manawatu Striders Half Marathon which covers, you guessed it, Massey University and the Bridle Track, I was not exactly breathless with anticipation about the course. Which is not to say that it is not a nice route – we just get so used to it that we forget that it’s actually quite special. Spoiled ay? On the bright side, I was aiming to improve on my time from last year, so that will keep things interesting. Continue reading

In it for the long haul – Manawatu Striders Winter Series

Date: 26 July 2015

Distance: 15km

Time: 1:39

The weekend long-run is probably the most important item in your weekly schedule on your way to fitness. Without the long-run, your endurance will not improve. Especially for okes like us who like to go far and long.

Not wanting to miss out on the Manawatu Strider’s Winter Series 15km event (which was too short for our build-up to the Taupo marathon), our only option was to fit in another few kilometres before the start of the Striders’ event. Wanting to cover about 30km, we could either do the course twice, or just do our own thing on a different path. We opted for the latter, and at about 7:30 in the morning we started out from the race start-and-finish area, heading out west through the Esplanade, past the swimming pool, turning onto the Bridle track at the Holiday Park, and ran all the way to the far end of the track and back to where we started. From the Holiday Park to the end of the track is 7.5km, so out and back is a nice 15km run. Continue reading