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'Parkrun' starts for fun and fitness

A WOMAN who describes herself as a “Gisborne boomerang” is getting ready to launch “parkrun” into Gisborne.

An engineering manager with forestry company Ernslaw, Megan Costello left Gisborne four years ago to follow her husband’s career to Australia and has recently returned “like a boomerang”.

But while she was in Australia she picked up a new habit.

“This strangely addictive habit was introduced to me by a Scotsman who ran a pharmacy with his brother. I was trying to get back into shape after having two children and I was encouraged to join the core set of volunteers needed to help set up a weekly running group called parkrun."

This is groups of people who organise free, weekly 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.

“It’s a growing movement and community that has emerged from the United Kingdom and has spread to 18 countries, including New Zealand.”

Megan says you do not have to be a runner to come to parkrun. Walkers, dog-walkers, and pram pushers are all welcome.

“Yes, there will be some runners who go full tilt as they try to set a new personal best, but parkrun is defined by its non-competitive and supportive environment.

“My favourite example from my time at the Batemans Bay parkrun was one regular who started the year smoking and by the end of it managed to shave up to eight minutes off his run time.”

There are plenty of benefits of parkrun, she says.

“It’s a great start to your Saturday morning. The course starts at 8am and even the walkers will be finished by 9am. Exercising with a group has been demonstrated to improve physical, mental and emotional outcomes, and lower stress.”

Volunteers form the backbone of parkrun, which builds community as you start to see the same faces, week after week.

Megan now feels fortunate for being there for the early stages of the Batemans Bay parkrun and seeing it establish into a self-sustaining event that even attracted Bill Shorten, the leader of the Australian Labour Party, as a participant.

“I’m now taking the experience I had volunteering at the Batemans Bay parkrun and working with Quentin Harvey of Sport Gisborne Tairawhiti and Brent Mitchell of NZ Home Loans, the national sponsor of parkrun in NZ, to bring parkrun to Gisborne.”

NZ now has 18 events, which will grow to 20 with Wanaka and Invercargill having their inaugural runs this month.

Gisborne’s course will start at the playground at Waikanae Beach, which will make use of the shared riverside walkway with an out-and-back loop.

“We are aiming for an official start date in mid-April.”

For more information or if you’d like to get involved, see parkrun.co.nz or contact Megan Costello at megscostello@gmail.com or 027 808 6438.

PARKRUN COMING SOON: A world-wide fun free weekly activity “parkrun” will be launched in Gisborne. From left are main organiser Megan Costello, with volunteers Bev Taylor, Andrew Costello, Jody Wheeler, Mike Costello, Quentin Harvey and Helen Costello, who tried out the Gisborne parkrun route together. Picture supplied
And the runners set off.