Dave Hughes can still be found walking the course during Gisborne Harrier Club trail runs, after over 70 years with the club. He spoke to Jack Malcolm ahead of the club’s 75th anniversary next weekend . . .
Dave Hughes has been involved with the Gisborne Harrier Club almost since its inception in 1946.
The 90-year-old joined harriers 72 years ago and says it has been exciting to watch the club evolve from its early beginnings to where it is now, on the eve of the 75th anniversary.
When he first joined, the club was more competitive, held regular races and didn’t allow women to join. These days, he says, the club is more focused on the social and family aspects of the sport.
“One of the thrills for me is the way women have taken to the sport. Our club would be nothing without the ladies who take part.”
He still regularly attends the club’s trail run series and although he’s not running the courses any more, says that walking on the uneven terrain is a fantastic way to stay in shape.
Dave’s love for running blossomed from a desire to get fit. He was in his late teens and had just made new friends who were older than him and who all went tramping together.
Because he couldn’t keep up on the hikes with the older boys, he joined the club to improve his fitness.
“That’s still my motivation to go to harriers, to keep myself fit.”
A carpenter by trade, his work saw him travel to all corners of the district and if he had time in the morning, he’d run his bike to work.
“At one stage, I’d run out to Manutuke School every morning.”
He and his three brothers, Bob, Hugh and Owen, all ran in the club. They would compete against each other, “but Bob was the best runner out of the lot of us”.
Dave’s specialty was hill running, winning the Creswell Cup nine of the 12 times he raced it.
He described the Creswell Cup course as “the toughest race Gisborne has ever had”, with two 426m hills on either side of Waimata Valley, starting and finishing on upper Riverside Road in Longbush.
“It was 1960 and I had pulled out of harriers full-time for family reasons. Tony Weatherley called and told me there’s a hill climb race at Longbush that’s open to the public.
“I ended up winning it . . . and went back the next year and won it again. It damn near killed me, but I kept the cup.”
Dave podiumed the race every time he ran it and, all told, racked up nine wins — three of them consecutive — two seconds and a third before his wife Colleen told him to stop.
“My wife said, ‘hey I want you to quit, this is going to give you a heart attack’.”
He attributed his skill in cross-country running to all the possum chasing he and his brothers did for fun as kids.
Dave was a regular fixture in the harriers through his first decades in the club, holding the club captaincy for three years in the 1960s before resigning due to the time commitments.
Harriers took more of a back seat, as he and Colleen started to build a family. His priorities were squarely on spending as much time as he could with his young children.
Now, as a great-grandfather, he says he has no regrets for how he chose to spend his time with his family.
He had always fancied fly fishing but knew it was an addictive hobby, like golf, and he didn’t want to be the father who left his wife and kids on the riverbank to go fishing.
“It impinges on your family life if you get too dedicated . . . my running never took too much time from the family.”
After his children left home, he took up trout fishing and says it has been a great way to explore nature.
As his three children, Alan, Keith and Ian, were starting to grow up, Dave said they started becoming interested in the outdoors too.
Only his youngest son, Ian, became involved with the harriers club as a young man, but the family were all out chasing adventure together as the kids grew up.
They would spend their weekends out caving, whitewater kayaking and hiking.
“We had a ball, we were never home much.
“My kids were paddling kayaks before they went to school.”
When Dave looks back on his time with the club, his finest memories are the relationships he developed over seven decades of being involved to varying degrees.
“The thing I’m most proud of is that 50 years after I was club captain, my youngest son Ian was captain too.
“My association with the club has been a real constant source of companionship. It’s a great club to belong to and I’ve made lifelong friends.”
Ahead of the club’s 75th anniversary next weekend, he said he was excited to get a hold of the old trophies and go through the names on the silverware that he remembers.
“There’ll be quite a few talks and conversations.
“It’s a really good place to be, and a great bunch of people to be involved with.”