Amanda Broughton

On Friday 4 October, hundreds of runners from around New Zealand will make the annual pilgrimage to the town or city hosting National Road Relays. This year that honour is bestowed on Feilding, New Zealand’s ‘Most Beautiful town’ where the E comes before the I and no C is ever involved.

Feilding last hosted National Road Relays in 2006 which saw our Masters Women’s team, captained by Michele Allison, take the gold medal. Scottish senior men managed a clean sweep of almost getting to the top of the podium and were placed second in A, B, C and D grades. 

This year the rampant lions will be staying just a Sunday jog’s length away from Feilding in nearby Palmerston North. We spoke with local runner and founder of the Palmerston North parkrun, Kate Southern. Kate has her fingers in many running pies and has kindly given us the low down on our soon-to-be new favourite running destination.

If you weren’t already Fizzing for Feilding, you’ll definitely be pumped for Palmy after finding out how great it is for running.

When not on the loud hailer at parkrun, Kate can be found facilitating Kathrine Switzer’s 261 Fearless group on a Wednesday morning, and helping out the Manawatu Striders with their events. She recently took on the Halcombe Relays with the 261 group, their first relay as a team and we’re hoping to see the purple T-shirts on course come October!

Every town has a few colourful personalities, Kate suggested we look out for ‘Naked pie man’ while we’re roaming the streets of Palmy for that pre-race tune-up. A quick Google search suggests that Palmerston North has a long history with pies and pie shops, and that it is perfectly acceptable to walk around town eating pies without a shirt on. 

The preferred post-race fuel seems like it’s going to be pies, so remember to pack your Watties sauce in with your racing flats.

Kate’s love of running lead to her setting up the Palmerston North parkrun 18 months ago, something that has been great for the running community.

‘Palmerston North parkrun has been bigger and better than I ever expected. I first heard about parkrun through social media and wondered why we didn’t have one in Palmy. I’ll admit my initial enquiries were quite selfish, I wanted to just run it! But being part of setting it up and making it happen every week has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve met many amazing new friends through parkrun and it has led to many other awesome connections in the wider running and walking community in the Manawatu. I’m inspired by everyone to the fastest of the fast to those who are just starting out with running. There are people who join us to walk with friends and family every week. Our average attendance is around 160 people per week, with our highest attendance at 250 on our first birthday event.’

What are some other local running events we can try out?

‘Well of course I’ll mention the Manawatu Striders events here: the Super Sevens series in Jan/Feb, the marathon and half marathon event in late May and our fun and easy-going Ashhurst to Esplanade event in November.

Also popular is the North Range Trio in late August – 50km, 25km and 12.5km distances through the windfarms of the Northern Tararua Ranges.’

Speaking of post-race activities, where should we hold the post-relays boat race this year?

Brew Union is pretty popular, suitable for a big group, and has amazing wood-fired pizza.’ Beers at Brew Union are brewed onsite so if you’re really keen you can get your own rigger to go, or if you’re feeling particularly confident in your team’s performance you can pre-order a keg.

Leaving the CBD strikes fear into the caffeine-elevated heart rates of Wellingtonians as they search for a café of suitable quality. To calm some of those pre-race nerves and get any nervous motions out of the way before the race, Kate has recommended the best places to get coffee. ‘I rate the coffee at Ebony Roastery, also popular are Cafe Cuba (try the silk cake there), and Alexandre’s Patisserie for delicious pastries.’

Where is the best spot for a Sunday run long enough to get through a full NZRR debrief?

‘The new walking and cycling pathway – He Ara Kotahi – has got the running and cycling community all excited. There’s a fancy new pedestrian bridge around 1.5km downstream of the main Fitzherbert Bridge which links town to Linton and Massey University. Link up with the riverside walkway and some urban trails around the back of Massey and there’s plenty of options for a long run.’ This option also looks relatively flat, so if you’re hobbling on Sunday morning or want to chat and run, this is the perfect option for you.

For the many trail runners and mountain runners in Wellington, Kate recommends the Manawatu Gorge track ‘If you want a hilly grunty run, you can hit the Manawatu Gorge track – approximately 10km one way.’

Kate’s top things to do in Palmerston North

  1. Take a look around the Esplanade, and take a ride on the train (for all ages!)
  2. Check out our new Wildbase Recovery centre where native birds go to be rehabilitated, current residents include Korimako, Kereru and a Tuatara
  3. Te Manawa Art Science and History Museum and the Rugby Museum (at the same location)
  4. Get outdoors and enjoy the walking tracks, especially Te Arapiki a Tāne – aka the Stairway of Tane. Spectacular views over the river towards the Gorge, and a lung-busting workout at the same time!