Weekend leisure: Going bush running

The scenery of the coast is a great running companion. Photo / Supplied
The scenery of the coast is a great running companion. Photo / Supplied

Running through the bush with sunlight diffused through tall trees and the freshest air in your lungs is enough to get even the laziest runner off the couch during the winter.

One group, the Huia Road Bush Runners, sets out three times a week to pound the Waitakere tracks for fun and fitness. I met up with them at the Upper Nihotupu Dam entrance as they prepare to run 12.4km through the bush, or the long cut, which adds another 6km.

"It's a great way to get to know the tracks," says Sean Gribben, one of the organisers. "The scenery is amazing and people never normally get to see it."

Tackling the expansive Waitakere ranges can seem a bit daunting so being part of the group also provides a feeling of safety in numbers.

Because this is their playground, the Huia Road Bush Runners know exactly where the best places are to run.

"I was sold on the group when they told me we'd run more than 90 per cent of the over 250km or so tracks available in the Waitakeres, in a year," says Max Reid, who moved to New Zealand from Virginia five years ago and likes the social component of the group.

Around twenty runners are milling around the carpark in anticipation, putting on CamelBak packs for hydration on the track - there's no water fountains or corner shops along the way.

"Apart from the CamelBak's, the key gear is a pair of good trail running shoes with good tread," says Gribben. "We run in any weather and getting muddy is part of the fun. There's a real camaraderie when you finish the run dirty and exhausted."

The Huia Road Bush Runners also organise a Huia to Exhibition Rd run on or around the longest night of the year - this year it's scheduled for 21st June with free curry onsite after.

There's also a half-marathon through the bush each month and now that winter is here, many of the early evening bush and beach runs require torches. Some members also do tramping, triathlons or orienteering.

A couple of the group also run a "midwinter madness midnight assault" on the Hillary Trail. It's a 75km trail from Arataki to Muriwai starting at midnight on Saturday June 30.

All fitness levels are welcome, apparently - from those who just want to walk the tracks up to iron-man trainers. But, on the day I meet the group, I don't see many beginners. I'm not feeling well and a couple of the women say they will run with me.

"I've already had a gym workout this morning," says one, while another says she's just run 31km a few days ago so could go at a slower pace. But, as soon as we cross the bridge into the forest, that's the last I see of them.

Still, the spectacular views kept me company and it was more appealing listening to the sound of waterfalls than to the sound of cars rushing past. The tracks were also surprisingly wide and well maintained. If you want to stretch yourself with your running, or feel the need to prove yourself in a group, this is the ideal way to do it in beautiful surroundings. If you're out for a leisurely jog in the bush, it might be best to find a friend and do it together first - at least then you can stop to look at the view every now and then.

Get running
Huia Road Bush Runners meet on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and the run location is varied each week. HRBR Bush and Beach Half Marathon Saturday 30th June 1pm Huia. Contact Sean on 09 816 9371 or 021 474 226, huiaroadbushrunners.org.

- NZ Herald

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