MARCH 20, 2012

I am a convert to off road running.
I still run on roads. But it is the trails I get excited about.
Now when I am road running, I kind of feel al ittle ripped off because I know how much more enjoyment I would have having with a different surface underfoot and a different vista.
During the week I still have to start most of my runs from my home in central Auckland- limited time and horrible Auckland traffic make it impossible to do otherwise.
But for the important runs, the long weekend one’s, I am loving the change. Which does make me wonder- why the hell did no one tell me about all of this sooner?
The closest decent trail run to my home is Cornwell Park, where One Tree Hill is. If you are in Auckland for something and are itching for a run you should try this one out.
This trail is the birthplace of running, not just for New Zealand but the whole world! 50 years ago Arthur Lydiard and Colin Kay started up an organization called the Auckland Joggers Club. Initially, it was for overweight and unfit businessmen to lose some kilos. So these joggers would meet in the weekends and run around this very park. This was 1962, back then it was so uncommon to see anybody out running that it was not uncommon for joggers to be questioned or even arrested by the police. Crazy really, when you think of how many recreational runners you pass every day on your way to or from work!
From wikipedia here is a bit of history about the park:

“Cornwall Park is the legacy of Sir John Logan Campbell. Originally the land was a farm owned by him. Upon his return from Italy in the 1880s he intended to build a great family residence on the slopes of the hill and planted many trees including olives on the slopes. By about 1900 he realised that Auckland’s suburbs were spreading at an alarming rate and he decided to leave the Greenlane property to the city as a park. Parts of the park, about 120 hectares (296.5 acres), are still run as a farm today, providing Aucklanders with access to an example of rural life in the heart of the city.

There is a path worn through the grass around the perimter of the park and each lap is about 5-6km long. So it is pretty easy to do 3-4 laps and give yourself a decent trail run right in the heart of Auckland.
If you are long time trail runner who has covered some amazing tracks you might find this one a massive let down, but I like it. It is a real treat to be able to run through paddocks of cows and sheep, skipping and hopping over cow-pats like they are dangerous land mines, and jumping over fences while still being only a few K’s away from the madness of the city.
Another thing I love about this trail? Despite it being open to the public for over a century it actually feels like one of Aucklands best kept secrets- no matter what day of the week and what time of day you run it there is never congestion, you’ll never have to share it with more than a tiny handful of other runners.