Date: 19 November 2017
Distance: 21.1km (we measured 21.5km)
This year saw the fourth running of the Ashhurst to Esplanade walking and running event, which is a gem on the local calendar. Organised by the Manawatu Striders Running and Walking club it is a lovely walk linking two towns.
The long course starts at the Ashhurst Domain and finishes at the Palmerston North Esplanade, roughly following the Manawatu River. It passes through private land and as such, participating in the event is the only opportunity to experience a different part of the river track.
Being on Tail-end Charlie duties, Gerry and I decided to make a day of it. All dressed up and ready to go, we were armoured with a small backpack, stuffed with a first-aid kit, water, electrolytes, nutrition and warm clothing to last us all day. Also, we could help out a participant in need with more than just a plaster or bandage, if such a situation might arise.
Starting at 8:30am for the walkers, and 9:30am for runners, we were off shortly after the last participant crossed the starting line. As is often the case with official events, everybody is rearing to go and usually fast out of the starting blocks. But, the enthusiasm and excitement fueled by adrenaline almost always wears off within the first two kilometres. We had all day, and decided to just take if very easy at the back of the field as we knew we will catch up with the back runners soon enough. On a very slow jog, stopping to take photos, waiting for someone to tie a shoe lace, we made our way around the sports field at the Ashhurst domain, before heading down SH3 for a couple hundred metres towards the river, where you turn right onto the river walkway.
On this well maintained gravel walkway, we kept the last participants in our view while staying far enough behind so as not to unnerve them. We walked bits and jogged little bits, while enjoying the scenery. After about 4.5 kms we reached the first water point where the course enters private land. Usually, at this point one would have to turn right and follow Raukawa Road out towards SH3 (Napier Road). But, by participating in the event we could continue on along the quiet gravel path through the Higgins aggregates depot yard.
At the 9km mark we reached the second water point at the main entrance/exit gate of Higgins, which is also the start of the shorter 12km course. The course is marked every kilometre, counting down, so you know exactly where you are and how far to go.
After answering nature’s call (this water point also has portaloos), we turned left onto Te Matai Road for the next four kilometres. At this point, we were walking all the way as the slowest runner was going at a comfortable walking speed.
With the walkers starting and hour earlier, there was no chance that we would catch any of them.
At the far end of Te Matai Road, we turned left onto Riverside Drive to reach the third water point before getting back onto the River Walkway and Bridle Track for the remainder of the course. On a gentle stroll, snacking on everything we had, just because we had it, and chatting away we got to spent a lovely morning out on a beautiful track right in our backyard. The fourth water point was at the exit to Albert Street, about 4km from the finish.
Back at the Palmerston North Esplanade, we made a few twists and turns through the gorgeous gardens before the final “lap of glory” at Manawaroa/Ongley Park towards the finish line. The cherry on the cake was seeing the elated expression of the last person crossing the finish line, being cheered on by friends/family, the joy and sense of achievement. A first time half-marathoner who only started running some eight months ago.
Being a very supportive community event and a well organised one to boot, there is really no reason not to take part. Most people can walk 21.1km in four and a half hours (which is the time it took from the start of the walkers to the finish of the last person). Not having any cut-off time, means you can potentially take longer. All it takes is the will to reach your goal, and the determination to keep going even if you might experience some discomfort. Just a little bit of training will make your outing much more enjoyable.
Included in the entry fee of $30 for the Half ($20 for the 12km and $5 for the 3km events), you get free bus transport from the finish at Palmerston North Esplanade to the start at Ashhurst Domain, four water points en route and one at the finish, a sausage sizzle at the finish, and of course the course marking (so no getting lost or not finding your way back) and excellent traffic management.
Pencil in the date for the 2018 event, which will take place on 18 November. Hope to see many of you there!