By Hayden Shearman // It’s just five weeks until the big day of Wellington Round the Bays, so now is the time be logging some of the longest runs of your training plan. You could do these by running 20 times around the block … or …. you can make use of the incredible running environments right on Wellington’s doorstep.
1. Kaitoke Regional Park, Upper Hutt
Just 12km north of Upper Hutt, this park set in a nook of the southern Tararua Ranges is like an elven kingdom fresh out of Lord of the Rings. It boasts towering rain forests, gushing mountain rivers, steep ravines, grassy picnic spots and a selection of trails that will keep your running entertaining.
From the main car park (1.5km along Kaitoke Waterworks Rd) grab a map from the info stand and then run the 1.4km Campground Link Track into the base of the ranges at Pakuratahi Forks. Here you’ll have a couple of option: either you can do a few loops of the main Swingbridge Track (which is a 2km loop but has several alternative routes to keep multiple laps interesting) or you can head off on the demanding Ridge Track (which heads south to the Te Marua Entrance of the park 7.5km away, so 15km return).
Pros: Lush bush and a super refreshing swim waiting for you at Pakuratahi.
Cons: The Ridge Track can be very muddy and is hard going, and otherwise you’ll need to run loops for anything over a 5km run.
More info Kaitoke Regional Park here.
Begin and end at any point on Titahi Bay (which makes for an ideal post-run swim spot). Jog up to Main Road and follow it as though you were running back to Porirua, but when you hit the harbour make left turn on to Onepoto Road and follow the coastal path from there around this beautiful headland.
If you can choose a settled day, you’ll be transfixed by the sparkling waters of the harbour as they lap on the shores of beautiful little bays. However, to get too relaxed because a big old climb awaits at 6k into the run as you ascend up to the radio masts. The view from the top is phenomenal though and you’ll want to bring a camera on a good day.
Pros: The perfect location for a scenic summer 10k.
Cons: Not the most sheltered spot if the wind is up.
3. Catchpool & Orongorongo, Wainuiomata
Catchpool is a DOC area with plenty of walking and tramping tracks, most of which are ideal for running. Running through native bush, over the ranges to Turere Bridge (Orongorong River) is the classic and highly popular 5.2km Orongorongo Track.
The return trip will be 10.5km, but expect it take at least half again the usual time it would you take you to run 10k on the flat.
If you’re really after an adventure and a super long run, run south along the Coast Road from Catchpool to reach the Wainui coast. Follow the coast around to the east until you cross the bridge over the Orongorongo River. Swing a left here to follow the 4WD track that roughly follows the eastern banks of the river. Eventually you’ll reach the start of the Orongorongo Track, from where it’s 5.2km to home.
This is a big run and will take speedy runners 2 hours minimum and for most about 3-5 hours (so take safety gear, water and nutrition). There are some river crossings and the track is 4WD is not sign posted and is not always clear so please tell others where you’re going and when you’ll be back, take company, take a map (there’s no phone reception in the valley) and do not go after rain. Take care.
Pros: You’ll feel worlds away from the city.
Cons: Weather out here can change fast and this is not the sort of place you want to be caught out during a strong southerly change wearing just your skimpy running shorts and singlet (runners have been treated for hypothermia out here before).
Visit the DOC website for further info on Catchpool.
4. Cape Palliser, Ngawi
The Wairarapa is the ultimate weekend destination for Wellingtonians, and if you’re looking for somewhere flat but still hugely scenic and isolated, you can’t get much better than the North Island’s southern tip: Cape Palliser.
Just a few minutes past the fishing township of Ngawi (2hours 20mins from Wellington) is the Cape Palliser Lighthouse. This makes a good start point for your run (and you might like to climb the huge staircase to grab photos before your run as the legs might not make it after the run!).
Start running east along the 4WD track and the navigation couldn’t much easier the whole way: keep the incredibly rugged hill to your left and keep the incredibly wild ocean to your right. The 4WD track is a genuine 4WD track as it twists its way around ravines and over scree slopes. You’ll be glad you’re not driving a vehicle through but can leisurely enjoy the moon-like terrain on foot.
Run all the way to the surf spot known as The Spit (which is a long narrow finger of rock jutting out into the Pacific that attracts phenomenal waves .. and sharks apparently!). This marks approx. 7km from the light house. You can keep going further around if you like, otherwise swing around and enjoy the return trip (the scenery is that stunning that you won’t mind seeing it twice).
Pros: South coast beauty is like nothing else on Earth.
Cons: Watch out for seals hiding behind rocks and bushes and don’t go in rough weather (this coast is ridiculously exposed and the stream crossings can flash flood).
Remember: The idea of the long run is to be on your feet running for a long period of time. So intensity isn’t the goal here; this is all about endurance. Enjoy the scenery and take a friend or five so you can chat the whole way (keeping you in the correct, cardio-strengthening heart rate zone).