41 years and still go­ing

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By LAU­REN PRI­EST­LEY

WHAT were you do­ing in 1972?

Don Walker was or­gan­is­ing the very first Round the Bays fun run which has now ex­ploded into the largest mass par­tic­i­pa­tion event in New Zealand.

Up to 80,000 pave­ment pounders have taken to the waterfront for more than four decades in the Ports of Auck­land Round the Bays and Mr Walker says the event is here to stay.

‘‘It’ll be here for­ever. That’s not wish­ful think­ing, ei­ther. It’s an Auck­land fun day and it will never go.’’

The 72-year-old re­mem­bers what it was like or­gan­is­ing the first of­fi­cial run all those years ago – with­out com­put­ers.

The idea came from Auck­land Jog­gers Club founder Colin Kay and mem­bers have been or­gan­is­ing the event ever since.

Bib num­bers were hand­writ­ten by Mr Walker and helpers in his hand­bag man­u­fac­tur­ing fac­tory, he says.

Race en­try was $1 and ev­ery­thing was sent by post.

‘‘Com­put­ers just hadn’t been born at that stage.

‘‘It was all done by snail mail. It took weeks and weeks, but we had to start some­where.’’

He says the Auck­land Jog­gers Club pre­dicted a rel­a­tively small turnout of about 300 peo­ple.

‘‘We were really fish­ing. We had no idea of the in­ter­est.’’

En­tries started flood­ing in and even­tu­ally there were 792 of­fi­cial com­peti­tors.

Free­loaders turn­ing up meant more than 1200 ran on the day.

Mr Walker says the or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee was as­ton­ished by the turnout.

‘‘We were just be­side our­selves. We couldn’t be­lieve the num­bers.’’

The first run started at the Auck­land Town Hall with run­ners wind­ing along Ta­maki Dr and fin­ish­ing up at St He­liers. The course re­mains the same but it now starts in Quay St.

Ta­maki Dr was not closed for the first run be­cause the ex­pected num­ber of par­tic­i­pants would have fit­ted on the foot­path, he says.

‘‘It was ab­so­lute chaos. They had to run on the road, whether they tried to or not, dodg­ing the cars. It was just a night­mare.’’

Mr Walker says the event was orig­i­nally dom­i­nated by males. He was Auck­land Jog­gers Club pres­i­dent from 1975-1977 and ac­tively sought fe­male mem­bers so he’s been pleased to see the in­crease in women jog­ging over the decades.

‘‘It was so un­usual to see a woman jog­ging back then. It just wasn’t done.’’

The event now in­cludes fam­i­lies, groups of work col­leagues, walk­ers, prams and wheel­chairs along­side the se­ri­ous jog­gers.

Chil­dren were en­cour­aged to take part in 1986 and later a stag­gered start was in­tro­duced to al­low rac­ers to get away be­fore the on­rush of the mob.

But Mr Walker says the event is not meant to be a race.

‘‘It’s about run­ning within your­self. You are com­pet­ing with your­self.’’

He says be­ing in­volved with the event has kept him young.

He has been a mem­ber of the club for nearly 50 years and used to jog four times a week.

He’s had two hip re­place­ments but still walks with the club weekly.

‘‘It has been the best thing in my life.

‘‘We used to call it ‘time on your legs’. I’m go­ing to live to over 100.’’

Ports of Auck­land Round the Bays is co-owned by the Auck­land Jog­gers Club and Fairfax Me­dia, owner of the Auck­land City Har­bour News.

Reg­is­tra­tion fees will be do­nated to a raft of nom­i­nated char­i­ties in­clud­ing YMCA Camp Adair, Auck­land Cys­tic Fi­bro­sis, Choice Foun­da­tion Stand Tall Pro­gramme, Va­ri­ety – The Chil- dren’s Char­ity, Make-AWish NZ and Fairfax First Books.

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