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Destinations Cities

Active travel: Taranaki

If you’re going to run a half marathon, you want to do it somewhere scenic. Daisy Sillis tackles The Bayleys Mountain to Surf Half Marathon, in one of our country’s most beautiful spots.

According to my good friend Google, the average training time for a half marathon is three months. I arrive in Taranaki feeling anxious, nervous and very unprepared with a mere three weeks of training up my sleeve. This is my first visit to New Plymouth and while my two-day trip is packed with relaxing activities, there is a three-hour time slot dedicated to a rather strenuous activity – The Bayleys Mountain to Surf Half Marathon.
After a quick hour flight from Auckland, my first stop is a short climb up Paritutu mountain to get my bearings. Taranaki is known for its epic west coast surf, botanic gardens, cultural events and the mighty Mount Taranaki – which today is unfortunately hidden behind low cloud and fog. The climb up Paritutu isn’t for the faint-hearted but once I’m standing at the lookout, with roaring surf to my left and green pastures to my right, the view is magnificent.
From left: The Social Kitchen; candlelight yoga at The Yoga Space; hitting the streets with fellow runners.
Relaxing the night before
Yin is a slow-paced style of yoga where poses are held for up to five minutes, which helps promote circulation and improve limb flexibility. This is exactly what I need before my run. I find The Yoga Space studio behind a cupboard-like door down a hidden alleyway off the main road. It takes my eyes a few moments to adjust to the dark yoga studio, which is lit in small pockets by flickering candlelight. An hour of calming yoga in this tranquil setting has set me up perfectly for my run.
Fuelling up
My pre-run dinner is at The Social Kitchen, a new cosy bistro on Powerham St. In order to fill my quota of protein and carbohydrates, I order the free range chicken and house-made flat bread plus sides of green veggies. Taranaki has become home to trendy new coffee bars including Ozone, an artisan coffee roaster that supplies beans to local cafes and specialty stores both locally and abroad. Elixir is another must-visit when in Taranaki. This quirky café has a menu bursting with healthy food that doesn’t compromise on flavour and, like most of the region’s cafes and restaurants, uses locally sourced, sustainable and free-range products.
Race time
Standing at the start line, time feels as though it’s crawling by. With two minutes remaining I take a long, deep breath to calm my nerves while stretching my calves and quads. Surrounded by fellow half-marathon runners, we watch in awe as the full marathon participants (who are now halfway through) effortlessly jog their way past us. The Bayleys Mountain to Surf Marathon route starts at the Egmont National Park, 460 metres above sea level. For the half marathon runners, the route starts at Inglewood and ends at the Marine Park, Waitara. Once the signal is given, the majority of us half marathon runners are herded like cattle while the faster participants zip their way to the leading positions.
I find myself in a cosy spot amongst other joggers and keep my mind occupied by counting the speedy runners who continue to overtake me. Running along back roads amongst the green dairy pastures, the air is fresh and cold. After eight kilometres the sky opens and it begins to rain. A quarter of the way through I welcome the cool raindrops and soon the sun appears once more. At the halfway point, I’m feeling confident and, after discovering I’m making good time, I pick up the pace. Another downpour hits and I run on through the rain and wind with no time to be concerned about getting wet. Only two kilometres from the end, I’m saturated but my legs are still working. I give and receive smiles from curious onlookers who look at me with both confusion and admiration. Crossing the line, the sun returns and with a finish time of 2 hours 15 minutes, I’m ecstatic.
Many runners choose the Bayleys Mountain to Surf marathon because of its scenic beauty and simplistic route. The steady downhill decline allows runners to reach their personal best.
I may not have had such goals but I’m certainly proud – I’ve accomplished something I never expected I could do with such little preparation. I guess that is a personal best!
From left: the marathon starts at Egmont National Park and heads downhill towards the water; bird’s eye view of Taranaki; a cosy room at the Nice Hotel;
Mineral spa
The Taranaki Thermal Spa is my final destination and with my adrenaline levels well drained and my legs feeling wobbly, I’m more than ready for a soak. This unique bathhouse collects warm mineral water from a spring 916 metres below the ground. Originally discovered in 1909 when drilling for oil, the baths were used by locals until the spa was closed in the 1960’s. Reopened in 1999, the bathhouse now contains five private pools that are instantly filled on arrival and a large public pool for families. Temperatures sit between 32-40ºC and in my warm bath I simmer and doze.
Accommodation
Taranaki is a thriving hub of culture and creative arts. The region is home to painters, musicians and writers who find inspiration in the wild scenery and rich culture. The Nice Hotel is a stunning example of the combination of art and accommodation. Just a small walk from the town centre, the boutique hotel is well known by locals for its creative and eclectic mix of décor – as well its award-winning onsite restaurant, Table.
Fact file
  • The Bayleys Mountain to Surf Half and Full Marathon takes place in March, visit mountaintosurf.co.nz for more information.
  • Built in 1870, New Plymouth’s oldest building has been restored into the boutique Nice Hotel, visit nicehotel.co.nz for info.
  • Great for sore muscles (even without the half marathon), take
    a trip to Taranaki Thermal Spa.
  • The Yoga Space is a perfect time-out from busy Taranaki, visit theyogaspace.co.nz
Words by: Daisy Sillis
Photos: Supplied, Thinkstock and Getty Images

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