Running in Cambridge

Report by Don Willoughby

Over the last year new natural running surfaces around Cambridge have become very common and runners and walkers are well served by a great variety of terrain. Over its 25 year history the Cambridge Tree Trust has built 21kms of riverside tracks and trails. These walking tracks can be viewed on the website

Through the work of the Cambridge Tree Trust there are 23 kms of running trails around Cambridge and especially along the Waikato River. These are regularly run by Kent and Kerry and off road training is a feature of the Tri NZ programme.

A more recent addition is the Meadow Walk which links Alpers Ridge Rd with the Poets Track at Fletchers Place. Cambridge reserve land has been taken out of winter dairying riverside rubbish like gorse blackberry and pampas grass has been sprayed and over the last 5 years some 20,000+ plants have been established alongside a riverside track. It has three stiles, is undulating and has short pasture to provide a  soft natural surface to run on. The views of the Waikato River are quite picturesque and in season the food forest of some 80 trees allows snacking on the run. Although only 2km long it provides links to the many other tracks that access varied terrain and are traffic free areas on which to run.
Here is a map of the Meadow Walk.
Google’s image is out of date. The Alpers Ridge is fully built up now.

Through the work of Sarah Ulmer much money has been raised recently which has allowed the Waipa District Council to construct many new tracks which link various sections of the Cambridge Green Belt and tie in with Cambridge Tree Trust tracks and provides runners, tri-athletes, walkers and mountain bikers with safe off road running on leg friendly surfaces. The most recent new tracks on the Leamington side of town are along Lamb St and Shelley St and have a firm rotten rock base topped with quarry fines which is proving ideal for those wanting to do quality fast reps or fartlek. My 76 year old legs find these new track surfaces are very forgiving on ankles and knees. They are a pleasure to wander along as they look onto grassed reserve land where horses, cows and sheep graze and in summer hay silage and maize is harvested.
Around Lake Te Ko Utu there has been a major landscape change in the last two years. Massive gums and oaks have been removed as they were becoming an increasing risk to the public who walk and run on the tracks around the lake. When a dog is killed and cars crushed by falling trees public liability to the WDC meant they had to be removed. Last year on Arbor Day the Cambridge Tree Trust promoted a public day of tree planting to schools and the public and some 2500 trees from our nursery were planted on a Saturday morning. This winter the WDC have been persuaded to erect stairs and make new tracks like the kauri link and Camellia Walk by the car park so that now another challenging circuit with stairs and hills is available for athletes to train on. With the assistance of the public and Correction Department teams through the April- June period the Cambridge Tree Trust has planted over 3500 trees mostly native on the car park banks where gums grew in earlier years. Once again these new tracks are traffic free, provides interest, have forgiving surfaces and allow uphill reps and stair sessions to be built into training programmes. My athletes regularly use this area as one lap of the lake is spot on 1000m and sessions of rep 1kms have been high on the diet for Willoughby trained athletes in the past. This area is popular with Cambridge Harrier and Hawks Club athletes as well as tri athletes. Seen running there over the last few months have been Nikki Hamblin. Camille Buscomb, Rowan Torkler, Emerson Deverell and Alice Mason all of whom have been prominent and successful performers on the national distance scene in the last few months. Lake Te Ko Utu is iconic come and enjoy it.
Try running in Cambridge occasionally. Get off the concrete and get back to nature. Our cafes and food shops are not bad either and there is a free barbecue area in the lake park.