Our Wellington

News | 15 January 2021

Welly Walks: Finding freedom on the run

Before moving to Wellington, lacing up the sneakers and hitting the footpath or nature reserve to work up a sweat was easier said than done for Hardus and Frieda de Bruyn.

Frieda and Hardus de Bruyn, wearing matching grey t-shirts, black shorts, and bright orange running shoes, standing together on the South Coast beach with Red Rocks behind them.

The couple moved from the South African capital Pretoria to New Zealand almost two years ago.

“In South Africa it was pretty unsafe for us to run at times,” Hardus says. “Back home reserves have been fenced off and locked for safety, and people have to pay to get in.

 “So since moving here we’ve really kicked up our running a notch, and it’s a privilege in Wellington to be able to explore so many great tracks that are really accessible and really well maintained.”

Moving to a new country where they knew no one, Hardus and Frieda set up an Instagram account to meet running buddies and to get to know the greater Wellington region.

“Just through that we met people who have become friends who run with us frequently – it’s really become like a little Welly family for us,” Frieda says.

But fitness and new friendships aside, running also helped Hardus through a challenging time.

“My dad passed away and it was tough being here away from my family. Plus, moving to the other side of the world is quite lifechanging.

“My mind was overthinking things and running a lot was a way to unpack everything that was happening to me. I liked it because it allowed me to work through it at my own pace, rather than being in therapy where everything is on the table.”

While running one particular Pōneke trail – the Red Rocks Coastal Walk – Hardus had a brainwave.

“On that run I was thinking about my dad and what a great dad he was, and I realised there were a lot of people who didn’t have that privilege.

“I decided that in 2020 I would run 2020km and raise money for World Vision to support children living in hostile situations, like in warzones.”

While he didn’t quite meet his fundraising target of $2020 thanks to disruption by Covid-19, the lockdown did allow him to complete the 2020km goal three months before the year end.

Frieda also has a soft spot for the Red Rocks area with its "magical views", as it is where she discovered her passion for trail running.

“Red Rocks was my training ground and it’s where I got to meet a lot of the local running community,” says the former high school teacher who is now an educator in corporate leadership.

The Red Rocks Coastal Walk starts from the car park at the end of Owhiro Bay Parade, at the entrance to Te Kopahou Reserve, and ends at the Devil’s Gate at Sinclair Head.

On this easy, flat track, you will pass the old quarry, a group of historic baches, unique rock formations, and may even see a seal colony – but remember to stay at least 20 metres from wildlife and keep dogs on leads.

The ecology of the South Coast is very interesting, and is home to some species which are normally found in alpine areas, as well as being an important habitat for a number of threatened species.

Finally, some tips from Hardus, who works as a senior architectural technician when he’s not pounding the pavement: “A rolling pin is good for massaging muscles after a long run, and never increase mileage by more than 10 per cent each week.”

You can follow Hardus and Frieda at instagram.com/trailathlete/.

The black and yellow Welly Walks box with a sugary donut on top, sitting on a rocky shoreline with the scenery of Red Rocks and the ocean behind.

This is the fifth story of six in our #WellyWalks series. Hit the Red Rocks Coastal Walk from 9am on Saturday 16 January to find the #WellyWalks treats!

Happy walking!