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Rail Trail Tales of Running Not Riding

Whilst the Hauraki Rail Trail is one of New Zealand's Great Rides, there are plenty of people who enjoy the Trail on foot.  One such regular visitor is Claire Whittle, who trains on the Rail Trail.

The wide, flat and smooth terrain offers the ideal training ground for Claire’s love of running.  With a handful of events in the pipeline, the 160km Trail is long and varied enough to keep her motivation high.

We caught up with Claire to find out why the Rail Trail is such a great place to train.  Why her favourite section was also once the scariest, and her top tip for enjoying the Trail at its most tranquil.

In the saddle (and the sneakers) with Claire Whittle



Q    Who are you?

A    I am Claire, 35 year old female from London, England who lives in Auckland.  I manage a residential rehabilitation centre and enjoy getting out into nature to escape and unwind.


Q    What was the reason behind your adventure on the Hauraki Rail Trail?

A     I’m a runner, and currently training for a 100 mile ultra run in February 2019.  Every other weekend I stay in Waikino and head to the Hauraki Rail Trail to train.  I took part in the Trail Trilogy 55km run as preparation!


Q    Which Sections did you run, and do you have a favourite?

A    Paeroa to Waikino, I think as Waikino is home and the Karangahake Gorge is stunningly beautiful.  The Kopu Bridge between Thames and Paeroa is also breathtaking.  As my training intensifies the distances are getting longer and longer, and so I’m still discovering more every time I head out.


Q    What memory or experience on the Trail will stay with you most?

A    My first time in the 1km railway tunnel.  Although it’s well enough lit it’s still spooky.  Dark and wet, it seems never ending.  You can see only shadowy figures as they approach.  The first time I ran through I didn’t know how long it went on, and I was scared I would never make it out the other end!


Q    What is it for you that makes the Hauraki Rail Trail unique?

A    It’s so varied and incorporates so much history of days past and old mining relics.  There is also lots of nature, birds and animals.  It’s flat and almost impossible to get lost.  But more than anything it was just such a surprise.  I had no idea it was all here!


Q    What advice would you give to others planning to run or ride the Trail?

A    Leave early.  Bike hire starts around 9am I think, so before this time the trail is at its most tranquil.  Also check out the historic Waikino Hotel beside the trail, it has a rich history and a great lunch menu!


Q    Where are you hoping to adventure next?

A     I have a 100km race in Taupo in October.  Then it’s off to Rotorua for the Tarawera 160km in February.  Then I am going to have a rest, probably in the Waikino Hotel!


If you would like to follow in Claire’s footsteps, here’s an easy day ride (or long run) to enjoy on Section B of the Rail Trail.  You can view and download the Trail Map here.


Thames - Paeroa (34kms one way)


Section B starts along the Thames Coastal Walkway, passing the historic Kopu Bridge.  This easy, mostly flat tranquil ride passes through lush farm land, following the old railway line, beside the Southern Coromandel Ranges and Hauraki Plains.

The Matatoki Cheese Barn is a must stop along the Trail.  Here you’ll find a licensed Cafe, cheese tastings, and a fabulous animal farm.  The family of alpacas, rabbits, guinea pigs, and Cookie the spotty sheep offer great entertainment for the whole family.

Guided tours at the Thames School of Mines bring this special Heritage New Zealand site to life with captivating stories about the Hauraki area’s people and places.  It’s an excellent venue to start your Rail Trail adventures.


Get Some Help Planning Your Ride

To help plan your accommodationbike hire, shuttle transport or guided tour, take a look at the services offered by our Official Partners.  There’s a variety of options for all budgets, and with a little help to make your ride more manageable, there’s something for everyone on the Hauraki Rail Trail.


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