By Shane Roberts.

I sometimes wonder who came up with the term ‘fun run’. To me, and I’m sure to many others, it seems something of an oxymoron – after all, what could be fun about heading out into the driving rain and getting soaked to the bone, all while trying not to wheeze up a lung as you valiantly attempt to make it to the end of your road? Doesn’t sound much fun to me.

And that’s just the training part.

But Auckland’s Round The Bays labels itself as just that – and then some. It’s New Zealand’s largest fun run, with nigh-on 30,000 runners taking to its scenic streets in early March in the name of fitness, competition, and – yes – fun.

Round The Bays. It pays.

But Round The Bays is much more than a mass gathering of lycra, eye-meltingly colourful running shoes and Garmins. It also serves as a bit, bouncing bonanza of a charity drive, with countless runners up-and-down the course raising money for causes close to their pounding hearts. This year alone, over $230,000 was raised thank to the event – every dollar winging its way somewhere worthwhile. A great opportunity, then, for me to lace up my famous orange running shoes and get back on the road to raise a few bucks for MS Auckland while I’m at it. Well, you’d think – but I never actually intended to head back out there this year, after friends, family and work colleagues were so generous with their donations in 2023. But (spoiler alert!) I did – I wouldn’t be sitting here on a raining Saturday afternoon typing this out if I didn’t. Here’s how it went down.

Dashing for dollars, coin for charity

My partner, Katie, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2021. Of course, that’s the main reason I chose to fundraise and run Round The Bays last year – the tireless work that everyone puts in at MS Auckland could never have a price on it, but it’s good to know that every cent raised goes towards keeping everything moving there, on way or another.

But that was last year – I figured my work was done. I’d raised a whole heap of cash for the charity, run the course, and got my medal. What more could I do?

Well, run it again in 2024, I suppose – and get fundraising again.

Waves of wedge

It was at this point – when I got a reminder email from Round The Bays to sign up again for the latest edition – that I started to feel a little awkward. After all, I couldn’t possibly ask everyone to reach deep into their pockets once again to fork out more moolah – these people had already been so generous, and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis was beginning to dominate the headlines.

So, this time around, I signed up with more than a little trepidation – maybe just running in the iconic orange of MS Auckland would be enough, to perhaps help raise awareness, rather than adding any financial benefit. I thought I’d just put out a throwaway Facebook post to let people know what I was up to… and the same thing happened again.

The money started rolling in. I hadn’t even put in any effort – just the aforementioned social media post – but every so often, my phone would ping with a notification letting me know someone, somewhere had donated. Some of these people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in year – I’m English, and haven’t been able to get home since before the pandemic – but the metaphorical kerching of the cash register was ringing in my ear.

It was then that I found out about Impact Day. For one day only, any donation made to Round The Bays’ headline charities would be doubled – a massively generous incentive and one I couldn’t refuse making another Facebook post about, just to see if I could get any bites. After all, $100 is better than $50 (unless it’s a power bill), so there was no harm in trying. Even if nothing was forthcoming, at least I’d given it a little go.

Once again, a tidal wave of cash came pouring into my MS Auckland charity fundraising account – now all I had to do was get out there and show that course who was boss!

Tamaki Drive (for good)

Like many Aucklanders, I’m pretty familiar with Tamaki Drive. I often jogged it with my old running club, cycled it when heading tot he shimmering sands of Mission Bay, and, of course, ran Round The Bays itself there a couple of times.

So, race day itself didn’t hold any massive surprises for me. The weather threatened to soak the hardy 30,000 on the start line, but luckily, only a small spattering of H20 fell as the countdown to the horn got underway. And with that, we were off – the light rain abating and the road ahead trembling under the pounding feet of athletes eager to get to Madill’s Farm (the finish) as quickly as possible. The rain may have gone, but as I rounded the bend past Okahu Bay Reserve, I did note that the wind was really starting to pick up – something the MS Auckland team would come to rue in the finisher’s area a little later!

I kept going, battling through – faster than my usual pace, and in dire need of a nice lay down and a cup of tea by the time the seventh kilometre rolled around. Happily, through, the end was in sight, and I ambled wearily across the finishing line on the hunt of a medal, a banana, and a cheeky Powerade. That done, off I walked to find the MS Auckland tent – legs aching, lungs heaving, but glad to have done all again for this great cause.

Tents, trouble and triumph

It took me a while to find the guys and girls from MS Auckland over in Madill’s Farm. I walked around, a bit disoriented (I have a terrible sense-of-direction and am not much of a carographer – Katie does all the directions when we’re on a road trip and I do the driving – this is a perfect symbiotic relationship, trust me!) Anyway. I eventually stumbled across the team, was brought a tasty coffee, and had a chinwag with a few folk from MS Auckland whom I’d met before, but also met some new faces. Lovely stuff.

Remember I mentioned the wind getting up during the run? It hadn’t gone away, and seemed to be blowing a gale at this point – and as I got up to make my way home to Katie, a monstrous gust took a hold of the tent and sent it flying across the field. My legs shot, I was precisely zero use in chasing it as it bounced across the grass, so I left it to the experts and made a hasty exit.

Same again next year? I’ll be there, and if you are too, it’ll all be for the better – more cash raised for the worthy cause, more people to meet with shared goals and dreams, and more ridiculous stories to tell your friends and family when it’s all over.