parkrun tourism @ campaspe

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Woodend. It’s definitely got a country town vibe and is surrounded by beautiful countryside but is close enough to civilisation that you don’t feel cut off from the rest of the world. So it was a welcome bit of news to find that a new parkrun was opening in Woodend – Campaspe parkrun.

With only a bit over an hour to travel, it was actually a relatively late start for us. As we headed into the hills, the temperature dropped, albeit subtly and had us feeling a little chilly on arrival. We easily found Woodend Children’s Park and parked up then checked out the toilets (clean and tidy) before joining everyone for briefing. Despite this only being event #5 for the team, briefing ran like a well oiled machine with all the required bits included and dealt with quickly. The run director even managed a shout out to some visitors who’d travelled to collect a ‘c’ for their pirate challenge. And then, in no time at all, we were walking over the bridge to the start line.

From the start, this was a tale of multiple surfaces. There’s some concrete, some gravel, some squishy bits and even some wooden bridges. It’s not a hard course to follow at all – an easy out and back with a short detour out and back section on your way home which (on a non-cloudy day) would give you great views of Mount Macedon. There are friendly marshals to help keep you on track and cheer you on and signs at all the important bits. It’s a flat-ish course with just a few little ups and downs to make it interesting. I quite liked the variety and scenery although one of the wooden bridges felt a bit more like a rollercoaster with all of us running over it. The finish line creeps up on you, appearing just as you crest the last little hill and was a welcome sight.

Post parkrun, we followed the recommendation and enjoyed coffee at The Milko – delicious coffee and possibly the fluffiest muffin I’ve ever had. Although from prior experience, you really can’t go wrong in Woodend – quite a few great breakfast spots which makes it seem entirely likely that we’ll be back to sample breakfast….I mean parkrun, again!

parkrun tourism @ goldfields reservoir

There have been a bounty of new parkruns in Victoria lately which gives us some great opportunities for touristing, particularly with the warmer weather on its way. Instead of focusing on launches, we’re visiting in the later event numbers, partly to assist event teams in settling in and partly to assist our Wilson Index! Hence why we found ourselves getting up very early to trek to Goldfields Reservoir parkrun in Maryborough for their 4th event on Saturday.

This one is very easy to find – it’s a turning off the main road from Ballarat. There’s ample parking and decent toilets at the start along with a water fountain to fill your bottle if needed.

Toilets with a view 🙂

Despite the chilly wind, there was a decent gathering and briefing revealed it to be a mix of locals and tourists from near and far. As often happens in country parkruns, it was great to see people who I suspect are new to the concept of parkrun.

The course is very easy to follow – you start on the grass by the pergola then feed onto the path which you then stick to for 3 laps of the lake. The surface is a gravel path and very easy on the feet as well as being pretty much flat. Most importantly, the scenery is beautiful – an open vista of the lake before being led into the trees where you twist and wind amongst them before running alongside the railway and back to the start to do it all over again.

Breakfast afterwards is at a place which will be familiar as you’ve passed it 3 times on the course – Ripples on the Res. There’s a table set aside for parkrun people and a tasty breakfast menu with good coffee – what more do you need?

Loved everything about Goldfields Reservoir – the course, the vibe, the friendly crowd and the post run breakfast. Definitely one to add to your list and another gem of a Victorian parkrun. Well done to the team!

parkrun tourism @ shepparton

As we were travelling anyway for the Four Vines running festival on Sunday, we took the opportunity to try out a new parkrun somewhere near…ish. It was a bit under an hour to drive to Shepparton parkrun but we decided that qualified as ‘near’ and headed up there. Ominous clouds were gathering on the drive and the Bureau had suggested a 90% chance of rain including a thunderstorm.

We easily found the spot and were instantly impressed – clean and easy to find toilets are always a bonus when you’ve travelled and there was even a nearby flying fox to get us in the right frame of mind!

We gathered with others at the start line for briefing and instantly got a feel for the friendly and welcoming nature of Shepparton parkrun. Sometimes I worry that, as parkruns get bigger, they lose the community feel but this one is proof that it doesn’t have to happen – a couple of hundred runners and walkers but definitely a local, friendly vibe.

And so we started. I had been a bit unsure of the course when looking at the map but it made complete sense once we were on it – you head along the path by the lake before doing a short loop, turning around and completing 2 clockwise laps of the lake.

It’s actually a bit of a deceptive course – it looks like it should be a lot further around the lake but clearly isn’t that far as it takes a couple of laps to make up the 5km. I appreciated doing multiple laps as it gave me a chance to check out the facilities – playground, workout stations, accommodation close by.

Despite this being a walking parkrun for me, it was over pretty quickly and the finish line with cheery volunteers was there to greet me. Perhaps this one had also sped by because of the very welcoming crowd – lots of ‘well done’ and ‘great job’ comments as I went around the course. Also fabulous to see a range of speeds including a number of walkers. And, best of all, the grey clouds held off and we didn’t get any of the predicted rain (well, not until we were back in our cosy house!).

Thanks to all at Shepparton parkrun, both volunteers and participants, for the warm welcome – definitely one to add to our list to return to in the future.

parkrun tourism @ Queen Elizabeth

With only two letters of the parkrun alphabet to go and with our ‘Z’ flights booked, we had been pondering for a while where to run our ‘Q’. Fly to Tasmania or drive the 9 hours to Queanbeyan? When life threw some lemons at us in the form of an unexpected last minute trip to the UK, we made lemonade, deciding to take advantage of a nearby ‘Q’ – Queen Elizabeth parkrun.

We arrived in plenty of time, using the visitor centre toilets then moving on to the Gravel Hill carpark. Unlike most of the parkruns we visit, this one requires you to pay for parking – not a huge issue but something to be aware of. In exchange, you get clean toilets and a well equiped visitor centre, complete with cafe with delicious coffee and cake.

Very official looking entry to Queen Elizabeth park

We joined in with the first timers’ briefing, delivered by a wonderfully enthusiastic volunteer followed by the run briefing. There were lots of tourists present – clearly this is a popular spot for those on an alphabet quest with few other ‘Q’ options.

Run briefing with a stunning backdrop

The start line is a short hike up a hill which sets the tone well – this is not a flat parkrun. It’s technically 2 loops – one smaller one then a larger loop covering some of the same ground and the course is very easy to follow with signs and marshals at key points.

The course is a real mix of surfaces and, with a week of rain, it made for fun times trying to figure out where to put my feet. We started on gravel, moved on to grass and then had some gravel and some mud to negotiate to finish the first loop.

Starting the second loop, you go up a long hill – not the worst I’ve encountered but quite a climb although more than made up for by the beautiful scenery you’re passing through. As you turn, you get to enjoy a delightful long downhill before a few minor undulations to finish the lap.

My husband commented at the end that he’d love to give this one a chance in the dry but I was actually grateful that it was wet – there’s something quite liberating as an adult to go running through slushy mud and puddles and I loved the chance to break in my new trail shoes.

Thanks to all the fabulous, welcoming volunteers at Queen Elizabeth parkun – the fact that it starts with a ‘Q’ is only a very small part of its popularity and I think it has a lot to do with the friendly atmosphere and welcome for all, tourists and walkers included. Absolutely perfect way to kick of a Saturday morning.

Starting again. Again.

If I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front of late, it’s because I’ve been a bit quiet on the running front as well. After returning from our European adventures (which had lots of walking but limited running), I started to get back into it then felt the familiar pang of injury, albeit one I hadn’t had before. And one that the physio didn’t quite know what to call or what caused it. Subsequent visits to the doctor and tests revealed absolutely nothing so, after a considerable chunk of rest, I’m slowly getting back into it.

I could be mad at the injury and the random nature of it, leaving me uncertain about where it came from and whether it will return. I could be frustrated at how much fitness I’ve lost. I could be annoyed at the event plans I won’t be able to follow through on this year because I’m not trained enough. Instead, on my first long run back at it today, I was just grateful that I can run. Grateful for the burning in my lungs as I pushed up the hill. Grateful for the familiar long run aches that started once my house was in sight. And hugely grateful for the smug Sunday feeling that I always get after a long run. Even one that was 7km rather than the 20km that I crave. Life is too short to be mad, frustrated and annoyed so I’m also grateful that gratitude comes so easily.

Right now, I’m not committing to any particular event but I have started a half marathon training plan, just to give me something to focus on and to feel like I’m building back up in a sustainable, sensible way. Week 1 has gone well – no pain and just the usual aches along with the wonderful moments of getting lost in the rhythm of it. Particularly loved parkrun yesterday – the first time I’ve run parkrun since I got injured and it felt hard enough to be satisfying. A relief to realise that the love of running hasn’t left me, it just went into hibernation and is ready to face the sunshine.

parkrun tourism @ victor harbor

As if it wasn’t challenging enough getting up every Saturday morning, those of us who love parkrun also often find ourselves dragged into other challenges that go along with it. One of these is the alphabet challenge – completing a parkrun with names starting with every letter of the alphabet (except for x which is currently not possible anywhere in the world).

Photo of 2 parkrun flags with path and ocean in the background

Hence a trip to South Australia for the collection of a ‘V’ for Victor Harbor. This is a beautiful parkrun along a coastal path about an hour from Adelaide. The start was easy to find and there was plenty of parking along the road. We did have some blue skies to greet us, unfortunately we also had some wind which had us sheltering behind the big tree at the start, trying to avoid shivering too much.

Photo of start/finish line painted on the concrete path

The run briefing was mercifully short and, soon enough, it was time to go and I thankful for the chance to get the blood pumping and warm up a bit. Still nursing an injury, I chose to walk this one and was pleased to see other walkers in the crowd so I didn’t feel lonely. The course is really easy to follow, even if you were doing it as a freedom run with a start/finish line permanently marked on the ground and the turnaround point also marked with a clear path to follow in between. In terms of scenery, it’s a great parkrun – beach and water (complete with foaming waves) all the way.

While the crowd wasn’t large (to be expected with such cold and windy weather) you wouldn’t have guessed it from the friendly welcome back at the finish line with enthusiastic volunteers cheering me to the end.

Photo of me at the finish line with parkrun flags and ocean in the background

After getting our barcodes scanned, it was time to find somewhere warmer to enjoy some coffee and breakfast and we opted for a cafe in town, Cafe Bavaria, where the coffee was warm and delicious and breakfast definitely hit the spot.

Thanks to the team at Victor Harbor parkrun for the warm welcome (if not for the warm weather) – definitely a great way to tick off another letter. Only 2 more to go!

being inclusive

I have been fortunate enough to have been travelling overseas recently and, as part of this, got to visit some different parkruns around the UK as well as races in the UK and Norway.

As a visitor, differences tend to stand out as you do the inevitable comparisons to more familiar settings. Standing out for me at the parkruns I visited in the UK was that there were high participant numbers (expected in a country with a larger population) yet many less walkers than we get at home.

At home, I do sometimes enjoy to walk at parkrun. Not ‘run a bit, walk a bit’ – I do some of those as well but I sometimes actively choose to walk it. Maybe I’m doing a long run the next day and want to save my legs. Maybe I’m feeling a bit tired or ill. Maybe I’m injured. Or maybe, and this is the most frequent reason, I just like to walk. Taking parkrun at a walking pace allows me to chat to friends, soak up the scenery and take the pressure off while still enjoying some exercise.

On one of my UK parkruns, I actively chose to walk. I was walking with a friend who was new to parkrun and she was feeling a bit apprehensive about the experience. Take the pressure off, I told her – let’s walk and chat and soak up the scenery. The tailwalker had other ideas. I’m sure he felt his comments were supportive but there was the constant tone of wanting to finish in under a certain time and feeling he needed to push us along. I’ve done 170 ish parkruns so I know how it all works and took his comments with a pinch of salt however I felt for my friend – this was her first experience of parkrun. Would it be the sort of experience that would make her want to do it again?

It got me thinking generally about inclusion and what it looks like at running events. It can be such a big step for people to come to their first event, be it parkrun or a paid race. I know I spent a long time on a treadmill in my garage before being willing to take my new hobby out in public. If we really want an inclusive and welcoming community that embraces people in all their diversity, we need to think about how all of our words and actions show that they belong. During the first timers’ briefing at Bushy parkrun, the volunteer reminded us all that it didn’t matter whether we walked or ran and how long it took us – there was a tailwalker whose job it was to come last so we didn’t. That perfectly set the tone and helped even me, a seasoned parkrunner, feel less intimidated by the serious looking running tribe I found myself surrounded by. Conversely, another parkrun I attended never mentioned the word ‘walk’ at all, either in the first timers’ briefing or the run briefing. If that was your first parkrun and you were nervously attempting your first 5km and the only word you heard was ‘run’, would that fill you with confidence?

I suppose this really is just a reminder about language and how much it matters. How the inclusion of a word (walk) in a briefing can make a big difference to those hearing it and how they experience your event. Most importantly, it can be the difference in whether they come back and make this a habit or stop, deciding they don’t belong. And how appreciative I am for the supportive, positive comments I’ve received from tailwalkers at various events which, in small but significant ways, helped me feel I did belong there, however long I took.

Walking at parkrun – yes, it’s definitely a thing. Thanks to the wonderful team of volunteers at Castlemaine parkrun this morning for making this walker feel welcome 🙂