Hoka One One trail event #5 – Night run @ Studley Park

I have thoroughly enjoyed running in the Hoka series of trail events this year and was really, really looking forward to the night run. Just to add to this, the weather forecast was for perfect running conditions (not always guaranteed in Spring).

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The Yarra River looking serene and beautiful at the end of a perfect Spring day

I trekked over to Melbourne quite early – I had some things to do on the way and assumed that, being a Friday night, traffic might be a bit of an issue. This was indeed true – traffic was a big issue. In the end, what should have been a 1 hour drive took just over 2 hours. Still, thanks to me leaving ridiculously early, I got there with time to spare and wandered the event village, soaking up the atmosphere and getting into my zen mood. I also bumped into a work friend who I haven’t seen for ages which was great. Half of my running friends arrived and we headed to the start line (the other half were still stuck in traffic and arrived a bit after the start).

We had to be quite creative about our start line selfies this time as night time had descended but we managed it then it was time for me to go. After we started, I wanted to get the road bit done as quickly as possible and just get onto the trail. And once I was on the trail, I absolutely loved it. I had wondered whether it would be a bit creepy or whether I’d feel unsafe (not from the bogeyman but more likely from tree roots!) but I didn’t feel either of those things. I just loved it. After about 3km, I caught up with a running friend and we ran together for the rest of it, over the bridge (shaky as ever!) and through the bushland circuit onto the single track very close to the river.

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Start line selfies, made slightly more complicated in the dark

The finish line actually crept up too soon for my liking – I found myself finishing and wishing I’d done the medium course instead. The atmosphere at the finish was great – the finish line literally delivered you to Studley Boathouse where the kiosk was awaiting with lots of energy replenishing goodies while we waited for our other friends to finish.

This event and this series gets a huge thumbs up from me – I loved each of the courses and found the whole thing to be really well organised. Most importantly, the events had a very friendly, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere which is probably what I’d worried most about at the start, being new to trail running and not particularly speedy. I needn’t have worried – great events, friendly volunteers and fellow runners and amazing locations. See you all again next year!

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2 years on

My 2nd parkrun-iversary ticked over yesterday so it’s a useful time to pause and think about my last 2 years in running. Has anything changed since I first, tentatively, drove to Albert parkrun, ran and had my token scanned? Yes. Quite a bit actually. It may have taken me more than 6 months between registering and actually going to parkrun (seriously!) but, once I’d done it, there was no looking back.

Since then, I’ve clocked up 64 parkruns at 23 different courses in 7 states/territories of Australia. I’ve become seriously addicted to attending launches and parkrun tourism in general but am also very attached to my beloved Balyang Sanctuary and the friends I’ve made there.

Here’s to many more years of parkrun shenanigans!

In search of a hero

The title of this blog post is possibly a little misleading – I don’t need to search for a hero, I have one. Well, actually, I have a couple but there’s one I want to talk about today. The problem is not that I don’t have one, it’s that, despite doing amazing things, he doesn’t seem to get the recognition he deserves and that’s particularly obvious today. I’m talking about the incredible, talented and inspirational Kurt Fearnley.

In the early hours of this morning (Australian time), Kurt won a silver medal in the marathon at the Rio paralympics. It was an amazingly close finish with a second separating him from the gold medal spot. This is his second medal in these games and his fourth straight paralympic medal in the marathon. Yet, if you watched the major broadcasters in Australia or read the headlines of the online news this morning, you wouldn’t see it. If you are persistent and trawl through the other fillers on the front pages and make it to the ‘little’ stories, you’ll find his achievement hidden away and reported as if it’s something less than amazing – Fearnley’s agonising near miss for wheelchair gold. (I’m picking on the Sydney Morning Herald here but they’re all about the same and at least they actually have a story on him). He won a silver medal!! He gave it everything he had, put in an incredible performance and showed, in his post race demeanour, that he is truly a top human being.

Of course, Kurt isn’t the only one to have had his achievements underplayed by the media and the Australian media isn’t alone in their lack of coverage. The paralympics as a whole haven’t had the recognition that they should have.

My frustration with this is on a few levels.

Firstly, I’m frustrated for the athletes themselves. They work ridiculously hard, overcome obstacles that I can’t fathom and compete at an elite level for our country. Surely that is worth at least equal recognition to other sportspeople (eg, Daniel Riccardio’s second place podium made it front page this morning).

Secondly, the public deserve to know more about these inspirational role models. Over the last 2 weeks of term, my Grade 4s and I have been enjoying watching, reading about and researching the paralympics and the athletes who compete in them. At the end of term, I gave my students an assignment to write about a hero and several of them wrote about paralympians who they had only just discovered but whose achievements, tenacity and determination made them instant heroes in 10 year olds’ eyes. I want other children and adults to have the chance to know more about these athletes, what they can do, what they have overcome and the attitudes and dispositions they cultivate which make them who they are. If my students only have the standard media diet of misbehaving AFL players and foul mouthed musicians to choose from for their role models, I worry about who they will become.

Finally, I’m over being dictated to about what I can watch. I’ve spoken to lots of people over the last few weeks who also were outraged over the lack of coverage so clearly this has public support. So why do media outlets continue to ignore this? Are there really that many Australians interested in stories about Donald Trump or Manchester United that they needed to take up front page space on The Age website this morning? I had a short stint as a journalist so know how media organisations set the agenda based on perceived public interest but surely it must be obvious that whatever perception they’re holding is way out of whack?

Rant over….for today. I shall end simply by thanking Kurt Fearnley for being the amazing human being he is. He is one of the people I think of and draw inspiration from when I’m on my long runs or when I’m at that ‘is it over yet?’ point of an event. Kurt’s determination, humility and inability to see barriers are qualities I would love to emulate and so I’ll continue to loudly applaud his achievements, of which I have no doubt there will be many more.

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parkrun tourism @ Diamond Creek

20160917_074325.jpgMy plans for parkrunning this morning were, quite literally, washed away by the weather gods this week. You Yangs parkrun was due to launch but had to be postponed due to that section of the park being closed from flooding. My backup plan, running at my local Balyang Sanctuary, was also no longer an option as the Barwon River popped its banks and overran our parkrun course. So, rather than sleep in, I opted to make the most of the opportunity to head off and be a tourist somewhere different and chose Diamond Creek, about an hour’s drive from home.

I arrived in perfect time, finding the place easily. I joined in with the new runners’ briefing to learn about the course then was welcomed as the only tourist at the main briefing. It is quite a popular parkrun and seems to have a very friendly atmosphere with lots of families participating.

We moved over to the start line where there were people with expected finish time signs to help us get into some sort of starting order although, as is usually the case, these weren’t particularly effective. Despite starting next to the 35 minute sign, I appeared to be behind quite a lot of walkers and had to be patient and wait to get around them as the start is over a fairly narrow bridge and around a tight turn onto the path.

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Once we were along the path a little, the group spread out and I found my rhythm. The course is all run on well maintained concrete paths which run alongside the creek and through the parkland – quite picturesque. You almost forget you’re in suburbia until the train comes rattling through. There are some very tiny inclines but nothing challenging and the course is very easy to follow with kilometre markings and turns permanently marked on the ground.

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After the turnaround, the course takes a slightly different path back, sending you up a small incline off the main path to get the required distance in.

The logistics at the finish line were very smooth with the finish funnel in place, easily handling the quite large number of parkrunners that this event attracts. I was happy to see the finish line for more than the normal reasons today – not only was I ticking off another course, I also managed to score myself a 5km PB today which I was over the moon about. I’ve been chasing any improvement to my time for 18 months now and today felt great. To celebrate I……went and ran the course again! My half marathon training plan called for a 10km today so it was good to knock this out in a different location.

Definitely a good course and a friendly bunch – I’d be more than happy to run this again, especially in the glorious sunshine we had today. Thanks to all at Diamond Creek for such a good run🙂

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Being grateful

This weekend was probably the first in a while when I didn’t have any specific, must do events planned. I knew I had to get a long-ish run in but, at 10km, I knew it wouldn’t take up a huge chunk of time or effort and wouldn’t eat up my whole weekend as has been the case for the last few weeks.

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On Saturday, I trotted along to Balyang Sanctuary parkrun for a stint as timekeeper then on Sunday morning, I ran the You Yangs parkrun course for their trial with some friends before the launch next weekend. As that wasn’t quite long enough to satisfy my long run requirements, I headed off (after coffee!) into town for another 5km through the park and along the beach.

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Amidst all of this, I felt an amazing and quite overwhelming sense of gratitude. I can run. I live somewhere where there is varied and amazing scenery within half an hour of my doorstep. I have been lucky enough to meet a diverse group of running friends who make me smile and encourage me. I am further inspired by their achievements. I have enough money to not worry about where my next meal is coming from and to fund my running shoe habit. I’ve been fortunate enough to tick a lot of different and interesting events off my running wishlist, locally and a long way away. Above all of that, this weekend was wrapped in blue skies and sunshine – how can you possibly not be grateful for all of that?

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Hoka One One Trail event #4 – Anglesea

After adding ‘run a trail event’ to my goals for this year, I’ve managed to not just run one but quite a few, thanks mostly to the Hoka series of trail events. Last weekend I ran #4 of the 5 event series at Anglesea. This was timed to occur the day after the Surf Coast Century event so it was a massive weekend for trail running and had an atmosphere to match. I was running this without the usual crowd of running buddies so it was a little different for me – not bad, just different. Start lines with friends are about shared chatter and excitement, motivational talk and lots of pictures. Start lines alone are about quiet contemplation, positive self talk and taking it all in. This particular start line was on the beach which added to the whole zen thing. Again, it’s funny to think how far I’ve come as beach running used to terrify me. Now it’s just a bit of a pain but nothing I can’t handle….slowly!

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Start lines don’t get much more picturesque than this

Warm up done, we were off and running along a bit of the beach before turning back past the start to then head up into the trees.

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The first part of the course looked familiar from the Surf Coast trail half which was good as I don’t know Anglesea in general and really couldn’t picture where I was. After running along the edge of the caravan park, the trail took us into the bushland and, after a short while, up a rather steep hill that started at the football ground. It certainly wasn’t as sharp and nasty as the hill at Silvan but was challenging enough and slowed me right down.

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Photo courtesy of Supersport Images

Once we were on the other side of it (and I had more oxygen to spare), I could give more attention to the scenery around me, especially as I was pretty much out there on my own. It was a real mix of very skinny single tracks and wide roads as well as some weaving amongst buildings at the local Scout camp. Very scenic.

Soon enough, I rejoined the main trail where the long, medium and short courses converged and was heading back along the Surf Coast walk. Back down onto the beach then along the soft sand and into the finish chute. Thanks to the location and it being part of a trail festival weekend, there were more people at the finish than usual which gave me the motivation needed to get myself over the line.

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Another great event in a fantastic location. What I’ve been loving about this series of runs is the variety of scenery and terrain that you run through – challenging enough for the experienced and fast mountain goats but also perfect for trail newbies like myself. One more event in the series to go which I am looking forward to immensely – the night run back at Studley Park later in September.

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parkrun tourism @ wilson botanic

Another parkrun launched last weekend over the other side of Melbourne however, with Balyang’s birthday, I couldn’t make the launch so Jo and I headed over for their second event on Saturday.

Another early start and another long drive but the scenery that greeted us made it worth it. Wilson Botanic Park in Berwick is an oasis in this area of suburbia with picturesque gardens, quirky sculptures and constantly changing scenery. We arrived early enough for a toilet stop at the Visitors Centre (possibly the nicest toilets encountered at a parkrun!) and then a wander around to find the start (into the park and right up the incline towards the amphitheatre).

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A quick briefing done, we all gathered at the start line – numbers were clearly back to a comfortable level after a successful launch and it felt like a small, friendly event. The course is a 2 lap circuit, heading across along a tree covered walkway not long after the start which makes you feel like you’re in the middle of a fantasy world. Shortly after this is a rather steep hill – not the worst I’ve encountered but hard enough, especially when you know you’re going to have to do it again on the second lap. From the top of the hill, there are great views across the suburban backyards to the city skyline and, with the outside world noise not really filtering in, it’s a very serene place to run. Back down the steady decline and through the gardens beside the lake, you loop back to the start for the second lap.

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The first finisher was crossing the line as I was starting on my second lap which I had expected although it wasn’t as disheartening as I thought – the scenery really was taking my mind off everything and I looked forward to another lap. The hill was possibly easier the second time – I knew to expect it and just put my head down and got it over with as quickly as possible.

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I finished a few minutes slower than my regular parkrun time but wasn’t at all disappointed – my goal these days is to ‘run happy’ and get through each run feeling strong, happy and positive. All were definitely achieved on this run. There was a great vibe across the finish and people hung around to cheer on all the finishers, despite the rain clouds threatening overhead.

As we were on our way out, there was a plant sale in full swing and a coffee cart in action afterwards for those in need of a caffeine fix. It’s clearly a popular park for all sorts of pursuits and would be a particularly gorgeous spot to hang out in Summer.

Having travelled now to quite a few parkruns, I’m building a bit of a list of my favourites and this is definitely somewhere on it – scenery + just enough challenge + great community feel = perfect way to spend a Saturday morning.

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