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Balyang Sanctuary parkrun – happy birthday!

A huge happy 4th birthday to my favourite parkrun of all – Balyang Sanctuary in Geelong. We celebrated by dressing in fluoro colours, running and eating cake – is there a better way to celebrate? I even stretched myself by sewing my first ever tutu for the occasion and was so pleased with how it turned out.

Our #parkrun 4th birthday #running #runhappy #parkrunau #parkrunadventurers

A photo posted by @macgirl_19 on

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It’s funny to think how big a part of my weekend (and my life in general) this parkrun and its people have become over the last couple of years. It doesn’t even occur me to not to get up early on a Saturday morning and all events are planned around my permanent engagement at 8am. I was thinking as I ran along this morning how I’m lucky to have made some great running friends – some I know really well and some I barely know at all but all of them offer encouragement along the way and make me feel part of the parkrun family rather than just an attendee at an event.

So, as always, I owe my thanks to parkrun and all who make it such an amazing, supportive, inclusive and inspiring family. Here’s to many, many more years of parkrunning happiness🙂

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Bellarine Rail Trail run – race recap

One way of making sure I stick to my training plan is to enter events, particularly long ones. I’m not super motivated when it comes to lacing up the shoes and knocking out my long runs (even though I always love them once I get the first few kilometres done) so events really are the only way to keep me honest. My event of choice on the weekend was the Bellarine Rail Trail run.

Despite it being fairly close to home, I’ve never run along the rail trail so was looking forward to a bit of new scenery. My husband delivered me to the start line and I met up with friends who had caught the train up from Queenscliff. This is quite a small event (about 300 runners) and very low key, in stark contrast to the mega event of last weekend. Before I really had time to think about it, we were being gathered and set off on our way.

I ran with my friend Maggi and those first few kilometres ticked by easily (read her blog of the event here). It was overcast with a suitably low temperature – perfect weather for running. We chatted as we ran and stuck together for about the first 7km then went off at our own paces.

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The scenery is pretty – running along the rail line with farms in the background (and friendly cows) although, as you get closer to Queenscliff, you start to get water glimpses. The surface is gravel until you hit civilisation again – very easy on the feet.

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I had, mostly, a great run. There were a few moments of ‘gee I’m tired’ on this one, possibly compounded by it being a small event and, therefore, me feeling alone out on the course. When I was passed by the 34km runners, they were all fabulously friendly and supportive however there felt like long stretches where I didn’t see anyone. Coming in to Queenscliff, I wondered whether I’d gone the right way but always had the rail line close by so figured I had.

The finish line snuck up on me a bit and I was very happy to be running across it, with my husband waiting at the end. I was pretty happy with my time – I had treated this all along as a training run so wasn’t out to set any records, just was pleased to have ticked off 17km from my training plan.

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My friend Maggi running over the finish line

parkrun tourism @ Rhodes

Another mega running weekend started as all weekends should – with a parkrun.

I was lucky enough to be hanging out with some fabulous running friends for the weekend and headed with them out to Rhodes parkrun. It was a very easy train to get there, being only a short walk from Concord West station. We arrived a little early but that gave us time to have a required toilet stop and chat as well as catching up with parkrun royalty, Tim Oberg, CEO of parkrun Australia.

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We were then treated to a warm up led by one of the parkrunners (who also happens to be an accredited running coach – got to love having connections!) and the briefing before we headed off to the start line.

The course runs through Bicentennial Park, starting with a 1km loop which takes you back over the start line before heading off on the out and back section. While the start does get a bit crowded, it’s great to loop back through that area for the extra cheers and encouragement you get from the volunteers stationed there. The out and back part takes you along a concrete path which leads along to the river giving you some initial glimpses then a great panorama of the riverfront. While you are running alongside a very busy road, I can’t say I really noticed it much as I was more interested in the parks around me. There is ample signage around and marshals to direct you as well as plentiful chalk arrows on the ground.

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I took it very easy on this run, knowing I had a bigger one coming up the next day and I just pottered along, enjoying the scenery. After we finished, we all headed off on a hunt for some breakfast and found a little organic cafe near the station which was great – sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful weather. What was quite amusing was the huge queue of people for a cafe just along from ours. We weren’t sure why so asked them – apparently they serve a breakfast platter which draws crowds from far and wide. Must have been good as people were queuing for ages. I was more than happy with my eggs on toast.

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Overall, I enjoyed both the course and the atmosphere at Rhodes – friendly and welcoming as well as a very pretty place to go exploring. Most importantly, easy to get to for those of us not so familiar with Sydney transport and locations. My first Sydney parkrun, ticked off the list🙂

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City 2 surf – race recap

Where do I begin? This one is a truly iconic event that is beyond my bucket list. What I mean is that, while I was fully aware of it and frequently watched and admired those that did it, I just never actually dreamed that would one day be me. I remember hearing about it as a child, long before I learned that running was fun. I loved the costumes, the crowds, the sights….but it never, ever entered my head that I could run it. I saw some friends do it last year, watched the coverage on tv and still didn’t think about it. I wonder now why that was. The idea of flying off to far off events is obviously not completely alien to me but I just didn’t think about it. Too iconic. Too big. Too ‘out there’.

I don’t remember what changed my mind but I do remember, as a birthday present to myself, booking my flights and accommodation, without really giving it much thought at all. And being very, very excited.

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Goodies from the expo

That excitement only built as the event got closer and reached ridiculous levels on the morning itself. I slept well, jumped out of bed at 6, got ready then actually had time to kill. Meeting up with my brilliant running friends helped calm me down a bit or, rather, share the hype with them. After a minor delay due to a couple of friends who had managed to sleep in, we opted to skip the port-a-loo queue and use the facilities back at my hotel then joined the blue start group. I think the most overwhelming thing about this event is the number of people – somewhere around 80,000 had signed up, a number just too big for me to comprehend. And here many of them were, crowding around us and gathering to begin.

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Selfies and group photos done and layers shed, we began the shuffle toward the start line and after only the shortest of waits, we were off. Watching the crowds of runners streaming ahead made me grin and it was a grin that I don’t think left my face for the entire event. I had chosen to start off without listening to music and was well and truly kept entertained by the crowds of runners, on course entertainment and cheers from spectators along the route. The fact I knew nothing about the course or the places we were running through helped keep me amused – this was a real novelty for me and made the kilometres tick by.

The entertainment on course seemed to be timed to be there just when I needed a little pick-me-up. The Australian Army Rock band and NSW Police Rock band were great and could be heard long before they could be seen. I also loved the YMCA crew and couldn’t help but join in with the dance – fairly sure it did nothing to slow down my running🙂

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NSW Police rock band, appropriately located at Rose Bay Police Station🙂

Amidst all of this revelry, I knew that the infamous Heartbreak Hill was coming and wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I think ‘curious’ summed it up. I wasn’t scared of it – I figured it couldn’t be worse than the hill from hell I’d encountered on last week’s trail run and knew, no matter how big it was, it wouldn’t last forever. So I stopped for a selfie at the bottom and began the climb.

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And, it turned out, it really didn’t break my heart at all. Yes, it does go on a bit and tries to trick you into thinking its done when it isn’t. But it really isn’t that steep (clearly, as I actually managed to run most of it) and gives the reward of gorgeous views back to the harbour bridge to keep you going. In fact some of the short but steep inclines after that are actually more annoying as you’re not expecting them and don’t need them in the last stage of an event.

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Gorgeous views from the top of Heartbreak Hill

With about 3km to go, the descent into Bondi started in earnest and the crowd seemed to thicken even more, stopping me from hurtling down the hill like I wanted to. However this event is about so much more than your time – the atmosphere was incredible and the diversity of runners around me was magnificent. As I weaved and plodded along into Bondi, that’s what I thought about and was grateful for – the fact that we were all able to come out on a glorious sunny Winter’s day and run together on this great course.

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The last few kilometres as we headed down to Bondi

Lost in my thoughts, the finish line crept up on me – we turned a corner and were there, crossing the finish line, still surrounded by almost as many people as I had been at the start. Again, the impressive logistics were on display as we were shepherded along to collect our medals, grab some rehydration and head up to the spectator village. I met my friends in the Rebel Sport zone (thanks to handy wristbands we’d collected at the expo).

Post event, we quickly got the hungries and sought out whatever salty thing we could – fish and chips served in a slightly intimidating but very efficient shop fit the bill perfectly and we enjoyed them in the event village while we shared our running moments.

Clearly the whole event is a well rehearsed logistical exercise, as demonstrated by the buses to Bondi Junction which were fast (fast-ish or would have been if we’d joined the other queue) and efficient – we were soon on the train heading back into town. A quick change of clothes, collection of bags then I headed out to relax in the QANTAS lounge with a friend before the flight home.

So did this event live up to the hype? Absolutely. Having done a lot of different running events over the last 3 years and a heap of them this year in particular, it is a bit too easy for me to take them for granted and have the start line start to merge in my memory. This one is in no danger of that. The butterflies I felt before the start stayed with me as I ran and the smile really didn’t leave my face, even when I was sitting on the plane, still wearing my medal. Definitely an epic event, made better, as always, by having my fabulous running friends with me to share in the celebrations.

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Hoka One One trail series – event #3 Silvan

It’s a busy time for running events and this weekend was no exception with both a parkrun launch and the third event in the Hoka One One trail series, this one at Silvan Reservoir.

I was really excited about this one which shows how far I’ve come – hills used to terrify me, now I relish the challenge. It was also another chance for a great weekend away with my husband and running friends so definitely something I was looking forward to.

Our accommodation was only about 15 minutes drive so it wasn’t too early a start; it was definitely rather chilly as we got out of the car at the top of the hill and headed down to the event village. The long, medium and short courses had much closer start times for this event which made things a lot better – not so much standing around waiting after we’d waved people off. I waved off friends in the long course then, 5 minutes later, the medium course and had time for a toilet stop before I headed off for the short course start 30 minutes later.

The short course at Silvan was simply gorgeous. We headed up a road as we left the start then turned onto some single tracks which wove through the bushland, fringed by tree ferns. The weather was absolutely perfect for running – cold but not ridiculously so and spots of blue sky here and there.

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One of many logs, trees and branches that needed to be negotiated

The short course runners were bunched up for a little while but soon spread out and I felt for a long time like I was running on my own which was wonderful. I felt no pressure to run a particular time or keep up with anyone – just wanted to be out there, enjoying it. There were 2 women close by who I played leapfrog with for most of the event and it was good to share a quick laugh then get back to it.

There were some undulations but nothing too terrible – some good downhill stretches complete with mud for me to test out my new trail shoes; I’m pleased to say they acquitted themselves perfectly. While others around me were very carefully weaving down the hills, I just went, confident that I wasn’t going to slip and slide my way to the bottom.

And then, after what seemed like rather a short time, we met the hill we’d all been waiting for. The hill from hell. I knew it would be bad but actually found myself laughing when I saw it as it was so much worse than bad. But not impossible. As I climbed it, it was funny to hear people’s reactions as they turned the corner and saw it for the first time – there were definitely a few expletives shared although talking pretty much stopped once they started up it. Breath could not be spared for such things. I had to stop multiple times although, again, was glad of my trail shoes as at least I wasn’t slipping and sliding my way on the clay surface. However I didn’t stop grinning. Yes, it was hard. Yes, I walked it and yes, I had to stop a lot. But I felt amazing when I got to the top and even better as I was enjoying the feeling of flying down the other side.

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A photo cannot possibly capture the pain of this but perhaps the body language of the others runners gives a better idea

The last part involved running along a creek then crossing over a road before heading back to the finish chute where my friends and husband were waiting. Overall, it was an absolutely stunning course and I was really happy with my run. It obviously wasn’t the fastest but that just meant I got to enjoy the scenery for that bit longer. Bring on event #4 at Anglesea!

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Lots of single track magic at Silvan

 

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parkrun tourism @ Chelsea Bicentennial

I haven’t been to a parkrun launch for a little while so I jumped at the chance to go to one not too far away on Saturday – Chelsea Bicentennial in suburban Melbourne.

When I say ‘not too far away’, it still required an alarm going off at 5am and a departure time of 6am but both of those were ok, especially as I was due to head over to the other side of Melbourne for an event the next day anyway.

My friend and I ended up arriving at about 7.30am which gave us ample time to check out the playground (pretty cool!) and toilets (plentiful and clean) then stand around discussing how ‘fresh’ (ie, cold) it was. While we knew we’d warm up once we got going, parting with our jackets was a challenge although there was no shortage of body heat at the start got closer – this was a very popular launch with 388 runners and walkers coming out to kick it off in style.

The briefing was….brief (fairly unusual for a launch but much appreciated in the cold!) and then we were off. This one is an out and back course starting with a bit of a loop which did cause a bit of a bottleneck but it soon cleared and we all spread out. The course runs through a park, alongside some sporting grounds and a pony club (which we were warned we may smell before we saw it) along a fairly wide, gravel/dirt path. Probably my favourite thing was the surface – so much better than running on concrete. It was clearly a popular path with other walkers, runners and cyclists enjoying the crisp morning.

I was taking it very easy as I had a big weekend of running ahead of me and was very pleased to end up running with another lady and chatting to her along the way about her running journey which was actually quite similar to mine. It reminded me, yet again, of how much I love the friendliness of parkrun – it doesn’t matter where you turn up at 8am on a Saturday, you’ll be made welcome.

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Running back, we were only a few hundred metres from the finish when we encountered a grumpy cyclist who decided yelling obscenities at us was easier than using her bell to let us know she was there. I was running on the left of the path so, even though we hadn’t heard her, she had plenty of room but obviously didn’t like the fact that runners weren’t tripping over themselves to get out of her way.

We crossed the finish line and I was quite pleased that, despite taking it exceptionally easy, I was only a few minutes over my normal parkrun time. With that, we watched a few of the remaining runners and walkers stream over the line then headed off for breakfast with parkrun friends who’d also travelled to the launch.

Overall, a great launch and a huge well done to the event team for managing a very large turnout – not easy at a fledgling event but it all went smoothly and I’m sure it will be a popular local event every Saturday morning.

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Run Melbourne 2016 – race recap

I had vaguely contemplated not doing this event as I’ve signed up for heaps of events this year but it has become one of my staples over the years and, in the end, I couldn’t bring myself to miss it.

I met my friends on board the train and we had a very relaxed start to our day. Definitely the best way to travel to an event – no stress over traffic, no worries about parking, just time to sit back, chat and get mentally ready. We arrived at Southern Cross, caught a train around to Flinders Street and had a perfect amount of time to spare for all the necessary bits – photos, bag drop, toilet stop and, slightly traumatically, stripping off the layers to prepare for the start. Melbourne had put on a glorious sunny day but with a temperature in the single digits and occasional puffs of wind which felt like they were travelling to us straight from Antarctica.

We made our way to our ‘wave c’ pen then stood around waiting for what felt like a very long time. The crowd of bodies were actually quite a good way to ward off the cold but we all just wanted to get moving – nerves and anxiety was starting to bubble. Our wave actually started so far back we couldn’t see the start line and, once we were moving, we seemed to go a long way before we were finally running under our arch and onto the course.

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I got myself into a steady rhythm and managed to avoid the general ducking and weaving which tends to happen at the start. I hadn’t known what I would feel like – just running or run/walk intervals – so I didn’t have a plan. I ended up doing run/walk intervals – 3 mins/1 min. Most importantly, everything felt good. No twinges from my achilles, no dull ache from my calf, no tightness in my hamstring. My lungs were coping just fine and I was moving at a decent pace. I had a quick ‘can I keep it up?’ at the back of my mind then I pushed it from my head with a ‘who cares?’. I was out to run and enjoy the event, that was all.

The kilometres ticked by pretty quickly – the course is quite scenic, as city courses go and the twists and turns and little inclines and declines keep you suitably distracted. Drink stations were plentiful and well stocked, popping up before I had even started to feel thirsty. And still I kept plodding along at a pretty steady pace.

I ran over the 5km mat with a better time than those I’ve been achieving at parkrun and was really pleased with how things were going. I was getting tired but not unbearably so and nothing was hurting so I told myself to suck it up and keep moving. The pep talk worked. Soon enough, I was heading for the footbridge between Rod Laver Arena and the MCG and into the last kilometre. Probably the hardest bit of the course for me was the slight hill going back up towards Flinders Street – I ran it very slowly but very steadily. I’d looked at my watch and thought maybe, just maybe, I could pull off a PB so was determined to give it my all.

Thankfully, what goes up must come down and we headed down the Batman Avenue hill then turned in to the finish chute along Birrarung Marr. I didn’t have much sprint left in me but did my best and was so pleased to come in just under 1:20 – a 10km PB.

As always, the thing that makes these events so much fun is hanging out with running friends and we all met up then headed for breakfast before our relaxing journey home on the train (with some photography fun thanks to a competition being run by the event organisers).

So will I do this one again? Most likely. I kind of like collecting the medals which are in a series. The atmosphere did seem a little less buoyant this year but the volunteers were all friendly and efficient. I preferred the old course (and really, really miss the bubble bridge) but it was still scenic enough and full of ample distraction. And it’s kind of a tradition now, a quintessential Melbourne experience complete with crisp Wintery conditions – perfect running weather in a beautiful running city. What’s not to love?