Melbourne marathon festival – Half marathon – race recap

There is something alluring about an event with an iconic start or finish line. My favourite start lines so far have been for Hoka event #4 in Anglesea and the Surf Coast Trail half marathon, both of which started on beautiful, pristine beaches. And my favourite finish line? That of the Melbourne marathon festival which finishes with a lap on the hallowed turf of the MCG.

The path to this event had its own story, as they usually do. I wasn’t going to do it. I had run the 10km in this festival a few times and felt like I’d kind of ‘done’ it. I’ve always been a bit scared of the half in this festival – it feels a bit serious and I had always assumed it was really aimed at faster people and that I’d stick out like a sore thumb. So why exactly did I enter? Two reasons finally swayed me – a bunch of five30runners were heading down for it and, after a couple of unconventional half marathons, I was interested to see how I would go on a road one again. So I signed up, plugged my times into My Asics and got myself a training plan.

Most unusually, I actually stuck to my training plan. It required me to run 3 times a week with weekday runs somewhere between 5km and 10km and weekend runs getting up to 17km. I don’t have a good history with training plans – I usually start with good intentions then fall off the wagon somewhere around the point where it seems to get a bit challenging. This time, I stuck with it and started to see results even in my shorter distances with PBs at 5km and 10km.


Carb loading & PB cider – both traditions that simply have to be done

And so it was that I arrived at the MCG to meet my friends this morning. I had trained. I wasn’t injured. I wasn’t sick. I had no excuses left. And it scared me. I have probably not been that nervous before a run since my first event. I knew I was running well and knew that my times had been faster than usual but still didn’t really know what I could expect from myself.

Pre-start, we followed our usual routine of multiple toilet stops, bag drop and selfies then moved along to the start line. The forecast had been for strong winds and possible rain but it was a relatively calm morning at the start and, mercifully, overcast so we didn’t have to put up with the Spring sun.


Hanging out in the MCG before our run

The start takes you up a hill towards Flinders Street then along to Federation Square before turning onto St Kilda Road. I haven’t always been friends with this bit of road as it crops up in many Melbourne events and seems to go on forever. Today, it flew by pretty quickly and I felt good – I was tracking my pace and was running well. As always, there was the voice in the back of my head saying ‘How long can you keep this up?’ but I tried to ignore it and just focus on each kilometre.

Before long, we were turning for the lap around Albert Park and there were a few gusts of wind here which made things interesting – at least they helped keep the flies at bay which were out in droves. I think it was here where my feet started to hurt – I have managed to rub blisters on the inside of my big toes which just get added to on each long run. Whatever. My mantra of ‘This isn’t pain. It’s just a blister’ is quite useful and I just kept powering on.

The far side of the lake seemed rather long, especially as I could see the little extra loop we had to do to make up the distance. I put my head down and ran a bit faster, trying to get it over with quicker. It was on this loop that I saw my friend Jill which was great – always gives you a lift to see friends out on the course. Just after the drink station, I decided I needed a quick toilet stop which is completely out of character on my long runs but I don’t think I got my hydration right yesterday and this morning. It really didn’t matter as it was very short and I just checked my watch as I came out then ran a bit faster for the remainder of the kilometre to keep my pace up.

Turning back onto St Kilda Road, I felt tired but great – that was the ‘I’m going to finish this’ moment. Even though I’ve done the distance before, there’s still moments at the start of every run where I think I might not be able to do it and then a sense of relief where I pass my point of ‘Yes I can’. This was also where the marathoners merged back with us which was great as it meant there were a lot of people around and a great atmosphere along with it.

I power walked up William Barak bridge then ran down the other side and along the crowds before turning into the MCG. I was absolutely spent and didn’t know if I had it in me to actually keep running to the finish line but I did it anyway and was elated to cross the line with a 9 minute half marathon PB.

It was clearly a PB kind of day as many of my friends at the event also scored personal bests and I loved being able to share those moments with them. We celebrated with burgers on our way home – a perfect way to end a great weekend.



parkrun tourism @ point cook

It’s quite funny that it’s taken me 2 years and lots of touristing elsewhere to finally make it to Point Cook parkrun. It’s 30 minutes drive from my house, only a few minutes further than my regular parkrun in Geelong.

This is very much a suburban parkrun running through an estate parkland area and with the scenic view of the backs of houses on one side and the creek and accompanying parkland on the other. While it isn’t the most scenic of spots, it has a lot going for it – very easy to get to (a short detour from the freeway), good facilities and a committed and friendly event team.

The course itself is easy to follow – an out and back which follows the concrete path and has good signage on the path itself. It was also a nice change to find that it’s pretty much flat – the description said ‘undulations’ but I didn’t really notice any (or none that compared to Balyang’s) and wide enough to overtake for most the way.

Most importantly, I had a fantastic run because I was there with one of my great running friends who I met through five30runners a while ago. We don’t get to run together often but, when we do, I know it will be fun and that the kilometres will tick by with me barely noticing them. Hence why the only photos of this run are those taken by the parkrun photographer of the day – far too busy chatting to get my phone out on the run!


Talking myself into my long run

I’m linking up with Patty, Erika and Marcia for Tuesdays on the run – today’s topic is my biggest run challenge. For me, that’s an easy one – my long runs.

As I reach the peak kilometre bit of my half marathon training, my long runs are getting up to 17km. I have never been particularly friends with long runs and, now that they’re stretching out to these distances, we’re definitely not getting along. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them once I’m out there – I certainly do. It’s just getting out there that is the problem. I tend to spend the days before plotting out appropriate courses and trying to positively visualise myself on the run. I then spend the night before getting things ready so I’ll have no excuses the next day. And yet, I spend the morning finding excuses.

I’m not really sure what puts me off. It’s not exactly the distance – I run those distances regularly in events and don’t have any issue with them. I think it’s the whole issue of motivating myself. When it’s an event, once I’ve made it to the start line, I have little choice but to keep going. Long runs aren’t quite as easy – there’s always the possibility in the back of my mind that I might stop.

So, knowing all of this, I can honestly say I was actually very excited to be heading out on Sunday for my long run. I’d chosen the trails around Yarra Bend Park and had mapped out a course which I’d only run part of so it had both familiarity and new experiences. The sun was shining, the scenery was beautiful and I really didn’t need to talk myself into it – I couldn’t wait to get started.


The trails along the Yarra are simply gorgeous – ranging from wide footpaths to rocky single tracks and you always feel a long way from civilisation, even though you can hear the freeway from much of the trail. It is also easy to find loop tracks so you don’t have to retrace your footsteps. I can see this becoming a favourite for my long run Sundays – such a serene place and all within an hour’s drive.


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).


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.


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!



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.


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.


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.


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🙂