parkrun tourism @ lalor

Another Saturday, another new location for parkrun – my 17th location so far and, this time, another launch. Lalor in Melbourne’s north had their first event today which attracted 198 parkrunners who were treated to a glorious Autumn morning.

Being the launch, you expect a bit of a fanfare but Lalor was in a class of its own, starting with a Welcome to Country from an elder of the Wurundjeri people, following by an enthusiastic welcome from the Mayor, a welcome from Aunty Pam (representing the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service and talking about the importance of a healthy lifestyle) and then the run briefing. Already impressed by this, we were then treated to a warm up from the team from Indigenous Hip Hop Projects before we moved off to the start line.

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My fabulous running buddies and I before the start 🙂

The course starts inside Whittlesea Public Gardens and loops around and over the High 5 bridge (crossing the Hume Highway) which gives you great views of Melbourne and a fabulous opportunity to cheer on fellow parkrunners. From there, you run on a concrete path alongside the highway (with the noise diminished thanks to a barrier) before reaching the turnaround point and heading back to the gardens. The highlight is definitely the bridge – a lot of fun and not at all crowded. The finish is back in the gardens with easy access to toilets, playground and parking as well as spacious gardens.

As a special launch treat, participants were given apples or bananas and treated again to a performance by IHHP and, for those who still had energy to burn, a workshop to explore your own hip hop skills.

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Indigenous Hip Hop Project crew in action

I have to say, as launches go, this one was very impressive and the team should be very proud of all they have achieved. The entire 5km was filled with supportive comments and smiles from all and the general atmosphere was very friendly, welcoming and non-competitive, fully embracing the parkrun spirit. Well done to all and wishing you many happy Saturday mornings to come 🙂

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why I #loveparkrun

There is nothing that makes you appreciate what you have more than the thought that it could be taken away. And this is what has happened this week to the parkrunners of Stoke Gifford in the UK. In a mind-numbingly silly decision, the local Council have decided to charge participants for using the park. Which is provided for the use of the local population. Of which, the local parkrunners are an important part. Silly.

I don’t want to talk about that particular Council and how narrow minded, short sighted and generally thoughtless they are. Instead, I want to tell you about exactly why I love parkrun and what it has meant to me.

I started running in 2009 – I really don’t remember why or what actually got me out the door. I’d lost a heap of weight and was looking for an exercise option to help keep it off but aren’t sure why running sprung to mind as I’d never, ever been a runner before. I soon found I loved it and did a few events but, after a few months, I stopped. Sure, I’d sporadically sign up to events after that but I only actually went to a couple of them and, soon enough, I was back to doing no exercise at all.

Towards the end of 2013, I signed up for the Sussan Women’s Fun Run and decided to get back into it. At a similar time, I found out about and signed up to parkrun although it took me months to be brave enough to actually attend an event. I spent a long time checking out times to make sure I wouldn’t be the slowest and found an event that was perfect for me. Then I put it off a bit more. Finally, I got up early and headed out. And I’ve never looked back.

Last weekend, while on holiday in Perth, I got up before dawn, walked a kilometre to the train station, caught a train then walked another kilometre then ran my parkrun #46 on a beach in Cottesloe with a bunch of strangers and a very real possibility of coming last. And I loved it. What parkrun has done for me is encouraged me to stick with exercise and make it part of my routine. Saturday mornings don’t feel the same without it, whether I’m at home or travelling. It’s also given me confidence which has seeped beyond my running life and into other areas. parkrun has introduced me to a wonderful world of new friends who I hang out with on Saturdays and beyond. It has also guaranteed a warm welcome in whatever random place I choose to turn up at 8am on a Saturday.

The consistency, warm welcome, friendships and feeling of achievement that parkrun have provided have meant that I have kept this running thing going for nearly 3 years now with no sign of stopping. As well as being very beneficial to my physical health, it is even more beneficial to my mental health and wellbeing. I am grateful beyond words. That such a simple concept could provide so much to so many is wonderful and I would like to thank every person responsible, from Paul Sinton-Hewitt for founding the event through to every single volunteer who scans, marshals and ensures all participants finish safely each week in thousands of locations. #loveparkrun

parkrun tourism @ Cottesloe

Following on from my parkrun tourism to start our holiday, I completed the set with a parkrun at the other side of our continent, Cottesloe in Western Australia. Having sat in a car for much of the previous 7 days as we crossed the mighty Nullarbor, I felt a little creaky but definitely in need of a parkrun by the time Saturday rolled around!

We were staying at Fremantle Prison YHA (amazing accommodation option if you’re in the area!) so I was up early and walked down to Fremantle station to catch the train to Cottesloe. From there, it’s about a 1km walk to the start line so very easy to get to.

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Fremantle Prison in the sunrise – love being out and about early!

It was a fairly small gathering of people for parkrun but a very diverse one with participants from all over Australia and 3 separate UK visitors as well. It’s also a relatively fast crowd with not many walkers so I put myself well and truly at the back to stay out of everyone’s way.

The course runs on the beach path which weaves through the scrub then up along the cliff with beautiful ocean views. At about the 2km mark, a marshall directs you down to the beach where you’re challenged with soft sand, dogs off leash and lots of other walkers and runners as well as your fellow parkrunners. An interesting mix! We all headed down towards the water to try to get the harder sand which made it a bit easier – I thought I was doing ok but my Strava shows exactly how much I slowed down!

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The turnaround point – ouch!

Turning around the flag and heading back along the water, I had to play ‘dodge the wave’ a bit, misjudging it and getting my feet a little wet. A different marshall at a slightly earlier point than when we came onto the beach directs you back up to the path and you have a short, sharp incline to head up from the sand.

Back on the path, I plodded back along, a bit worn out from my brief stint of sand running. Soon enough, I was weaving along the path again and back around to the finish line with big cheers and congratulations from the friendly parkrun team as I crossed the line.

It’s an absolutely gorgeous course and definitely unique and I’m glad I was able to visit. Another state – tick!

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Beautiful views at the start/finish and along the course

parkrun tourism @ murray bridge

When it’s time to plan holidays now, there is always an extra consideration on top of the usual flights, transport and accommodation – how can I fit a parkrun (or two) into the itinerary? Over the last 10 days, we’ve had an adventure crossing the Nullarbor so were very pleased to bookend our adventures with a couple of parkruns, starting with one in South Australia at Murray Bridge.

This course starts and runs alongside the Murray River which is very picturesque (despite the dark clouds rolling in). I was worried I was in the wrong spot to start with as there weren’t many people there – this is a smaller parkrun but all the more friendly and welcoming for it.

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The view from the start line at Murray Bridge parkrun

Run briefing done, we headed to the start line and I put myself at the back, as usual although, at the suggestion of a local, moved ahead of the prams. This is a very family orientated parkrun and it’s great to see kids of all ages get out there and enjoy their 5km run/walk/amble along the river.

The course is right along the river so you get entertained with wildlife, rowers, kayakers and a parked paddlesteamer as well as the usual walkers and cyclists along the path. It’s a 2 lap out and back course which feels both strange and good – you’ve only run 1.25km before you’re heading back to the start then around a big gum tree for your second lap. This means you pass everyone a lot of times and there is a really positive, encouraging vibe on the course. The path is part concrete, part gravel and the turnaround point veers away from the river up some old train tracks. A very picturesque way to start your Saturday.

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The turnaround point is along some old train tracks

There were a few fat raindrops landing just in the last stretch but, by then, they were quite welcome and I pushed it a bit to finish in a pretty good time. We stopped for a quick chat with some locals afterwards but didn’t have time to stick around for breakfast – we had a lot of kilometres ahead of us to get to Perth and were keen to get underway!

Overall, a great parkrun – very friendly, low key and wonderful for families, walkers and runners of all ages and speeds.

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