Afterglow – race recap

There are runs that are serious. Where you want to get a good time and you’ve followed your training plan to get there. Then there are runs which are really designed for fun and frivolity. Afterglow is definitely one of those. The dress code? Fluoro running gear (the brighter the better), tutus, sparkly bits and pieces, something to light up the night. The venue? Along the gorgeous trails of the Surf Coast of Victoria, from Southside to Torquay.

So, we dressed accordingly and rocked up to the meeting point where we chatted, added our glowsticks, sorted out where our battery packs would go (because of course we all had fairy lights on our tutus!) and enjoyed the atmosphere.

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Soon enough, we jumped onto the bus (having managed to somehow time it completely wrongly so we weren’t on the one our friend was driving!) and were taken to our start point at Southside. The bus driver had to give us some persuading to actually get off the bus as the wind felt like it was coming straight from Antarctica. We huddled together and waited patiently for the other buses to arrive so that we could be briefed. The briefing was…well…brief. Ocean on your right, keep moving forward, head towards the lights. And then, finally, time to start.

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If you look closely, you can see the fluorescent runners making their way along Bells Beach

The first part was great – a gentle downhill wind through a beautiful trail, ultimately spilling us out onto the iconic sands of Bells Beach. These sands are of the soft and challenging variety so took a bit of time and then ended up taking longer as one of our friends dropped her keys so a search ensued. Keys rediscovered, we continued our trek back up the stairs at the other end of Bells.

From there, the track continues its general up and down, twisty path towards Torquay. We were all taking it easy – definitely here for a good time, not a fast time. There were some spectacular jumps, a few wardrobe malfunctions (running with fairy lit tutus was always going to have its problems) and lots of chatter.

As we ran into Torquay itself, we encountered some of the nightlife – some kids hanging out in the park and some drunk, beer gutted men yelling ‘encouragement’. I had enjoyed my run up to this point but was starting to lose interest once we were back in civilisation. The cruel part of this run is that they take you right next to the finish line, only to send you out onto the beach for a couple of kilometres. If I had lost interest before, this was the ‘enough’ point. In the darkness, the beach seemed to stretch on forever and it felt like my friend and I were the only people out there. I was so grateful for her company but at the same time, I wanted to be anywhere but there. We finally reached the wonderful volunteer marshall who directed us up the dune from hell (albeit fringed with pretty lights) back to the path.

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Glowing my way across the finish line

Once at the top, we were again engulfed in darkness and felt like we were miles from anywhere or anyone. We shuffled our way back towards the finish line. The beauty and treachery of the trails is that you might not really be far away but the twists, turns and scrub throw your sense of distance. We crested a hill and saw (and heard) the finish line. As a sign of how long it had taken, there were a couple of marshals ahead of us, coming off duty. I found a final burst of energy and sprinted for the line, crossing it with cheers from my ever patient husband and friends as my soundtrack.

So, the verdict? This is definitely a fun event – the volunteers are as zanily dressed as the runners and give such a happy vibe to the proceedings. The course is gorgeous but tougher than I’d given it credit for (despite having run it all previously in reverse). And the bling at the end is very funky. If you’re up for something different and want to end your year with a bang, this is the event for you 🙂 Just make sure you bring a crowd – it’s not an event to do on your own and, as with so many events this year, wouldn’t have been anywhere near as much fun without my fabulous running friends.

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parkrun tourism @ warrnambool

You will already have realised that I love travel and being able to combine a run with it makes it twice as good. Even better than that is the chance to head back to a favourite spot and that was definitely the case as I headed to Warrnambool last night for their parkrun launch today. Also felt quite pleased that it’s my 70th parkrun and 25th different location – still a long way to go to tick off all the events in the state!

The course begins at the Lake Pertobe adventure playground which is easy to find, has plentiful parking, toilets and shelter. This latter item will, no doubt, come in handy in future months as Warrnambool is not generally known for its fantastic weather. However today, no shelter was needed as we were treated to an absolutely perfect morning – blue skies, sunshine, no wind and warm enough to not require a jacket on our walk down to the start from the nearby caravan park.

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Beautiful views can be found all along the course

The welcome and briefing was done and we gathered for a group shot – essential for a launch event. Very promptly, we were then on the start line and off and running. This parkrun begins with a run across the grass and down towards the lake before heading over the bridge and onto a gravel path. Having a wide space across the grass meant that, despite there being over 200 parkrunners there today, I didn’t feel crowded as we all had room to find our own pace before funnelling down onto the path. The surface was great – very easy on the feet. Most importantly, the course is gorgeous – running around the lake and surrounded by nature and greenery. Added to that, I was running and chatting with a friend which made the time and kilometres tick by and we were soon turning around and heading back towards the finish.

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The event volunteers were friendly and encouraging as were our fellow parkrunners and walkers – there was a huge mix of people, speeds and ages which was wonderful and everyone just seemed to be having fun.

Within a five minute walk is the best breakfast venue you could imagine – Simons Waterfront with its stunning views and delicious food.

We then topped off a great morning with a trip home along the Great Ocean Road, making the most of the magical weather.

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Loch Ard gorge

Congratulations to all at Warrnambool parkrun – you’ve achieved a great launch and have all the ingredients for a wonderful parkrun. Will definitely be tempted to come back and visit this one again 🙂

Desert Runners – review

I am going to make something abundantly clear from the outset of this review – I have no intention of running an ultra. Ever. I know I once said that about marathons and I’m now contemplating one of those but this is different. Ultras are a whole other level of craziness beyond the general craziness of running. I can now happily view 21km as something fun to do on a Sunday morning but the idea of putting in twice that….just for a training run?! No.

I do, however, hold a great deal of respect and admiration for those who do run ultras. And so, when I was looking for something inspiring to watch, I stumbled across the documentary ‘Desert Runners‘ and found myself mesmerised.

Desert Runners is the story of a band of runners who decide not just to run an ultra but to compete in the Four Desert Grand Slam. This consists of four events in one year across some of the toughest terrain you can imagine – the Atacama Desert in Chile, Gobi Desert in China, the Sahara event Namibia (as of 2016 due to political instability in North Africa) and, finally, Antarctica. Each event covers 250km in 7 days. Just take that in for a moment – 250km across a desert in 7 days. The marathon I am contemplating is 42.2km through Disneyworld. Hmm. Enough said.

Aside from the immense scale of this event, what I loved about the documentary was the people and their stories. Over the last few years of running and volunteering at parkrun, I’ve found a universal truth about runners – we’re really all very similar. Whether you’re running a 40 minute 5km, an 18 minute 5km or a 7 day 250km across a dry, barren desert, you have many of the same thoughts, hopes and dreams. Not wanting to get injured (and then furiously trying to ignore it and pretend it isn’t there when you do). Just wanting to finish. Feeling amazing when you cross a finish line. Bonding with your fellow runners over blisters, running gear and war stories. The participants in the Four Deserts would be just as at home at my local parkrun and I found them easy to identify with as the story unfolded.

So, if you’re looking for some inspiration or want to some fodder for your family and friends when they say you’re mad for running as much as you do, this one is a ‘must watch’.

Checking in on my running goals

With a mere 2 months of the year to go, my mind has already started drifting to what my running goals might be for next year…..which then brings me back to how I’m tracking for this year’s goals.

Reach my 50 parkruns
Done – still very proud of this achievement and love wearing my 50 shirt. Clearly my new goal in this vein is to reach my 100 next year 🙂

Try out as many new parkruns as possible
Definitely have been doing this. I haven’t counted up how many I’ve done this year but I’ve certainly racked up some kilometres trying out parkruns near and far.

Improve my parkrun time
This was a goal I didn’t think I’d be able to do much about but, recently, I’ve managed 2 PBs and have knocked a minute off my time which I’m really pleased with.

Try out a trail event
Tick. I haven’t just tried out a trail event, I took on a huge one in the Surf Coast trail half marathon. As well as a few smaller ones with the Hoka series. I’m officially hooked. Wish I’d tried them out sooner 🙂 I’ve also discovered how much I love the trails in my own backyard and run them whenever I can.

Dream goal – 1000km for the year
Still a bit of a dream and I’m not sure I have it in me to reach it this year. I’m currently on 723km for the year which is over 100km more than I was at this time last year but still quite a way off my dream goal. And I’m far too sensible these days to push the kilometres beyond what I should. Probably 😉

So, 4 out 5 goals achieved (and 1 that I’ll get very close to) – nothing to complain about there! My running has definitely been more consistent this year and I have my amazing running friends to thank a lot for that. It’s so much easier to make yourself get out there and run when you know you have people waiting for you and the chance for a coffee and chat at the end. Here’s to dreaming big in 2017.

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Surf Coast trail half marathon – my toughest event of the year but such great memories