Run for the kids 2017 – race recap

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This was the weather forecast for today. Not radically unusual for Melbourne but not what you want to see when you had planned to go for a run with several thousand runners, today being the annual ‘Run for the kids‘ held to raise funds for Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. Let me clarify – I’m not a fair weather runner. If anything, I’m more likely to stay home if the forecast is for hot weather but the idea of being caught in a thunderstorm on top of Bolte Bridge didn’t fill me with joy. I will be honest, blog reader – the thought of not going did enter my mind. And then, about half a second later, the thought evaporated. Of course I would run it. After all, humans are, luckily, waterproof and unlikely to be damaged by rain. So it was time to stop being a princess and get out there.

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The finish line. Only the minor issue of 14.6km to run to get there.

The organisation for this event is epic and inspiring – they just get it right. Plenty of toilets for everyone. A bag storage area which runs like a well oiled machine and which was prepared for whatever the weather brought. Not to mention the friendliest volunteers you’re likely to find anywhere. Rugged up in their wet weather gear, they each managed to smile and seem completely unfazed by anything.

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A blue sky background to the city – enough for us to pretend that we were in for a fine day

After hanging out a little bit, I was lucky enough to bump into some friends so the last 1/2 hour before the start zoomed by and soon enough, we were heading down to our colour zones. I was in orange and they were yellow so we snapped some pics and headed off to our respective areas.

While standing in the orange pen, surrounded by a lot of excitement and clearly a few nerves, I thought a lot about my first Run for the kids and how far I’d come since then. The rain had held off until this point but it started to lightly drizzle as we shuffled towards the start. No one complained nor did they even seem to notice. Everywhere you looked there were reminders that this run wasn’t about us, it was about the children who had been cared for at the Royal Children’s Hospital with many people sporting photos or names on their shirts of loved children they were running for. Running in the rain was nothing compared to the challenges some of these youngsters faced and that was very much in my mind as our wave headed off.

The run starts by heading over Swan St bridge and down towards the Domain tunnel and this is always a fun part. It’s vaguely downhill and everyone is in high spirits. Turning into the tunnel is a little tight but then everyone spreads out again when running through the tunnel. It’s both eerie and quite amazing – excited chatter and puffing and panting echo around and the stuffy atmosphere makes it feel a bit like you’ve been transported somewhere far away. It doesn’t last long as the gentle climb soon begins to deliver you back into the fresh air. Today, a light rain could clearly be seen to be falling at the mouth of the tunnel but I was glad of it – I was hot and in need of cooling down.

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The next section is running along the freeway – another strange experience as cars and trucks whizz by at either side and all the signs overhead remind you that you’re getting to run somewhere very different. The volunteers at the aid station just before the Bolte epitomised the spirit of volunteers on the course – so friendly, happy and helpful, regardless of being stuck out on a freeway in the rain for hours on end. I can’t speak highly enough of them.

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And so we began the climb onto the Bolte Bridge. The fact that, this year, I managed to run it is indicative of the training that has happened over the last 12 months. It wasn’t at all the obstacle I’d seen it as previously and I was soon at the top and took some time for the obligatory selfie opportunities.

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I made up for my selfie minutes by cruising down the other side of the Bolte, even briefly overtaking the inflatable tyrannosaurus I’d been following since the start. There were certainly some weird and wonderful costumes out there today. As well as the dinosaur, I saw a few superheroes and an elaborate minecraft costume plus the usual array of tutus. The rain didn’t appear to be holding anyone back and the atmosphere was as fun as ever.

The next section was running through the Docklands before tackling Collins Street hill – my least favourite part of the course. I ran/walked it but with a lot less effort than I had to expend previously. In fact, 11km in, I was still feeling great with nothing hurting and I felt like I could keep up the pace for the remainder. It also certainly helped to have pictures of children treated at the hospital on each of the kilometre markers – an important and poignant reminder of why we were running.

The run along Southbank is always a highlight as the central area is reserved for runners with Sunday morning breakfast diners and pedestrians watching and cheering from the sidelines. By now, the puddles were getting a bit bigger, my shoes were well and truly wet and I couldn’t really feel my feet but I was still having fun.

We turned up towards St Kilda Road, along the road and then, almost too soon, the finish line appeared. I wasn’t quite ready for it and almost wished it was a few kilometres longer. Almost 🙂 I knew I’d run well but was really, really pleased to see how well – 2nd best 10km time ever and a consistent pace much quicker than I’ve managed recently, maintained for nearly 15km. The grin I’d had all day got a little bigger.

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And so, Run for the kids is done for another year. Despite the very Melbourne-like weather, it was still just as fun as it had been in previous years. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly how this event manages to be so good – I think it’s a combination of the broad range of runners and walkers it attracts, the happy and generous spirit of the volunteers, the meticulous organisation and, most of all, the children who we were all out there running for. Thanks to all of that, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back there again next year 🙂

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flashback – my first event

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This photo was taken 8 years ago this week at my very first, out there in public running event – Run for the kids which takes place through the streets of Melbourne. And I thought that was a momentous enough anniversary to celebrate with a blog post.

I had trained (sporadically), prepared (kind of) and was a bundle of nerves the night before the big run (all 5.7km of it). My training had consisted mostly of short runs on the treadmill in my garage as I was far too embarrassed to run in public. I wonder now what I was actually embarrassed about but I’m sure it was a fairly lengthy list – my body, my outfit, my lack of fitness, lack of technique. All of it. So I shuffled through some runs on the treadmill while watching dvds. I didn’t talk to anyone about running but hovered on the periphery when other people did. I was interested but didn’t want to seem too interested in case they asked me something I couldn’t answer or which made them figure out I wasn’t a real runner. I wasn’t sure what made you a real runner at that stage but I knew I wasn’t one.

I don’t even remember what got me started on running in the first place. I’d lost a heap of weight (through changing my eating habits – exercise had always been a bit of a swear word for me) and I think I just wondered whether the new, smaller me could run without making an idiot of herself. And then, to hold myself accountable to this crazy idea, I signed up for an event and even fundraised. Nothing like the guilt of donations to make you drag yourself to the start line.

Ah, the start line. I was ridiculously nervous and must have gone to the toilet at least 5 times as evidence. And I was emotional. I remember tearing up behind my sunglasses as they counted down to the start. I was so happy to be there, scared of what was to come, excited about it at the same time – just a potent combination of every emotion you can think of.

And then we were off. I loved it, every step. I discovered, despite my nightmares which had indicated differently, that I wasn’t the largest, the slowest, the least fit, the one with the strangest running technique nor did anyone laugh at or ridicule me. In fact, I actually got some cheers and lots of support from runners and spectators. The smile in my picture was not for the cameras, it just leaked out of my face as I ran, a natural by-product of the day.

I don’t remember many things from the run itself other than that it felt like it finished pretty quickly. I do remember running down the finish shute feeling deliriously happy and amazingly strong, like I could run another lap and still live to tell the tale.

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Since that first event, it’s certainly been an epic journey. While I kept running after that for a while, it didn’t become a habit and I gave it up for a year or 2. What brought me back to it was thinking about how I felt that day – how proud, how strong and how grateful to be able to do this. Since that day, I’ve finished many events (shall have to go and count them – I’m curious now!) but that first one will always hold very special memories. And that is why Run for the kids is an event I keep coming back to, regardless of how many times I’ve done it. It’s where the new version of me was born and for that I am eternally grateful.

parkrun tourism @ westerfolds

In my quest to complete all Victorian parkruns, I will admit that I have been cherry picking. And Westerfolds was not near the top of my list. Before the Westerfoldians attack me, let me explain. I had heard wonderful things about the scenery (gorgeous and full of trees and wildlife) and the people (friendly and welcoming) but I’d also heard about another aspect of the Westerfolds course which made me a little nervous – the hills. I hadn’t given them too much thought until I stumbled into discussions with people after completing Wilson Botanic course about which was harder – Wilson Botanic or Westerfolds. From then, it moved a little further down the list.

Deciding to embrace hills may not be the best strategy as I get back to form after time off with a calf tear but no one has ever accused me of being sensible when it comes to running. And so it was that hubby and I headed off to Westerfolds this morning to see exactly how bad this hill was.20170325_075202.jpg

We knew we were in the right spot not only due to the parkrun flags but due to the sunglass-requiring fluorescent wear sported by the Westerfoldians – definitely a bunch who like to stand out. Run Director Rachel gave a fabulous briefing – full of all the necessary bits but delivered in a fun way which seems to sum up the spirit of this popular parkun. Milestones were celebrated, visitors and first timers welcomed and then it was time to begin.

I found the first kilometre really hard and was racking my brain to figure out why. Tired? Possibly. Dehydrated? Most likely. Or just that I was actually running faster than I had for quite some time? Definitely! With the mystery solved, I settled into it and felt pretty good. Calf was behaving itself and the ‘undulations’ were not at all terrible. Yet.

The scenery is certainly gorgeous and I was lucky enough to spot a couple of kangaroos bounding away from the mad runners, off into the bush. The path is wide enough that I didn’t encounter any bottlenecks and there was plenty of room to move around people where needed.

Another really pleasing thing to see is the number of parents and children at this parkrun, adding to the friendly, non-competitive and inclusive vibe. There was a little boy ahead of me in his parkrun 50 shirt and it made me smile the whole way around, thinking what a great thing it was that his parents had done for him, encouraging his involvement in this at such a young age.

However all these pleasant thoughts and slightly manic smiles at the scenery didn’t last as the hill I had clearly not been looking forward to revealed itself. The fact that it doesn’t reveal itself at once but just keeps stretching and stretching tells you what sort of hill it is – not huge and not that steep but long enough to give you a good kicking. I put my head down and power walked up it.

The positive is that the downhill run towards the finish was much needed as I put my legs into automatic and cruised down the hill at a lovely pace. One final push up another incline and I crossed the finish, quite pleased to have made it under 40 minutes – slowly getting back some speed and not completely wrecked on a hilly course. I clearly was still feeling ok as I headed off to do a 2km cool down on some of the trails in the park – a great place to explore and one I’ll be coming back to.

So is it harder than Wilson Botanic? Hmmmm, not sure on that one. I feel like it’s a much smaller hill which goes on for longer. However the sting in the Wilson Botanic hill is not only that it’s very sharp but that you know it’s a 2 lap course so you’re going to have to do it all over again. Based on that, I think I’m giving the title to Wilson Botanic….for the moment. It is also entirely possible that I’m a bit fitter than I was when I ran that one – perhaps it’s time to go back and do it again?!

Santa fun run – a jolly good time

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I’ve ticked off so many ‘I always wanted to do that’ events this year and was lucky enough to add another one before the end of the year. The Santa fun run is held in locations across Australia by the Variety Club. On Friday night, I met up with my Christmas clad costumed friends in the Alexandra Gardens for Melbourne’s turn.

It’s a very, very informal event, something that will be obvious to you from the registration process but actually just makes it all the more fun. Before the start, we were entertained by Christmas carols from the choir then watched Santa send off the kids for the first event followed by the 10km runners.

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Soon enough, it was our turn and Santa sent us on our way. The informality had obviously caught up with us – I had to be reminded to turn on my Garmin after we’d started. It was a mad dash across the grass and down to the river path as we self seeded into appropriate positions for our relative speeds. This is such a family friendly event with lots of walkers, pram pushers and little ones joining in the fun.

My running buddies were both wearing tutus with bells on which made it an even better experience, listening to their ‘music’ as we ran along. We were lucky to have perfect running weather and such a great location – Melbourne and Yarra was looking gorgeous.

20161209_201356.jpgThe volunteer marshals on course were great with no chance of getting lost even though it’s not a formally marked off course. We crossed the Yarra and headed back towards the city, grabbing water on the way. Once we had run back through Birrarung Marr, I loved that we were running amongst the Friday night crowds and got lots of cheers and smiles from those out enjoying the Summer evening. We then ran along the river and across the bridge at Southbank, again dodging the crowds before running along the promenade at Southbank, much to the amusement of the diners.

And, almost a little too soon, we were back under the bridge and turning into the gardens for the finish. I wouldn’t have wanted to do the 10km (which was 2 laps of the same course) but really did enjoy every moment of the run and would have liked to be out there a bit longer. Instead, we continued our festivities by heading out to dinner, still appropriately attired in our Christmas gear.

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This was a seriously fun event from start to finish and I think it definitely needs to be added to my list of ‘must do’ events from now on.

Carman’s women’s fun run – race recap

I love this run. Which is kind of funny when I think of the parts of it which aren’t necessarily what you’d expect in a great run – the weather is unpredictable (it is Melbourne after all) and can be boiling or pouring with rain; the course is flat and along a not overly scenic road, albeit next to St Kilda beach and with views of Luna Park; it’s a road event and lacks shade; parking can be frustrating….not necessarily the ingredients you’d expect. But, somehow, it is one of my favourite runs of the year and one I return to time and time again. This year was my 5th event and I’m pretty sure I’ll be back again in 2017.

I travelled up with my fabulous running buddies, leaving home at ridiculous o’clock which meant we were able to get our favourite car parking spot and collect our shirts and bibs. Actually, that’s a big tick for this event – the fact that you can pick your bib up on the morning if you choose and the whole process is very low stress.

So, bibs in hand and shirts changed, we joined the portaloo queue (which is always pretty good at this event) and headed over for the start. We were quite surprised to find ourselves not particularly excited – still waking up and trying to find our mojo. The starting gun went off and we shuffled along to the start line, still not really feeling it. Yet again, I didn’t know what I could expect for myself. I’d hoped for this to be fairly fast but hadn’t done much serious running since Melbourne half marathon and had had a never ending cold since then that had only just disappeared. And it was warmer than I liked. And my leg was a bit dodgy. You know the drill – the usual fears and doubts plaguing me.

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Regardless, we started. And I ran. I didn’t really have a strategy, just wanted to run and see how I felt. It turned out that I felt ok. Hot and a bit icky from the warm weather but ok. My leg had miraculously stopped hurting once we started.

At about 3km, my friend caught up with me and we followed a run/walk from there, keeping up a pretty steady pace and pushing our way through the heat. The event didn’t seem to have the crowds from previous years but the diversity of the runners is something that I always enjoy – not just the speedy ones you expect to see but runners and walkers of all ages, shapes, sizes and speeds.

As the kilometres ticked by, I was enjoying the run more and settling into it. It was still hard work but not too hard and the distance really was flying by, no doubt helped by having a friend along. By the last 2km, I was running out of energy and really had to put my head down and push through the hurt. I was very happy to cross back into Catani Gardens. The finish chute at this event always feels like the longest ever although at least it had colour, sound and spectators to make it appealing. I couldn’t do my usual sprint-ish for the line as I really didn’t have much left and was so grateful to cross the line, still smiling and, most importantly, upright. Despite the heat, we’d run it in a pretty good time – 3 minutes off last year’s time and my second best 10km time for the year.

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This is one of those events that I just find myself coming back to and I suspect I’ll be back again next year. There is something particularly inspiring about running with a group of women, and running in support of the Breast Cancer Network brings out some very inspirational stories and tributes. Very hard not to be grateful and contemplative in that atmosphere – a perfect wrap up event for the year.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Finished!

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!

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