parkrun tourism @ brimbank

I’ve been to many parkrun launches. They all have something a bit special about them – like a victory lap for the event team who have put in often months of work to get it off the ground. They are full of smiling faces, expectant faces and, sometimes, slightly nervous faces wanting it all to go well. It’s always interesting guessing how many people might turn up. Those attending are usually an excited bunch – local first timers mingle with a large crowd of parkrun tourists who love nothing more than gathering at a launch and catching up. This morning it was Brimbank’s turn…with a slightly different flavour.

Brimbank parkrun is not so much a ‘slow burner’ of an event as a ‘firecracker’. While most parkruns gently brew on a back burner for a long time, this one seems to have had a much shorter gestation period, thanks in part to the generosity of Medibank’s sponsorship through their free + active initiative. It is the first of quite a few launches that have been greatly financially assisted by this. And, with the donation of what I assume to be a large amount of dollars, a reciprocal amount of advertising will necessarily follow so you could have been mistaken when turning up to this morning’s event in thinking that it was a Medibank event first, parkrun second. There were red flags everywhere, large marquees and lots of Medibank attired staff/volunteers (not sure which?) on hand to direct and manage it all. There was even a bag drop area and, believe it or not, a tv crew on hand. So it was rather unlike any parkrun launch I’ve ever attended before.

Proceedings kicked off with speeches and a run briefing with introduction to the fabulous parkrun volunteers then a warmup by Michelle Bridges. It is at this point that I want it to be noted that I was far more excited to see the now famous parkrunner Jess here than Michelle Bridges and regret not going over to say hi :). Warm up over, we headed for the wide open space of the start line. We were held there for a while and weren’t quite sure why as we’d ticked over 8am by this stage – no one minded as launches often run a bit late due to speeches and celebrations. However the delay today was apparently to do with the tv crew and their broadcast schedule – again, not something experienced elsewhere.

Soon enough, we were off and running. And, despite all of the strangeness and un-parkrun like feel of the preamble, once we were on the course, it felt like parkrun again. And it was beautiful. Brimbank park really is a hidden gem. I’ve driven past it so many times and never thought that this trailrunning gold lay tucked in between houses and the freeway. On course this morning, we traversed river crossings (without getting wet feet) and were treated to as much trail goodness as we could handle. There were undulations, a range of surfaces (all gentle) and then an impressive hill which, when you reached the top, showed you just how magical this place is – popped in amongst suburbia. The surrounding bush is gorgeous and the course wends its way through it all in a meandering fashion. In the second half, there is a loop which is great for greeting other parkrunners coming the other way and then, before you know it, you’re passing the cafe and turning into the well organised finish shute. Where we were given a water bottle (thoughtfully, already full of water – thanks).

Following today’s event, there were post-run drinks and nibbles, massages and free health checks, all provided by Medibank. I was appreciative particularly of the large marquees they’d put up as the rain had decided now was as good a time as any to show up. We sheltered, enjoyed the hospitality and chatted to the crowd. And picked up a free running singlet. Which doesn’t fit as, in a fairly standard yet annoying assumption often made by health promoting corporations, only people up to size 16 would possibly turn up at an event like this and like to enjoy a free singlet. (At this point, when I’m clearly having a small rant, I could also go off on a tangent and talk about how I feel the commercialisation of parkrun has affected things but I haven’t fully decided how I feel about it and I should stick to the topic at hand. Let’s assume it might be the topic of a future blog post and leave it at that.)

A huge well done to the event team at Brimbank parkrun – what a beautiful location with so much going for it. While it seemed like a friendly and welcoming event, it was really hard to get a feel for the local parkrun community this morning as it was an ‘event’ rather than a community. What I look forward to most is coming back to visit without all the pomp and ceremony to fully appreciate this parkrun’s spirit as I certainly loved the course.

parkrun tourism @ torquay (aka parkrun now, chocolate later)

There have been rumours of a Torquay parkrun floating around for a long time, always followed by a 'how good would that be?'. Torquay and its trails have been a favourite of runners locally and from further afield so the appeal was easy to see. However wanting it to happen and managing the logistics needed aren't always in sync and the years ticked on with no parkrun appearing.

This morning, Torquay parkrun launched and in spectacular fashion – with 374 parkrunners in attendance. We were greeted by Glenn (Territory Director) and Sarah (Event/Run Director) who spoke about the assistance they had received from various sponsors and organisations in getting this off the ground. Setting up a parkrun event relies on community support – from sponsors, regulatory authorities as well as individuals as volunteers and participants and so much goes on behind the scenes, long before an event launches.

The course starts at Bomboras kiosk (with toilet facilities and ample parking around) and heads along the trail away from Torquay. The views from the start are beautiful and we were treated to perfect Winter weather this morning – only light breezes and blue skies. The trail surface is gravel (once you've crossed the start line on the grass and headed up to the trail) and easy on the legs. It is an out and back course with ample signage and is very easy to follow. There aren't any hills, just very minor undulations and some twists and turns which keep things interesting. The turnaround point is a wide loop that sends you back on your way toward the start/finish. Even better, the finish line is downhill so perfect for fast finishes.

My friend had asked me what my plan was for today and I'm sure I answered something very vague. I didn't really have a plan. I often don't. Run if I feel like it. Walk if I don't. I hadn't set specific intervals this morning – was just out there to enjoy my 100th parkrun. So off we went. I ran most of the first km and a bit then decided I'd probably done that too fast and needed to pull it back a bit, picking up 2min run/1min walk intervals. I was still absolutely pushing myself, feeling out of breath for most of the run and, even though others said we made it look easy, couldn't have pushed myself more. The finish line was very, very welcome and I embraced the downhill and let gravity do the rest. My husband tried to surprise me by putting my 100th run sash back on me, mid-run and, well, you can tell from these photos what I thought of that. Bad words may have been said.

Thanks to the wonderful distraction of chatting to my friend and trying to not slow her down too much, I managed to run my 3rd fastest 5km this morning so that was a great present for my 100th parkrun. While there are an abundance of places for breakfast in Torquay, we decided to head along to our favourite – the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie – for treats aplenty.

Well done to the event team at Torquay on a successful launch (with a very speedy delivery of results and photos!). I feel like this is a course that will be on every tourist's list and I think will draw me back if I'm in the mood for something different.

Thanks to the parkrun volunteer photographers and friends Geoff and Jo for today's photos – too busy running quickly to stop and take photos of the course!

parkrun tourism @ mernda

I will confess – the first thing that happened when we heard that Mernda was launching its own parkrun was……to Google where Mernda was. There, I’ve said it. Mernda is not exactly a tourist mecca and wasn’t somewhere I’d ever had reason to go to before so it took a little bit of interweb assistance to figure out where it was and how to get there. As luck would have it, it’s a smidge over an hour away so not too early a morning – an absolute treat for a launch.

At the end of our drive, the parkrun location was very easy to locate and we managed to find a parking spot close by (after a quick pre-run toilet stop up the road  – note to visitors: no toilets on site). As is usual for a launch, there was quite a crowd and many of the regulars, including the dedicated Victorian statespeople, keeping up their titles.

We were welcomed by the Territory Director then given a briefing by Run Director, Amanda. Thankfully, proceedings were short as it was a typically chilly Melbourne morning and, having already ditched my jacket, I was having trouble feeling my hands.

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The start line is a short walk from the meeting point and you set off and run a lap around the lake. With so many people there for the launch, it was a little crowded but we soon spread out as we approached the first little hill near the first turnaround point. In this direction, you run along the edge of the suburban park and have views both of the lake and houses bordering the park. After the turnaround, you head back over a bridge (watch out for icy patches) then up another little hill and onto a nature trail before another turnaround amidst a housing estate. From there, you head back down…and do it all again.

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As much as I’m not a fan of multi lap courses, this one was actually enjoyable. The variety of surfaces, tracks and views were happy distractions and having out and back sections and laps meant that there were lots of friendly faces out there. For the most part, the track was wide enough to cater for all although, with so many attending the launch, I felt for those faster runners who had difficulty passing once they were lapping the rest of us as it got a bit tight in a few places. The course markings (chalk path markings and signs) were fantastic with no possibility of getting lost and the ample marshals on the course were very helpful and encouraging.

The final sprint is up a very short rise and over the finish line, perfectly situated next to the meeting point so you get lots of cheers as you cross the line.

A huge welcome to Victoria’s 50th parkrun (can you believe that?!?!) and congratulations to all the volunteers and event team at Mernda who made this one possible. Definitely a happy way to spend a Saturday morning 🙂

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parkrun tourism @ mount beauty

There are many people who love parkrun. People who happily spend their Saturday mornings running, walking or volunteering at their local event. And then there’s a whole other level of parkrun craziness – people who are willing to undertake an 800km round trip to attend the launch of a new event. 8 hours of driving to run 5km. Yep, that’s us.

We headed to Mount Beauty last night, arriving late however being able to get up at 7am actually felt like a sleep in for a Saturday so this morning wasn’t too much of  a strain. We easily found our parkrun venue with flags up and people milling about, as well as the familiar apricot of the parkrun tourist ‘uniform’ as it has come to be known. We weren’t the only ones to have travelled silly distances and it was great to catch up with the usual launch crowd who I’m so pleased to now call friends.

The location of this parkrun, at the Mount Beauty pondage, is stunning, surrounded by picture perfect mountains which are reflected in the water. This was matched this morning with perfect Autumnal weather complete with blue skies and only clouds of the fluffy white variety.

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We were welcomed by the Territory Director and co-Event Director who kept the briefing short and had us at the start line perfectly on time. As expected due to its geographical location, the crowds were a little smaller than other launches we’ve attended however it was great to see the support from locals, most of which had never attended a parkrun before. That’s one of my favourite things about attending launches – being there to welcome a new batch of initiates to the parkrun family, especially those for whom the whole concept is new.

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And, with no further ado, we were off. The course is flat and when I say flat, I mean ‘as a pancake’. It is also ridiculously easy to follow – it is an out and back course which heads around the pondage to a turn around point very near to the start line….where you then turn around and run back the other way. Before we started, I wondered how interesting I’d find the course as you can pretty much see it all from the start line. As you run, however, you get different perspectives and see different things so it kept me happily distracted. The views as you run are breathtaking, a bit like running alongside a movie set and the light fog wisping around the scene added extra dramatic touches (as if it needed any). The surface is concrete which isn’t my favourite but the sides of the path are more forgiving so I veered to them whenever possible.

I was running pretty well today and the 5km seemed to fly by. Heading back into my last kilometre, my husband had run out to join me which was lovely and probably accounted for my slightly increased speed at the end. I was really happy to cross the line in my 2nd quickest 5km time ever. My husband had also reached his goal – his first sub-30 minute 5km so it was smiles all around.

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We breakfasted at a lovely little cafe in town, Seasons, who were very accommodating (as we were moving tables around to fit everyone in) and served up quick and tasty breakfasts all round.

A big well done to the event team at Mount Beauty for getting their local parkrun up and running (pun intended) and for a very successful launch. I’m absolutely sure this one will be a favourite amongst roving parkrunners – that combination of stunning views and the feeling of adventure in trekking away from population centres will be a hard one to resist 🙂

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parkrun tourism @ timboon

When I first heard that Timboon was getting a parkrun, my first reaction was ‘Yay!’ followed very quickly by ‘ice cream!!!!!’. It should come as no secret that Timboon is famous for its delicious chilly foodstuff and, even if the scenery hadn’t been a big enough drawcard, the ice cream would have got us there.

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The start/finish line

After a couple of hours drive, we arrived to a very chilly Timboon but an incredibly warm welcome from the parkrun volunteers, locals and tourists gathered for the launch. It was great to see how much this event is clearly supported by and part of the community with the Lions Club cranking up a bacon and egg breakfast, councillors in attendance and local businesses coming on board to participate then open up early to cater for those who’d come along to the launch. We were all welcomed by the Event and Territory Directors with a show of many, many hands demonstrating how big a boost the visitors had made to the local population for the day. Our Run Director then gave us a synopsis of the course, sticking to the positive – an out and back course which is downhill all the way to the turn around point.

And, with that, we were off.

The course is simply stunning. From the start line, you head out on the rail trail and down the blissfully promised gentle downhill run on a soft trail, lightly dusted with leaves to cushion your feet even further. While it was certainly cold, rays of sunlight were streaming between the trees and making everything look like it belonged in a fairytale. The trail is wide enough to easily pass, even when runners started to come back the other way.

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The beautiful rail trail

I was running intervals and feeling strong and speedy, despite not being able to feel my fingers thanks to the morning chill. The marshals at the turnaround point were all smiles and full of encouragement which it turned out I needed as the return journey is, obviously, uphill and took a little bit of getting used to. It’s not a terrible hill, more of a vague incline and I adjusted soon enough with the finish line sneaking up pretty quickly. It was wonderful to see people of all speeds out there on the course with a great collection of parkwalkers smiling and chatting as they completed their 5km.

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Views from the trail

Your choices for post parkrun sustenance are plentiful – the Timboon railway shed is right there and was where we chose to start. Walking in is an aromatic delight – the whisky distilled on site smells delicious then, walking further in, we were greeted with freshly baked smells of scones and muffins. After our coffee and muffins (still warm from the oven), we headed off for our dessert (or second breakfast) – Timboon ice cream. I’m usually a fan of the white chocolate and raspberry but opted today for whisky cream and maple and cinnamon – both absolutely delicious.

I am aware that my next statement is a pretty big call, particularly having visited 39 different courses but this course is definitely my favourite so far. Timboon has the perfect mix – a stunning trail, good facilities and wonderful post-parkrun options. My only regret? That we couldn’t stay longer today. However it’s only a small regret – just another reason to make sure we come back.

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parkrun tourism @ ararat

My alarm went off at 4.45 this morning and, while I didn’t spring out of bed (hard to do on the morning after the first week of a new term), I did get up with smile – time for the next wave of parkrun launches to begin. Today’s trek was taking us to Ararat – 2 hours drive and through all sorts of weather. Leaving home, it was pretty miserable and we were envisaging being dripping wet all morning then it turned to fog (coinciding with daylight arriving so we still couldn’t enjoy any views) then finally…..sunshine!

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Still a bit foggy as we gathered at the start

We timed it to perfection, arriving with ample time for a toilet and coffee stop before heading to the start. As at most launches, especially those from areas new to parkrun, there was the usual mix of tourists (most of whom know each other from attending all the other launches) and locals (looking slightly dazed by all the people in orange ‘uniforms’). Run Director, Pat welcomed everyone and delivered the briefing including the description of the 4 lap course. I ignored the 4 lap bit and tried to concentrate on the ‘where to go’ bit. Not knowing the park, I got lost in my mental directions so ignored those too, intending just to follow those in front.

The Territory Director took to the microphone to welcome Ararat parkrun to the Australian and global parkrun family and his words really struck a chord. Amidst all the busyness of organising a local parkrun, it can be easy to forget that you’re not just organising a small event for some locals, you’re joining a very big family; this event is one of over 200 run every weekend around Australia with hundreds also being run in 13 other countries around the world. Just take a moment to appreciate the enormity of that. Thanks. You may now continue reading 🙂

Formalities nearly done, we all gathered at the start line and listened to the Mayor do his speech and cut the ribbon. After one last minor task of redirecting some footballers from the oval across the road who were about to use the starting path for their warm up, we were off.

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A lake to run around…..4 times 🙂

The course sounds confusing and the map looks confusing (if you’re not from the area) but, once you’re running it, it’s not. We had helpful marshals exactly where you needed them, clear chalk markings and bollards or cones in appropriate spots. Easy. The track takes you through the very picturesque park, up and down a short, sharp hill, around the lake, around the back of the swimming pool, over a bridge and back to a turn around point near the start line. I hadn’t been looking forward to the course as I will inevitably be lapped on multi lap courses but I actually enjoyed this one. The laps were short enough to not go on forever and it made for a friendly atmosphere, seeing people several times. There was enough variety in the scenery and the surface, with some undulations here and there, that I had plenty to concentrate on. Running multiple laps also gave me the incentive I needed to run a bit faster – I was determined only to be lapped once by Geoff and not at all by Gary – goals I managed to happily complete 🙂

I was really happy with my run today – no pain at all in my calf and I just generally felt good, had energy and wasn’t exhausted. The finish ends after a short uphill section which did push me but I still finished with a smile and got my best time in 6 months.

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By now, the sun was out, the sky was blue and, with the post-parkrun cafe mere metres from the finish line, we were in and ordering breakfast in no time. We sat out under the trees, eating our delicious breakfasts and drinking our coffee, catching up on parkrun talk and planning the next few launches. An absolutely perfect way to start our Saturday. Even better, as we were sitting so close to the finish line, we were able to cheer the last parkrunners and the tailrunner over the line.

Well done to the team at Ararat and to all the locals who kicked off their weekend with 5km in such a beautiful setting. To those who might be just starting their parkrun journey, be warned; it is addictive and it is very possible it may change your life 🙂

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parkrun tourism @ newborough

Part II in the tale of 2 parkrun launches. Apologies for the delay – life has a funny knack of getting in the way of running, annoyingly! Our second launch in a row was at Newborough, near Moe. While this isn’t a million miles away from Melbourne, it is a bit further for us and required us getting up at a time that started with a 4. Ouch. I took a pillow in the car, just in case I felt the need for snoozing along the way.

We arrived to a crisp, sunny morning – perfect running weather, as it always tends to be for our parkrun adventures. With me on this jaunt were Jo and Gary – a smaller cast than the week before but we met up again with lots of the parkrun adventuring regulars and happily chatted as we waited. The venue ticked all the boxes – clean toilets and ample parking. Tick and tick.

The launch was clearly quite popular and not just with tourists – there were a lot of locals and first timers there which was great to see. What was slightly disappointing was the number of people who seemed oblivious to the fact that the Run Director was trying to deliver a briefing and who continued their conversations regardless. Kudos to him for managing it professionally and courteously (I’m afraid I would possibly have resorted to getting out my teacher voice). He also ended with a fabulous reminder – the event team had a whole array of things to remember while we were all asked to bring only one thing (our barcode). Exactly.

So, run briefing done, it was time to go. The start follows the path and curves over the bridge before heading up a short incline to climb up onto the rail trail where it’s straight and flat(ish – there’s actually a slight incline to it but I didn’t notice until I checked Strava later). We ran along this to the turnaround point then back again to the second turnaround point (near where we joined the trail) then went and did that bit all over again. It certainly made for a friendly event – lots of passing, smiling, waving and the odd high-five although these had to be carefully orchestrated due to the 4 lanes of foot traffic as the various parkrunners and walkers moved at their differing speeds.

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The turnaround point. The first one.

The beauty of the out-back-out again-back again part was that it made the time go fairly quickly and I was soon enough heading back to the finish. My calf had not held up particularly well – while the trail was flat, it was quite rocky and my unsteady footing had just aggravated my already tender leg. There is also the distinct possibility that I pushed it a bit too hard so early in my recovery. So the finish line was a ‘grit my teeth and get it done’ kind of situation.

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Overall, another great parkrun and worth the long drive to help welcome another event to the Gippsland group. I’m constantly heartened by the way communities pull together to start these events and know only positive things can come out of the relationships built each week. Welcome to the parkrun family, Newborough 🙂