parkrun tourism @ Bannockburn Bush

It appears that parkrun launch season is upon us again – last week was Portarlington’s turn and this week it was inland at Bannockburn Bush.

The team at this parkrun have been working hard for many months to set it all up, secure the funding and build a base of enthusiastic volunteers and participants. And all of that hard work paid off with a successful and busy launch this morning.

We arrived ridiculously early as our training plan called for a 6km pre-parkrun run so it was a sleepy, quiet and foggy scene that greeted us as we made our way down the gravel road to the reserve. It gave us a chance to enjoy the (chilly) morning and explore the course before the crowds arrived. By the time we were done, there were a lot more cars and people and we had time for a quick catch up with fellow local and travelling parkrunners before the briefing.

 

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The course at Bannockburn Bush is, as the name suggests, through the trees and along a delightful trail surface. Even more blissfully, it’s flat. It’s a wide enough trail for everyone and, even with the many people attending this morning’s launch, it still wasn’t too crowded, especially after the first 500 metres. It is a very easy to follow course – you head out straight then make a left for a short out and back segment before rejoining the main track where you head towards the main turn around point. From there, it’s straight back to the finish. And, if in doubt, there are a fabulous permanent sign posts along the way, ensuring you can’t get lost. Unless you try really, really hard.

It was great to see a big diversity in the parkrunners attending today with what felt like more than the usual proportion of walkers, adding further to the supportive and family friendly atmosphere.

Congratulations to the event team on a very successful launch. For those of you planning to tourist out this way, do. And be sure to visit Bannockburn Station for breakfast afterwards – absolutely delicious!

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parkrun tourism @ portarlington

International parkrun day, celebrating 13 years since the start of this amazing movement, is a really cool day to have a launch. And so we all gathered this morning at Portarlington, wearing our parkrun apricot ‘uniform’ to a launch another event into the parkrun family. The skies were blue, the clouds minimal, the sun shining and the waves gently lapping not far from the start line. Glenn, parkrun Ambassador (formerly known as Territory Director) welcomed us, followed by Event Director, Fiona and, in what felt like record time for a launch, we were at the start line and off.

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The view from our car park before walking up to the start

The course is a very easy to follow out and back, following the coastal path after starting at the big tree at the top of the hill. As such, it’s a nice downhill run to start (although the astute amongst you will have registered what that means. What goes down and all that…). The path is gravel and very easy to run on with enough width to cope with us all plus the benefit of grass alongside in case of those pesky runners that insist on running side by side (ie, me and my friends this morning). The trail can only be described as picturesque with views of the bay throughout, often close enough that you could almost touch the water. There are some undulations, probably more than you thought, but they’re not terrible or long and, before you know it, you’re turning around and heading home.

I ran today with my 3 running besties and it was just the best sort of run – not too hard but hard enough that it felt like I’d worked for it. Yet easy enough for chats as we went. It was another morning when, particularly reflecting on its 13th birthday, I felt very grateful that parkrun existed and that I had found it. I’ve said it before but it seriously is life changing stuff.

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Just at about the time when I was feeling like I might have had enough and be ready for breakfast, the finish line could be seen although its placement was a minor cause for concern. Naturally, it’s at the top of the hill we came down at the start. Not a big hill but still a hill which is not the most welcome sight at the end of a 5km run. Still, we ran it and crossed the line, happy and done.

A huge well done to Fiona and the event team at Portarlington – this one has been a long time in the making and it was great to see so many from Balyang welcoming them to the parkrun family. A gorgeous course, friendly crowd of volunteers and definitely one I’ll be back to. Even with that little incline at the end 😉

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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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