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 @ Highlands

Having done quite a lot of the Victorian parkruns, I decided it was time to make a list of what I had left. Then I marked those less than 2 hours drive away. Unfortunately, that is a very, very short list. After another full on week at school and still a bit tired from last week's half marathon efforts, I chose the closest on the list (my NENDY) – Highlands parkrun.

I hadn't been avoiding this one but I will admit it wasn't a priority. I'd seen the map and knew it was in one of the new estates. Despite being 'masterplanned' (whatever that means), they always tend to look a bit the same and not exactly picturesque. On top of that, I knew it was a 3 lap course, something I'm not at all a fan of (mostly as I tend to get lapped!). However being only a little over an hour from home, it was definitely our parkrun of choice this morning so off we went.

I will admit to being pleasantly surprised when we arrived. Once you've escaped the freeway and the airport sprawl, you head out into a weird, in between place full of both shiny new estates and older, larger blocks that have clearly been there since Melbourne Airport was surrounded by paddocks. And it's actually quite pretty, in a 'new estate' kind of way. The lake that this course loops around is lovely, especially bathed in this morning's Winter sunshine.

We met the crew at the new meeting place by the playground and listened to the briefing. Today was my 44th different course so I've heard a lot of different run briefings but today's was one of the best – a great mix of all the information you needed, a few laughs and a good sense of fun. In fact, it was very evident from the moment that we arrived that this parkrun has a great vibe – a real sense of a friendly, supportive community getting out and enjoying their Saturday morning run or walk.

Briefing done, we headed to the start line and were off on our first lap around the lake. As always, it took probably the first kilometre for us all to find our spots and thin out a bit but it wasn't particularly crowded with the path wide enough to accommodate. The surface is a combination of concrete path and wooden boardwalks which are a nice distraction. The course is almost entirely flat with one little hill (Bill's hill) taking you back up to the main footpath before starting you off on your next lap.

I wasn't sure how I'd run today as I'd already done 15km earlier in the week but I finished the first lap feeling pretty good. More importantly, I could see my husband across the other side of the lake and was determined he wouldn't be lapping me! So I put in a bit of a burst of speed to finish off my second lap. Another sign of how friendly and accommodating this parkrun is were the volunteers who happily took extra tops off people as they heated up and threw them off after the first lap.

Before I knew it, I was finishing my third lap and headed towards the finish line and the friendly faces that greeted me there. Most the parkrunners were encouraged over the line by name – another sign of how much of a community this one is and the supportive environment they've created. It was also fantastic to see the diversity of runners and walkers who participated with a huge variety of paces, all being acknowledged and celebrated.

Even better, good coffee and a tasty breakfast is just across the car park and we made the most of this before heading home.

Well done to all at Highlands parkrun for the great community spirit you've created in this event – if this is your local, you're very lucky to have such a supportive running crew to help you reach your goals.

parkrun tourism @ frog hollow

I’ve wanted to go to Frog Hollow parkrun for ages, mostly because of the name. It sounds so cute and conjures up images of Beatrix Potter inspired landscapes. Being in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne, I knew that was unlikely but wanted to do it nevertheless.

So, in what is now becoming something of a ritual, husband and I got up at a time starting with a 5 and headed off on a bit over an hour drive for a run. It’s a very easy parkrun to find, just off the freeway. On arrival, we followed the request on this parkrun’s home page to not park in the reserve itself and walked the very short distance to the meeting point.

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Briefing and a visitors/first timers briefing to clue us up about the course done, we headed to the start area and, very soon, were off. It was a slower than normal start for me – a very hilly hike earlier in the week has left me with sore calves so they took a bit to get warmed up.

The course follows a concrete path out and along the side of a lake before heading under the freeway and up to a turn around point. After this, you head back towards the lake and complete a full lap around it before running back to the finish. And it is quite scenic, especially considering the freeway and backs of houses which surround the course. The lake was tranquil this morning with a few other walkers about but plenty of room for everyone.

Coming back around the lake, I had a few other parkrunners around as faster runners were heading back in while I was doing my lap and many of them shared friendly words of encouragement which were much needed. There was a great mix of faster runners and walkers this morning with all speeds in between – made for a great atmosphere and very welcoming.

This is definitely another hidden gem of a parkrun – a scenic course tucked away into suburbia with a friendly welcome for regulars and visitors. And another Victorian parkrun ticked off my list 🙂

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parkrun tourism @ karkarook

First day of school holidays and what a better way to celebrate than get up early, pull on some warm clothes and head to the other side of Melbourne for a run! Karkarook was today’s destination, a smidge over an hour from home so not too far when I was feeling rather sleepy from a long term.

We arrived in plenty of time, made use of the ‘facilities’ and strolled on over to the meeting point. It was certainly rather fresh – the car had helpfully told us it was 1 degree and the frost everywhere you looked backed this up. However I had come prepared – long sleeves and gloves as it’s usually my fingers which are the worst on days like this.

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We were welcomed by the run director and introduced to the various pacers who would be encouraging and helping everyone out on the course today. Various milestones were also shared and visitors welcomed. And then we ditched our top layers and headed to the start line.

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I didn’t feel up for a PB – too cold, too ‘end of term’-ish but I hung around the 36:20 pacer anyway, just to see how long I could keep her in my sights. And off we went.

Before starting, I’d already decided I wasn’t running any set intervals – just running when I felt like it, walking when I didn’t. So I ran most of the first kilometre. Just fast enough to get warm and to keep up with my pacer. Surprisingly, it felt pretty easy and I looked at my watch to see exactly how easy. I was shocked to find it was actually fast (for me) and not the plod that it felt like. So I kept going.

Somewhere around the end of the 2nd kilometre, we approached a little bit of a downhill (on what is really a rather flat course) and I just felt like letting my legs go, so I did and overtook the pacer. I was fairly sure she’d be back past me before long and that was ok – it was all part of my ‘just run what you feel’ strategy. I felt good.

First lap done and, heading out on the second, the sun was starting to warm things up nicely and I still felt strong. My stomach did not feel quite as good, giving me all sorts of dodgy pains. Probably a result of me messing with my breakfast routine (note to self – no cereal with milk before a run). So I walked a bit. Ran when I could, walked and grimaced when I couldn’t. Mostly I was just annoyed – typical to be feeling strong and have something like that get in my way.

By the 4th kilometre, I was feeling a bit better so I kicked into gear and ran it in. I did walk a bit over the bridge before the finish (which was icy and I didn’t trust myself not to end up on my backside) then made it over the line in 36:09 – a 5km PB.

Obviously Karkarook will now be remembered as a PB spot but, aside from that, it is a great little course and fabulous parkrun community. They’re a friendly bunch and very welcoming and the course is unexpectedly pretty, tucked in amongst suburbia. It is a two-lap course around a lake and is pretty much flat and obviously quite fast. Add in the fact that it’s easy to get to and has ample parking and facilities – what more could you ask for?

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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