parkrun tourism @ Crissy Field

This edition of parkrun tourism is a special one, requiring much more than just an early start and a few hours drive. This morning I ran my first international parkrun at Crissy Field in San Francisco.

It was not a coincidence that we happened to be in town on a Saturday. There aren’t too many parkruns yet in the USA so we had to make sure, when we planned the itinerary for our Disney trip, that we were in an appropriate location on a Saturday morning. Crissy Field was definitely our first choice – the iconic view of the Golden Gate bridge while running was too much to miss.

So we actually managed a slightly later start than usual this morning – parkrun here not starting until 9am and it being a half an hour walk from the HI hostel we were staying at, we could almost have a sleep in. It was certainly a brisk walk down to the start area, somehow managing to feel colder than Seattle had been.

The welcome we got made up for it. It was obvious in the chats we had with other parkrunners and at the briefing that there were a lot of visitors from abroad however we were all given a very warm welcome and made to feel at home as part of the parkrun family. Photos taken and greeting done, we moved on to the start line and were off.

I was walking this one as I’m still recovering from a calf injury and was very soon left pretty much alone at the back of the field. Well, near the back – the tail walker and a couple of people were behind me but it was clearly a faster field today. Luckily the scenery made up for it – it is nothing short of magnificent. For the first half of the run, you have constant, glorious views of the Golden Gate Bridge and we were blessed with absolutely stunning weather. There were lots of other (non-parkrun) runners and walkers out and about as well as lots of tourists on rented bikes, taking in the sights. I was stopped by one tourist who asked if I could take her picture with the Golden Gate in the background and I obliged.

The course starts off straight then has a left turn up to a little loop around the park at Crissy Field before heading back on the same path. The return journey gives you views of the bay and Alcatraz so just as scenic to keep you amused. Today, I needed it. I enjoy walking at parkrun when I’ve chosen to, I’m not so keen when I’m forced to because of injury and that dark cloud was threatening to ruin what was an otherwise beautiful morning. However, I digress.

Finishing at the back at least meant all my friends had already crossed the line and were paparazzi at my arrival. And, more exciting, there was cake (absolutely delicious) to make up for the fact that the donut place they usual partake in coffee at was shut.

This truly is a special parkrun and I feel very fortunate to have experienced it. A friendly, welcoming team, easy to find location and the ultimate in scenic backdrops – what more could you ask for? Definitely add it to your list. Now.

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parkrun tourism @ Sunbury

Sunbury parkrun launched last weekend and I very badly wanted to be there. However, with a mini-Dopey to run, I had attempted to map out an additional 11km in unfamiliar surroundings to make up the day’s total and just couldn’t do it. So I gave up and we stayed local, adding to the list of Victorian parkruns to cover.

Event #2 this weekend had a bit of a question mark over it with a ‘rain event’ making its way through the state however Jo, Gary and I were crazy enough to set off for Sunbury anyway, knowing that we may get halfway there to find it was cancelled. Luckily for us, the ‘yes, we’re on’ message came out on Facebook not long before we pulled up in the car park. We had given ourselves plenty of time, in case of bad weather, however the weather had clearly scared away the other cars so we had a quiet run with the roads to ourselves.

Thankfully Sunbury has a shelter so we all huddled while we waited for briefing time, commenting on how mad we all were and hoping that this was just a passing shower. Briefing done (including welcoming at least one brave first timer), we moved along to the start and prepared to run….and get wet. It wasn’t pouring, just a light and consistent drizzle. And off we went.

The course starts by heading downhill to the creek path then along to a turn off (along a short, muddy track) to go around ‘The Nook’ before rejoining the path and going up a ‘small’ hill. It certainly warmed me up but wasn’t the worst parkrun hill I’ve come across and is over pretty quickly, elevating you to ‘The skyline’ where you get to see Sunbury in all its glory down below. It’s then flat to the turnaround point although had a headwind on the way back which I didn’t need. What was lovely was enjoying running back down the hill, making up for my slow ascent with a very quick km. And then, before I knew it, I was heading back up the little hill at the side of the bridge and turning right for the finish line.

This parkrun was as welcoming as you could possibly want with a good crowd turning out and very friendly volunteers, despite the weather. I’m looking forward to coming back when the sun is shining as the combination of the great community, varied and interesting course and blue skies would be perfect. Well done to the event team and many happy parkruns to you!

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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Dopey training – week 14

After last week’s non-training, I was well rested but a bit nervous going into this week however was also keen to get back into it. So much so, that I headed out for my first run on Monday, making the most of school holidays and the good bout of weather. I ran along the waterfront and, even though it was a bit hard, it was an enjoyable run and I was really pleased to be back on track.

Having already run, I didn’t need to do a Tuesday run but headed to the first night of ‘Run Club’ instead which was actually more enjoyable than I thought, particularly because my friends were there. I’ve been thinking I should do some strength work for a while so this was a chance to try that out. I feel like the soreness I had over the next few days was a sign that those were muscles I clearly needed to work on!

Thursday’s run was with a friend out at the You Yangs – another gorgeous day and a perfect run, not measured in speed but in smiles. We did our favourite 5km circuit up the Saddleback and even managed to spot some goats up on the hills. Perfect.

Saturday was parkrun plus and hubby and I travelled to visit family in Bendigo, playing parkrun tourists at the same time. I took it easy but still managed to beat my previous time on the course by a couple of minutes. Bendigo parkrun is a pretty 2 lap-ish course around Kennington Reservoir with a couple of unexpected inclines to keep it interesting. We then set off for another 4km walk around the neighbourhood to make up the distance.

Today’s long run had been playing on my mind all week – my longest run to date at 24km. I was happy to not be doing it around home as I needed somewhere unfamiliar so I’d found a rail trail starting in Bendigo. Flat, appropriately long and completely unknown territory for me. Husband dropped me off at Lake Weeroona this morning and it was time to begin.

The O’Keefe rail trail runs from Bendigo to Heathcote however I would be running as far as Axedale today. Once I’d left Lake Weeroona and headed north, it was very easy to find the turn off and the signage after that was perfect – no chance of getting lost. The entry to the trail is quite quirky – you run under the brick railway bridge before emerging onto the trail which is bordered by industrial parts of town. Before long, you’re heading out into farmland and then on to a nature reserve. The trail was gravel so nice and soft on the soles of my feet. I had expected to see quite a few people out enjoying the trail as it was a gorgeous day but there were only a few cyclists and walkers.

As usual, it was a constant mental struggle on this one. It’s very hard to distract yourself early on from the length of time you’ll be out there and, as much as I tried, the total distance kept haunting me. In fact, my mind gave in to tiredness long before my body did and I walked a fair bit from 15km, albeit a very fast walk. ‘As long as I keep ahead of the balloon ladies’ was my mantra and I certainly did that. I had no bodily aches and pains and my nutrition and hydration were spot on. My only real problem today was a blister under one of my toes which started for no apparent reason at about halfway.

Another week done and I’m really pleased to have this long run behind me – it certainly loomed as an obstacle to get over. The next long run will be mostly covered by Melbourne half marathon in 2 weeks time so isn’t as daunting, despite requiring 27km. And, while the thought of running a marathon still feels impossible at the moment, I’m pleased to note that I’ve covered 2 of the event distances this weekend, back to back so at least the early part of the challenge is looking doable. Shall just have to trust the training will get me through the rest of it.

Weekly summary

Monday: 5.3km (45:40)

Tuesday: 30 minute run club

Thursday: 5km (52:37)

Saturday: 9.3km (1:22:17)

Sunday: 24.1km (3:42:28)

parkrun tourism @ newport lakes

When I think of Newport, Harry Potter-ish thoughts come to mind. Before you click ‘close’ and assume I’ve gone slightly bonkers, hear me out. We caught a steam train from Newport station once and it fulfilled many childhood wishes. I still vividly remember the train going through Southern Cross station, tooting its horn and feeling like I was on a magical mode of transportation that the muggles on the platform couldn’t quite see, only hear. So Newport will forever be a place linked in my mind to positive, if slightly eccentric, memories.

We weren’t able to make the launch of Newport Lakes parkrun as it was Balyang Sanctuary’s birthday so managed to get along today to event #3. This was probably a wise move. While there is definitely something about launches, there’s something different but equally as rewarding in turning up at an event unexpectedly and checking them out ‘in their street clothes’. Every parkrun has its own feel and quirks, even though the format and rules are all the same. The first thing Newport Lakes has going for it is a dose of the unexpected – I have driven through the area on my way to a friend’s house a few times but would never have known that this gem of a park was tucked away down a short road amidst all this suburbia. When I think ‘lake’ in relation to a Melbourne suburb, I assume it’s man-made and probably has a fountain and boardwalks. But no, this one has a lake that’s real and a trail that actually feels like a trail.

The first timers’ briefing gave us an overview of the course (which sounded confusing but signposted) and it was wonderful to see so many first timers. The main briefing then gave further delights – the Hobsons Bay running group had come along and were putting on a complimentary BBQ breakfast afterwards. I love this. I love that none of this needs to be a competition, that existing events and running groups can all work together to achieve the common goal – to get more people moving. But I digress.

After gathering at the start line, we were soon off. The start is across the grass, following the cones then looping back around near where you’ve come from. We followed the outside edge of the park for quite a while before following a bit of a long zig zag through the trails and closer to the water. The signposts were great and plentiful however I still had a few moments of doubt as there was no one around me and I wondered if that was because I went the wrong way. I trusted the arrows and kept going, finding some people further along the path. The surface is gravel track with some rocks and tree roots thrown in for good measure and I was glad I’d worn my trail shoes as they just gave me a bit more grip going up and down the inclines. There aren’t any terrible hills, just a few short ups and downs but lots of turning and loops so I really didn’t know where I was at any point. Running back along the road, I was completely disorientated until I turned back onto the grass and over the finish line.

Run done, we joined in the BBQ breakfast and chatted before heading off in search of a trendy venue for coffee and second breakfast. We found Leroy’s which perfectly fit the bill. Mmmmmm.

Well done to the event team at Newport Lakes – definitely a course I’d like to go back to although I’m equally sure I won’t be attempting a freedom run on it. I was fairly sure that, if I wasn’t completely attentive, I could get lost even with signs. Without them, I may be in the unfortunate position of needing to call for help in finding my way out of a suburban park!!

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.