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 @ ballarat

When I heard that it was Ballarat parkrun’s 100th run on Easter Saturday, I knew I had to go – it’s been on my list for a while, really isn’t that far away and you’ve got to love a good celebration. So husband and I were up early and on the road. I attended University in Ballarat so I know the typical Ballarat weather only too well – we were certainly greeted with blue skies (once we’d driven through the fog) but the temperature did steadily drop as we got nearer and I was grateful I’d remembered my jacket.

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Taking place in Victoria Park, Ballarat parkrun has all the required facilities – clean and plentiful toilets, ample parking and shelter from the weather (which I’m sure comes in handy!).

A reasonable crowd had gathered as we moved in for the briefing. It was lovely to hear the pride in the Run Director’s voice and justifiably so – it takes a lot of work to get a parkrun off the ground so is an achievement to have not only done that but to have sustained it and grown the community over 100 events.

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part of the parkrun coursbly so – it takes a lot to get a parkrun event off the ground and is an important and significant milestone to reach 100 events.

Briefing ended with a countdown to the start….I realised too late that we had been briefed at the start line where I should not have been standing so close to the front so had to get out of the way as the faster runners came past. Fortunately it’s a wide start and there’s lots of room for people to find their comfortable place and pace.

The path is a gravel track around Victoria Park and is a great surface to run on and ample width for all the comings and goings. From the start, we followed the track then turned left to a turnaround point before running back along an outer track and back over the start line for a second, longer loop.

I was cold and was feeling it in my breathing for the first couple of kilometres but had warmed up by the start of the second lap. It is certainly a scenic spot with trees all around and autumn twinges in the leaves and between the scenery and not being alone on the course (thanks to the out and back loops), the time and kilometres pass pretty quickly. The course markings and marshals are also great and I was thankful for them, particularly the section of the cones at about 4km as my clearly addled running brain had forgotten where I had to go.

I was welcomed over the finish line with cowbells and cheers and the finish line atmosphere was made even better by the crowd hanging out and having breakfast with a bbq kindly provided by volunteers as part of the 100th event celebrations.

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Anyone for a bbq breakfast?

Overall, I really enjoyed this parkrun which is no mean feat for a 2-lap course – great scenery, flat course, friendly community, varied runners/walkers/in betweens. With this one only being an hour away, I suspect we might be back sometime.

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The finish shute

parkrun tourism @ westerfolds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stepping up – my first shot at being a run director

From first registering, it took me about 6 months to attend my first parkrun. Little did I know then that it would become such an important part of my weekend and my life. Today I reached another milestone – I volunteered as run director at my local parkrun for the first time. And survived 🙂

I will admit to being nervous in the lead up to the event. Like anything that matters to us, I imagined all sorts of things going wrong and not knowing how to fix them. I prepared myself as much as I could and had great pre-event support and training from our Event director, Rachel.

I also had a wave of support from my fabulous running friends who headed out to You Yangs this morning. As much as I said beforehand that they were welcome not to come and see me mess up, I was definitely grateful for their friendly faces and never judgemental, unwavering support. Even during my initial run briefing wobble (where I very nearly welcomed people to the wrong parkrun – ooops!), they were standing by me and cheering me on. Most importantly, as always, they believe in me. Sometimes a lot more than I believe in myself and for that I am truly grateful. It’s very powerful to have people tell you that you can do something and actually mean it. It’s hard for the voice in your head telling you that you can’t to argue against louder external voices telling you that you can.

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This morning, voices or no voices, I did it. It all went smoothly pre and post event – a successful run or walk followed by a tasty breakfast and an uneventful processing of the results. As with so many things, the imagining of the event was much worse than just jumping in and getting it done – I enjoyed the experience and love being able to give back to an organisation that has given so much to me.

So, to my beautiful and caring running friends who either joined me in person today or sent positive thoughts and vibes my way, thank you. For being there this morning and for generally being the sort of people that are a pleasure to be around. The sort of people that make life a whole lot sunnier.

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