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!

The tale of 100 parkruns

Once upon a time, there was a girl who didn’t really like to run. She thought she was a bit overweight and probably would look a bit silly if she was seen out in public, attempting to pull off some athletic manoeuvres. Especially as they would, most likely, end up with her on her face. She had tried it before but mostly on a treadmill, indoors and away from prying eyes. If she did go outside, it was at night and in baggy clothing. And she’d walk if anyone remotely judgemental came close. And then she discovered parkrun…

Alright, I’ll come clean – this is not an imaginary tale. That girl really was me. Today I ran my 100th parkrun and was lucky enough to do this at a fantastic event launch for Torquay (blog post on that to follow!). And I adore this series of photos because it reminds me of this crazy journey I’m on, how far I’ve come and all the special people I’ve met along the way.

The first photo is of me at Albert Melbourne parkrun. It was school holidays and it was threatening to rain but I pushed on and went anyway. I’d scoped things out and chosen that one because they seemed to have such a diverse mix of speeds and I thought I probably wouldn’t be the last person. Probably. I didn’t know anyone there and was more than a little nervous as I walked up. I couldn’t have received a warmer welcome (and didn’t finish last). That photo was taken while I was lining up to have my barcode scanned (by Glynn Nicholas, no less!) and I was well and truly hooked.

It did take me a while to make it a regular habit but, very soon, I found my people at Balyang Sanctuary and thrived with their support and encouragement. The fourth picture is on our Christmas Day parkrun, the one where I did come last. And realised it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

Most of the events in the pictures were done with friends – either home at Balyang Sanctuary or away at the many event launches and different courses I’ve run on. But there were also many where I knew no one. I wasn’t alone – you never are at parkrun and I have always felt welcome, regardless of where I happened to turn up on a Saturday morning.

There are some very special photos in the last 2 rows as my husband, possibly sick of me nagging him for 3 years, has joined in (mostly so he didn’t miss out on any more delicious breakfasts!). Having him along has made the memories even more special (and added running gear and apps to the regular topics of conversation in our household).

Looking at this photo montage seriously makes me smile – so many amazing memories and stories tied up in these 100 events. When I started on this journey, I had no idea it would lead me into a life this rich and happy and am so grateful for all that parkrun and the running community have given me. A running family and a renewed belief in my ability to do anything are amongst the most precious gifts. As well as the vision to see beyond the scales to embrace my strength, persistence and resilience.

Here’s to the next 100 🙂

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.

Dopey training – week 5

What a week! It was, officially, a tapering week before my half so I went into it knowing I didn't want to do too much. Just enough to follow the plan.

My Tuesday run moved to Wednesday as I had to swap my late night at work. For some reason, I was feeling full of beans and set out feeling like running….so I ran. And didn't stop. No intervals, no walk breaks, just running, which is something I almost never do. Before I knew it, I'd run the block and finished just over 5 km without feeling the need for a walk break. I'm still committed to the whole Galloway thing but it's nice to know that it's through choice, not because I have to. I think that was exactly what my running self esteem needed.

The second 45 minute run for the week was on Saturday…and was actually a walk. I was back at my home parkrun after ages away so I walked it with a friend, knowing I had the half marathon the next day. It was actually really good – a perfect Winter's morning, great company and no stress. Just what I needed.

And then the half marathon. A lot longer run than I needed to do but so much fun, especially with the added bonus of a bunch of PBs. Check out my blog post for more details of this one.

Weekly summary
Wednesday – 5.7km (45:11)
Saturday – 5km (53:17)
Sunday – 21.1km (2:49:46)

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?