Dopey training – week 8

Training started off a bit slowly this week – I decided to push Tuesday’s run to later in the week, partly due to work commitments and partly because my leg was still feeling a bit dodgy. So my first 45 minute run of the week ended up being on Thursday. It’s been pretty rainy and wintery all week so waiting for the perfect weather was definitely not an option – it was either run and take your chances or don’t run. I took my chances, managed to get away from work on time and headed for a park in town. I managed 2 laps before the rain started and I headed down to and along the beach to finish off my 45 minutes. As always, I grinned maniacally while the rain and wind battered me – there is something distinctly satisfying about fighting it out with the elements to get your run done. While I’m not a fan of heading out into the rain, I don’t really mind running once it starts. Although I did have some problems feeling my fingers, especially while trying to take this photo 🙂

Saturday was my second 45 minute run – this time at Brimbank parkrun launch. I had a great run – a beautiful trail and fabulous company, this one was definitely measured in smiles.

And then today I did my long run. There was definitely a time, not that long ago, when I didn’t like long runs at all. Nothing about them. I now feel I’ve moved on to a love/hate relationship with them. And I’m equally as passionate about both sides. All week, I’ve been excitedly looking forward to the weekend for the chance to do my long run. Each day, I’d deliberate about where to go, which route to take. Last night, I was looking at the clock from 7.30pm, wanting to go to bed so I could get up and get it done. The ‘hate’ kicked in this morning when it actually came to getting out of my warm pjs and into running gear but, once I was out there, I was in love again. I chose one of my favourite trails – the Surf Coast Trail from Jan Juc to Ironbark Basin – and soaked up the stunning sunshine that we’re lucky enough to have today. I took it easy today – it was about getting the kilometres done and enjoying some solitude, not cranking out PBs. I started with set run/walk intervals as per the plan but then decided to just go by feel instead. And I made sure I took some time to stop and smell the wattle. Spring is definitely on its way!

Weekly summary:

Thursday – 5.7km (47:03)

Saturday – 5.2km (43:11)

Sunday – 15km (2:18:50)

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 🙂

Words matter. And the word ‘slow’ doesn’t help anyone.

Do you want to go out for a run with me sometime? If I've had a big day at work, it'll probably be a slow one whereas if it's parkrun on a Saturday morning, it'll probably be fast. Here's the thing – those words, slow and fast, won't mean the same to you as they do to me. So, really, they're not at all helpful as a way of describing pace. Therefore I am proclaiming loudly from my soapbox today – please stop using them when it comes to describing pace.

This rant is the result of some training runs advertised as being at a 'slow' pace…of 5.40min/km to 6.40min/km. I have absolutely no problem with the pace being suggested and think it was hugely helpful to have that there. Knowing people will be running at that pace means it's not suitable for me which is fine. What I take issue with is advertising this as 'slow'.

To start with, that pace is not my idea of slow. There have been times when I've managed to run that pace but never for longer than a few minutes and never without being seriously oxygen deprived at the end. Plus it was possibly downhill. I also have some running friends for whom that pace is average. And some others who would find it not just slow but glacially so. So the continuum of pace descriptions really is a personal one and not a universal benchmark that we can all use to compare.

However, even worse than that – if that is somehow universally considered as 'slow', what do you call my pace? Or those who take longer than me to run a kilometre? Runners at the back of the pack like myself have to work hard to gain acceptance that comes quite easily to some others. I credit parkrun for helping open up the running community and ensuring it is inclusive for all regardless of shape, size, speed, running style or athletic background (or lack of). Putting labels on specific paces feels very much like a backwards step, like a 'you're just not trying hard enough' type of vibe. It probably didn't help that, when I drew attention to the non-slowness of the slow group, it was suggested I might like the beginners' running plan. It is true that I might however I'm not a beginner. I've just ticked off 8 half marathons, am training for my first full marathon and have been running consistently for 4 years. Yes, it is possible to have been running for that long and STILL be this pace.

And just to clarify, I'm not having a go at the fact this training run doesn't cater for me. I'm completely ok with that. I'm also completely ok with events having cutoff times that don't cater for all paces. I always look carefully at cutoff times and previous results before I enter anything and make sure the event is the right fit for me. I don't want to be out on the course alone any more than the event will want me there, keeping roads open and volunteers waiting around for a lonely runner. I stick to events where my pace is welcomed and the logistics have been organised accordingly. (Actually, while we're on the topic – saying 'no cutoff time' is not helpful either. Unless you actually, genuinely mean it. If you're happy to still be waiting for me 7 or 8 or 9 hours after the marathon started, great. If not, tell me that.)

In short, language matters. So let's all make a pact to stop using 'slow' or 'fast' to describe a run unless we quantify it by acknowledging that it's fast or slow 'for me'. And help re-educate the world by calling it out when we see others do it.

Ok, rant over. And, if anyone does feel like coming for a run, that's great – expect about 8.00min/km after a hard day at work and 7.00-7.30min/km on a Saturday morning. Unless it's downhill 🙂

Dopey training – week 6

Wow, week 6 already?! Seems to be going pretty quickly. Possibly too quickly actually – somewhat reassuring to think there are another 21 weeks of training to go.

This week was a bit odd when it came to training. I ran a half marathon last Sunday and normally after such an event, I would spend the week resting and giving my body a break from what I’d put it through. As testament to my training, I woke up on Monday perfectly fine and barely feeling like I’d run the day before, let alone such a long way. And so the training plan continued.

While I wasn’t at all sore, I was a little tired so I covered my required kilometres a little slower this week. I didn’t back off too much though and headed for the hills on Thursday – I’m sure that my work on the hills over the last few months is what has been getting me PBs and generally making me feel stronger so it’s no longer optional. Thursday had been a rainy, foggy and fairly miserable sort of day but I headed for my favourite spot anyway and found I had it pretty much to myself. The low cloud that hung around just added to the general creepiness which was not helped when I was scared by a goat and then a kangaroo coming out of the bush. But there is no denying the beauty of the landscape around the You Yangs and, as always, I felt so grateful to have it nearly on my doorstep.

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The long run for this weekend was supposed to be 11km but I split it over Friday and Saturday instead. I ran with a friend on Friday which was an easy shaking out of the legs after the hills of the day before then I travelled off to another parkrun on Saturday and smashed out a fairly fast 5km, reinforcing that the training is working and that 21km is no longer a run that writes me off for the next few weeks. All up since Sunday, I’ve managed 21.2km – I’m definitely happy with that.

Probably for the first time, I actually feel like I might be able to do this. That seems a bit silly to say as I’ve already booked my place and paid a fortune for airline tickets but there has always been a voice in the back of my head telling me ‘Oh, I’ll just run the first 3 and not bother with the marathon’ or ‘I’ll start but who knows if I’ll finish’. They weren’t voices I said out loud much but they were always there, particularly at the end of a 5km when I was puffing and panting. This week has shown that I might not be fast but I can run long and not suffer too many ill effects. Time to trust the training and just get on with the job of steadily building up my kilometres.

Weekly summary:

Tuesday – 5.5km (46:20)
Thursday – 5km (46:41)
Friday – 5.4km (45:06)
Saturday – 5.1km (38:44)

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.