parkrun tourism @ Gardiners Creek

I have a soft spot for Deakin University as I’ve been a student there for 3 different courses so I was very interested when Gardiners Creek parkrun started up, right next door to the Burwood campus. Despite having been to campus many times, I hadn’t really paid any attention to the area around it so was looking forward to checking it out.

Finding this one is very easy – it’s just off the Burwood Highway, tucked behind Deakin. Due to this connection, parking is incredibly easy, with a multi-storey car park across from the start area. At the back of this, you’ll also find the toilets which are clean and sparkling (I may have a bit of toilet envy as the ones where I’m RD are of the ‘long drop’ variety!).

We were welcomed and briefed, including about the slightly amended course due to some work taking place in the park. And then we gathered at the start line and were off. Despite there being quite a few parkrunners, I was pretty much on my own at the back as I was walking this one and there weren’t many doing the same. Thank goodness for the tail walker 🙂

The course is a loop out from the start line then back past it before heading in the opposite direction to the turn around point. There were signs, markings and marshals making it all a lot easier. You actually loop back on the other side of the creek and see the starting area across the way but you don’t really notice that you’re so close. It’s a very scenic park – another suburban gem tucked away. The surface you run on is more trail than path and very easy on the feet.

And then I turned around and headed back towards the finish, arriving just before the tail walker. My husband was there waiting for me, feeling very pleased with himself as the flat course had gifted him a PB.

This is another fabulous parkrun to welcome to the family – a great course with top facilities. The only negative? That it was a week my friend Wendy wasn’t there! Looks like I’ll have to come back for a second visit 😁.

Time for a rant – people over size 14 like to run too.

For a while now, I’ve wanted a waterproof running jacket. I know it’s not an essential piece of kit however I do live in southern Victoria where the Winters are wet and cold so it’s certainly a desirable item to have. I’m also contemplating running UTA22 at some time in the future and a waterproof jacket is on their mandatory kit list.

This morning, after parkrun, we headed into the city to try some on. I approached this with a sense of trepidation as I already had an idea of the reality that would face me – they wouldn’t fit. And it turned out I was completely correct. Not a single women’s waterproof running jacket fit me. I had naively thought ‘Oh well, perhaps I’ll just swallow my pride and try on a men’s’ but that was also not to be as the arms were obviously a ridiculous length and completely impractical for me. I tried on multiple brands but the story was repeated over and over.

I left the shops (yes, multiple ones) feeling dejected, slightly embarrassed and, if truth be told, like a fraud. I AM a runner. I’ve overcome all sorts of mental obstacles to give myself that title and my speed, my place in an event nor any other factor has ever made me doubt it as much as not finding a jacket to fit today. Is it not acceptable for people over size 14 to want to exercise? There are definitely, slowly, more general exercise clothes becoming available in a range of sizes but not the specialist stuff that you need when you get to some serious, more intense events like those in the trail world. Am I not welcome at these events? Do manufacturers and retailers think I’m unworthy?

I scoured the internet and the situation in general is a reflection of what I saw today in the shops – most technical clothing for women is restricted to size 14 and below. While there are some token pieces at larger sizes, there are few and with almost no choice of style, colour or functionality. As if you should be grateful that they’ve bothered and be happy with their meagre offerings.

Just for the record, this isn’t limited to clothing. I also tried on some hydration vests today and found that, despite claiming to be designed ‘for women’, that they are actually designed ‘for small women’ or ‘women without breasts’.

The whole experience has left me disheartened and quite angry really. On the one hand, we’re encouraged to embrace a life of exercise and activity. Particularly if you’re considered to be overweight on visual inspection (because, unless you sneak into my house and watch me on the scales, you’re actually passing judgement on something you don’t know), all sorts of people like to have an opinion about how you should join a gym/take up a sport/get active. However those who make and sell activewear don’t think so. I’m sure, if asked, they’ll argue that there is no demand but I don’t think that’s the true picture at all. Lorna Jane suggested a few years ago that there was no demand but how do you know if you refuse to stock it? She recently tried to redeem herself by saying they’ve always stocked above a size 12 (even stating in the article that they stock up to size 18!) but a quick check of the website shows that a) the largest is size 16 and b) even items at that size are very few.

I’m not specifically picking on Lorna Jane – it’s just one example in an industry that’s littered with them.

To the manufacturers and retailers, if you’re waiting to be asked, here it is. I’m asking – PLEASE consider those of us who don’t fit YOUR idea of ‘normal’ or ‘average’ and extend your clothing sizes to be inclusive of all of us who want them. Don’t be complicit in locking active lifestyles down to those that fit the mould, leaving the rest of us feeling unwelcome and without the tools we need to live the lives we want to.

parkrun tourism @ euroa

I consider myself a fairly well travelled person but am constantly surprised by the places I haven’t been. Euroa being one of them. It’s not that I was overlooking it intentionally, it’s just that the Hume Highway has a convenient way of providing a speedy, seamless way to zip past without dropping in for coffee.

So today we rectified that, getting up at 4.30am and heading up (and off) the Hume for Euroa parkrun launch. A 5 hour round trip for a 5km is possibly a little extreme but I’ve been at this parkrun thing for so long, I’ve forgotten what other people do with their Saturdays.

We arrived and had plenty of time to catch up with our extended running family, many of whom we hadn’t seen since the last launch.

During the briefing, we were welcomed by both the Event Ambassador and Event Directors and given an introduction to the course and what to expect. More importantly, we were given a beautiful introduction to what parkrun is all about, how big a family it is and how welcome all were, regardless of how long you intended to be out enjoying the course, which would have set the scene so well for all of the first timers in attendance.

Then it was time to ditch our layers and begin. I will confess, I found the start of the course vaguely confusing but just followed everyone else and had no issues. We started on the grass due to the increased number of parkrunners for the launch then headed under a bridge, around and back over it before completing a loop and then along the track to the halfway point. The surface is a mix of grass, concrete and trail and was very easy to run on with lots of cones, chalk markings and friendly marshals to guide us on the way.

Once you’ve gone around the big tree at the halfway point, it’s back the way you’ve come and I was very grateful to have marshals and cones there to help as I didn’t trust myself to remember what we did at the start enough to run it in reverse. And, in what felt like no time at all, I was running back along the path and down through the flags.

To celebrate the launch, we were treated to a free breakfast barbecue provided by a local community group then wandered the farmer’s market before moving on to second breakfast in the Main Street with many great looking cafes to choose from.

So Euroa, I’m sorry it’s taken so long to get there but you were worth the wait. This is a gorgeous little parkrun with a beautiful course and a great sense of community. Well done to the event team for a fabulous launch and for being so welcoming to both new parkrunners and all of us visitors. I’ll be sure to detour for coffee next time we’re heading up the Hume 🙂

Book review – 401: The extraordinary story of the man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days and changed his life forever

My running is more ‘pause’ than running at the moment – having my wisdom tooth out has temporarily sidelined me, just as I was getting back up to speed after my sprained ankle. However it has given me to time to read about running and I stumbled upon ‘401, The extraordinary story of the man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days and changed his life forever’. The title initially caught my eye for 2 reasons – 1) running 401 marathons sounds kind of crazy (but my kind of crazy!) and 2) I can definitely relate to marathon running changing your life. If running one changed mine, I was curious to know how it felt to run a further 400.

The man in question is Ben Smith who decided to tackle the issue of bullying by running a really long way and raising funds for 2 charities, Stonewall and Kidscape. This book takes you through not only the challenge itself but also weaves in his story which led him to do such a thing in the first place. Ben suffered terrible bullying throughout school, affecting him in a myriad of ways and it was this that ultimately led to him wanting to take action.

It’s a very easy read and Ben is a easily relatable person, whether you’re a runner or not. In fact, one of the things I really liked about this book was hearing about some of the people who ran with him throughout the challenge, many of whom had never run such distances before. As is so often the case, this story is one not just of changing his own life but inspiring others to do the same. I think the glow and positivity you get from running is not only addictive for those of us who do the running, it’s also very tempting for those who see it and wonder whether they can have some of that too. (Short answer – yes, you can.)

Another interesting feature of this book which worked quite well are the way it’s not all told by Ben – various other key players add their own anecdotes throughout, giving a different perspective and a sense of how much support is needed for such a large undertaking.

If you’re after a book about technique and tips on running form, this is not it. Much of the running talk is background to the other stories woven in and that is actually one of the strengths of this book – it’s a geniune reflection from a geniune person that will resonate whether your favoured distance is 5km or an ultra.