Rock and roll Liverpool – race recap

Sometimes, things seem like a good idea at the time and later, well, not so much. Signing up for a half marathon on the first weekend of our UK holiday seemed like a great idea from the comfort of my couch, 6 months before the event. ‘What a great way to kick off a holiday!’ I thought to myself as I signed up.

Sunday morning, day of the event rolled around and it didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore. Training hadn’t gone according to plan, particularly in the few weeks before and 3 nights hadn’t been long enough to get over my jet lag completely with me still waking up at 4am. And then there was the fact it was windy and raining. Bleurgh. I messaged my friend and posted on an online running group I’m part of, thankfully, receiving the messages of support I needed – time to just get out there and do it.

Husband and I walked down to the start line and were gratified to see lots of other mad runners braving the weather, sheltering undercover until it was time to go to our corrals. Part of the reason for my general apprehension was that I was in the last corral and, with the paperwork for the event talking of a ‘strict cutoff time’ complete with ‘tail bus’ to pick up those not on pace, I was a bundle of nerves that I wouldn’t make the cutoff.

Standing in the corral, I just convinced myself that I needed to get started and let fate do the rest – if I finished, great. If not, oh well. As I was saying these mantras internally, I saw the woman next to me also seemed a bit nervous and we started chatting – it was her first half marathon which she should have been running with her daughter but she’d pulled out sick. As we ignored the rain, we talked and reassured each other that it really would be ok. This reassuring vibe obviously spread beyond as we gathered another woman into our conversation who also was feeling the nerves. By the time we’d started the shuffle towards the start line (quite a long shuffle from the last corral), we were all feeling determined and intended to get this thing done together.

I love courses where I have no idea where I am going and this was definitely one. I’d looked at the course map prior but, as I really don’t know Liverpool, it didn’t help. The first section of the course runs through the streets – past The Beatles statues on the waterfront and then into the city streets and past the Cavern Club. It loops around a bit and was actually really fun – running past people enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning and seeing those in front and behind us on the course.

From there, we ran towards and through Chinatown and then through suburbia towards Sefton Park. This section was probably my favourite – another beautiful green space with lots of room and some looping sections so we could see everyone and give and receive cheers.

There was a variety of music on the course, possibly not as much as I was expecting but was very grateful for what was there and it always seemed to perk me up and make me run that little bit faster. ‘Penny Lane’ in particular made me smile – pity the poor DJ who would have had it on repeat all day!

Our newly formed running crew were still together and still going strong, giving each other pep talks when needed and keeping up almost continual conversation about all sorts of topics (travel, Brexit, careers, relationships) to keep us distracted. I’m quite picky about who I can run with as, at heart, I’m a solo runner but these 2 were just the people I needed for this event and I felt very lucky to have met them.

The final section was heading back along the waterfront towards the docks and it was the hardest stretch of all. Not only was I starting to feel sore and ‘done’ but we also had a ridiculous headwind that was managing to bring stinging tears to my eyes and making it an absolute slog. The last few kilometres felt longer than the previous 10 and I had to dig deep.

Finally, the finish line was in sight and we ran for it, feeling very happy and relieved to cross over and receive our medals. We also received various other goodies – crisps, muesli bars, bananas, lucozade sport and then went and claimed our free pint to really work on our post-race hydration needs.

So, in a matter of a few hours, I’d gone from absolutely not wanting to run the event to having a great time, all thanks to a couple of strangers who I happened to be in the right place to meet on a rainy morning. I really am grateful for their support and was happy to be able to offer to support to them in return – love it when fate works its magic to help people meet for the right reasons at the right time.

And the verdict on the event? Loved it. Pretty good organisation, medium sized expo, very cute medal, interesting course with lots of marking and marshals and a brilliant cheer squad in both the volunteers and the general public in Liverpool who were nothing but supportive. I doubt I’ll be back due to distance but would definitely recommend this one.

parkrun tourism @ Birkenhead

When we planned our holiday to the UK, it was a given that it would involve as many parkruns as we could fit in. The challenge was which ones to pick?

Our first choice was fairly easy as we had decided to run the Rock ‘n’ roll half marathon in Liverpool so it needed to be close by. We chose Birkenhead, a short train ride away from our accommodation.

Arriving at Birkenhead Park station, it was fairly easy to find the location, thanks to the helpful directions posted on their Facebook page by the Run Director. We weren’t the only tourists with a couple of guys spotting our parkrun-ness at the station and asking if we knew where we going. Er no but we’re fairly sure we can figure it out!

We walked up to the start area and joined the tourists and first timers briefing to find out information about the course – 2 laps of the park plus a little bit to the finish chute. Then the Run Director did his briefing although, with so many people, it was hard to hear, despite the megaphone. And then, we were off. Literally, just like that. The briefing ended then ‘3, 2, 1, go!’ catching us a bit by surprise with the hoardes setting off before I’d even thought to start my watch.

Despite the directions sounding a bit confusing, it turned out the course was indeed very easy to follow – basically running on the path and following the directions of the ample marshals who were out and cheering. Slightly cruelly, you have to run past those in the finish chute to start your second lap but at least it adds to the cheering!

The scenery is gorgeous – very green (particularly coming from Australia where it’s a bit of an endangered colour) and lush, perfectly backed with blue skies and sunshine. The volunteers were great, very friendly and cheering everyone on all the way around.

I’m always impressed by parkruns with high numbers and how well the logistics work – we ran into the finish funnel and moved quickly through the barcode scanners.

Coffee afterwards at the Visitor Centre was perfect – wonderful to see lots of people hanging around for coffee or breakfast and no wonder as it is a great spot.

Thanks to the team at Birkenhead parkrun – a fabulous venue for our first UK event!

Run for the kids (the new course) – race recap

Run for the kids will always be a very special event for me as it was my first official public run. I’d been training in my garage on the treadmill for a while beforehand but turning up and being surrounded by a large crowd and actually putting myself out there as a runner? That was new, exciting and mildly terrifying. As well, it turned out, as being very addictive.

So, nearly 10 years to the day since I arrived at the start line of my first ‘Run for the kids’, I arrived at the start line of my fifth this morning. Things have changed a bit in 10 years – firstly, my husband was with me (in running gear this time, not as a supporter) as was my brilliant running buddy (very different from running alone as I did that first day).

The other big change is the course. This year, the course starts at the Docklands which was perfect for those of us catching the train as it was a very short walk from Southern Cross station. The event village was already buzzing when we got there – we dropped bags, found some secret toilets without queues and made our way to our starting area. Husband was in blue (speedy) group, we were in yellow (slightly less speedy) group. Selfies done, we waited for the start, feeling almost as nervous as I did at my first event. Almost.

And, soon enough, we were off. The course took us quickly through the Docklands, over the junction then onto the freeway and heading towards the Bolte Bridge. As usual, the Bolte was a selfie fest and, despite having done it 4 times before, I loved being up there and taking in the view and the beautiful Melbourne weather (with just a bit of a headwind). Then it was time to head back down and along the freeway which seemed to go on quite a long time, far past the previous course turn off.

Eventually we were back down and around then running along Flemington Road to another of the highlights of the new course – running past the Royal Children’s Hospital. I had been looking forward to this section but hadn’t thought how emotional it would make me and I was fighting back tears, especially when seeing the young patients sitting in wheelchairs with drips attached thanking us. Thanking us. For being out in the sunshine running and enjoying ourselves while they were going through things that children shouldn’t have to go through.

We then wove our way through suburban gems of streets around North Melbourne before a final squiggle to take us to the finish and a blissful downhill stretch. The icing on the cake was Steve Moneghetti being at the finish line to cheer us in – such a great ambassador for the event and for running in general.

I had been a bit reluctant about the change of course prior to the event as I was a big fan of running through the tunnel and wondered how its omission would change things. However I absolutely loved the new course – great length, enough variety to keep it interesting and a few undulations to push you a bit.

Very proud to have completed my fifth ‘Run for the kids’ and I’m sure I’ll be back next year.

An ode to my shoes

I have been trying to deny this for a while now but I think the day has finally come when I need to admit it – my trail shoes may have reached the end of their life. Before you start to attempt to placate me with ‘they’re just shoes’, I need to tell you about what this particular object means to me.

My first running adventures were definitely road running. Well, actually, they were treadmill in my garage running as I was too embarrassed to run outdoors but, eventually, I took up road running. I remember seeing trail runners and thinking how much fun it looked but didn’t think I could do it. I’m not really sure why, just that trail runners were somehow cooler and more serious and absolutely fearless (or that’s what it looked like from the outside).

After a considerable amount of time, I signed up for and attended my first trail event. I wore road running shoes which was ok as it wasn’t too technical but I jealously looked at those who had trail shoes as they threw themselves down muddy hills without fear. And knew I had to get some.

And that is how my trail shoes came into my life. It was love from first wear. They contained some strange sort of magic. In them, I suddenly felt more confident to leap (kind of) over fallen trees, run through muddy puddles and weave along rocky trails. Realistically I know it’s not the shoes themselves but what they represented – with them on, I felt like the trail runner I wanted to be. Bit by bit, I became that trail runner.

Just putting these shoes on makes me smile because I know that I only run in amazing places when wearing them. These shoes have seen me through over 700km of trail adventures. Some of them have been small, local and pretty gentle. Others have been large, distant and hard. But there has rarely been a moment on the trail that I haven’t been grateful that I get to be there, experiencing this country’s beauty and either enjoying peaceful solitude or hanging out with fabulous trail running friends. Even when throwing up at various points of the Surf Coast half marathon last year, I was still (strangely) grateful and determined to see it through. It appears that I’ve become one of those ‘absolutely fearless’ trail runners (or rather full of fear but doing it anyway).

I do get that they’re ‘just shoes’ and that I can get new ones which I’m sure I’ll love. Just not quite as much. There is something about that first pair of trail shoes that I don’t think I’ll feel again – a membership card to a world I wasn’t expecting to be invited to and am so happy to be in.

parkrun tourism @ Lillydale Lake

The beautiful thing about having all these wonderful parkrun events in Victoria is having so much choice. I’m now fortunate enough to have a handful locally and the options widen the further I’m willing to drive.

This morning, we opted for an alarm starting with a 5 and headed off at 6am towards Lillydale Lake. I’d heard good things about this one so was looking forward to the adventure, despite not having had much sleep and a full on week.

We arrived and found the spot easily with plentiful parking and clean toilets to greet us. The surroundings instantly made me smile – a gorgeous lake and tranquil setting with the odd duck wandering across the path was exactly what I had in mind.

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We gathered for the briefing which was all the more impressive as it was rhyming and included multiple milestone celebrations. And then it was time to start. Lillydale Lake parkrun attracts pretty big numbers so the start line was predictably a bit squishy. I kept to the back and it didn’t take long after the start before we were able to spread out a bit and find our own spots. The course takes you for 2 laps around the lake, starting by heading up towards and along the dam wall before coming back down to follow the water. The path is gravel but not thick enough to be annoying – it was the perfect surface for my still slightly grumpy achilles and was lots of fun to run on. I sometimes get grumpy on 2 lap courses but not this one – too pretty and with fellow runners and volunteers who were too friendly for me to have any grumps at all.

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In fact, this morning’s run felt great. I wasn’t pushing it hard but managed my fastest time for the year and loved the welcoming and inclusive finish line vibe at the end.

This is a definite treasure of a parkrun. While I can’t say I’m likely to regularly get up at 6am to travel to it, I’ll certainly be back if I’m in the area and, if this is your local, you’re very, very lucky.

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‘Body positive’ and obesity – weighing in to the debate

Quite a lot of the bloggers and instagrammers I follow consider themselves part of the ‘body positive’ movement. For those not familiar, this is about celebrating all human bodies, regardless of size and shape. There has been some commentary out there for a while about whether this movement encourages obesity and puts people’s health at risk and I read another comment about it this morning which got me thinking.

I’m obese. I have been for all of my adult life and much of my later childhood years. I have done the yo yo thing – losing various amounts of weight at various times and then, usually quite slowly and insidiously, putting it back on (although never making it back up to my peak weight). I spent a long time feeling bad about it and blaming myself and my lack of willpower for it. For the record, none of that helped. Whether I say horrid things to myself or not, my weight doesn’t change, only my mood.

The message I draw from the body positive movement is to live now and appreciate the body I have. I live in my body 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so I’m well aware of its flaws. However I also celebrate its strengths. I was only saying to a friend recently how much I’ve grown to appreciate my thighs, a relatively recent development since becoming a runner. They’re big and strong and I couldn’t be more pleased with them. They push me through long distances and up hills, keeping going even when my brain thinks they can’t.

I’m aware that my weight isn’t considered healthy on a range of current medical benchmarks and would definitely like to get closer to those targets. The body positive movement doesn’t discourage me for aiming for this and doing my best to work towards it. It also doesn’t convince me that I’m a healthy weight. But it does convince me that, whatever weight and shape I am, I can live now. I don’t have to wait until I’m a certain weight to run, wear clothes that make me happy or enjoy all the wonderful bits of life. I don’t have to apologise for my weight or how I look or wear clothes that hide my shape. I don’t have to use exercise as a punishment for eating certain foods and I don’t have to justify my food choices to anyone but myself. I don’t have to buy into media images of what ‘health’ or ‘strength’ look like and I can celebrate the things I achieve in this fabulous body I have.

NYD double & a chance for parkrun tourism – Traralgon & Churchill parkruns

As New Year’s day is the only day you can officially run two parkruns, I had been eagerly checking the compendium to find out which parkruns would be offering this opportunity and crossing my fingers for two I hadn’t already done. Luckily, two popped up in Gippsland and, making the most of the school holidays, I booked some accommodation to make the most of it.

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On the way to the start area at Traralgon parkrun

Our first parkrun of the day was Traralgon so this is where we chose to stay the night – definitely a quiet New Year’s Eve when you have to be up early to run the next morning! We easily found the start line for Traralgon and gathered for briefing. It was great to see everyone beaming with enthusiasm at the New Year with many locals and visitors sharing the morning. This was a special morning in another way – my Dad had joined us to spectate his first New Year’s day double and it was great to have him there.

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The view from the turnaround point of the Traralgon parkrun course

Traralgon is a double out and back course along a winding path along the river and through a suburban park with views across to the far off mountains. The beauty of this is that each leg doesn’t feel that long and you are always out there with others, receiving smiles and encouragement. The sun was starting to get a bit of bite so was pleased to get through this one relatively quickly, knowing we had more to go.

And with that, parkrun #1 for the day was done so we waved goodbye and headed south for Churchill parkrun.

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Trying to get my head around the course 🙂

We arrived in plenty of time and easily found where we needed to be as there were lots of people gathering – those from both Traralgon and Newborough as well as those sticking to the one parkrun at Churchill. The meeting point is at the hub which is the perfect spot with toilets and shade – both of which were needed having already been for a run.

The Churchill course is another double out and back…sort of. It sounded a bit confusing on the directions but was actually really easy to follow once you set out and didn’t feel like you were covering the same ground. The track winds through the trees, along boardwalks and over bridges and includes a couple of inclines just to keep it varied. I really liked this course – not only for the opportunity to see and encourage others but also for the scenery and tranquil trail.

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There was a definitely community vibe at both events and the finish area of Churchill exemplified this with lots of people hanging around to cheer others in and chat, generally enjoying each other’s company and kicking the New Year off in the best way possible.

Thanks to both event teams – it’s a big job to volunteer any day but especially for special events and I really appreciated the opportunity to tourist at these great events to start 2019.

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