parkrun tourism @ portland

We were down in Portland last weekend for the Winter Solstice Run and were very happy to be able to make it a double run weekend with a visit to Portland parkrun.

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Like all of the country parkruns we’ve visited, this one was super friendly. One of the beautiful things about small parkruns is that they notice when you’re a visitor and we were spotted straight away! We were welcomed warmly and had the course explained to us before briefing. We then huddled together for the formalities (in the freezing cold morning) before gathering at the start line and heading out.

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The course follows the path around the lagoon including a boardwalk and, eventually, brings you back past the start to the turn around point. And then – back you go! While I thought it would be slightly disconcerting to pass the finish area twice, it wasn’t so bad and the scenery made up for it – very pretty and picturesque. The weather was very ordinary but the parkrun magic worked with us having only a sprinkling of rain during the actual event with it bucketing down not long after we finished.

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We then took their recommendation for a breakfast venue and headed to the Port of Call cafe. Taking a table in the window to enjoy the view (and laugh at the weather which was alternating hail and rain), we were again overwhelmed with the friendliness of this parkrun with multiple invitations to come up and join them at the group table. And their recommendation was spot on – breakfast was great and the coffee delicious. Exactly what we needed to warm us up.

In my quest to ‘tick off’ all the Victorian parkruns, there are those that are great but that I am happy to just do once, particularly when they’re a fair drive from home. Portland is not one of them and I would happily travel down to this one again for the welcome, the course and the all round hospitality shown. If there were parkrun awards, this would definitely be a top contender for the friendliest – well done to the event team, volunteers and all the parkrunners involved. See you again, but possibly when it’s a little bit warmer 🙂

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A conversation about safety. And respect.

This blog is one that’s been bubbling for a while as it’s something that I frequently have in my head, especially during the long nights of Winter. And then, last week in Melbourne, a woman was raped and murdered while walking home from work and it has pushed it to the front of my mind again.

It’s a terrible thing to happen and the fact it was somewhere so familiar and close to home made it all the more stirring. What made it infinitely worse was the reaction – police reminders to women about how to keep themselves safe and some media outlets reporting it as if she had any control over what had happened.

It’s not a new story. The message we’re told, either directly or indirectly, is that women shouldn’t be out alone at night. I have frequently been told by people that I shouldn’t run on my own at night and, if I do, I should make sure I don’t wear headphones and go only in ‘safe’ places. I’m not sure what constitutes a ‘safe’ place and people seem to have different definitions, depending on who I ask. Busy places or out of the way places or suburban neighbourhoods or out in the countryside.

I consider my biggest danger to be from cars reversing out of driveways or turning into roads and not seeing me and I do what I can to avoid such issues. I wear bright, reflective clothing and a headlamp. I am very mindful of driveways and when crossing roads and, while I do run with headphones in, the sound is low and my headphones allow some outside noise in so that I am more aware of vehicles around me. I am happy to share the responsibility for my safety with drivers in this way as we are both exactly that – responsible.

I refuse, however, to share responsibility for my safety with any man who chooses to attack women. Nothing I do or don’t do will make any difference or reduce those odds. Women are attacked during daylight and darkness – I can’t avoid both. They’re attacked while out in the community and in their homes – again, I can’t avoid both. They’re attacked by strangers as well as (more commonly) by people they know and love. Yet again, doesn’t give me many options. The only possible way to keep me safe is for those men so inclined to stop attacking women.

Through all of the conversations that happen when horrendous crimes like this occur, there’s often a defensiveness in that it’s not all men. And that’s true, it’s not. We’re really talking about a very, very small percentage of the population. However, even if other men (and women) aren’t perpetrators of violence, we all have a role to play in changing the dialogue as it’s this conversation that sets the foundation that those men build their warped ideas and actions on.

We need to be better at calling each other out on the things at the bottom of the pyramid, the day to day statements, jokes and off hand comments that build the wrong foundation. And this includes well intentioned but completely unhelpful safety advice. Don’t tell me not to run alone, or at night, or with headphones in. Each of those bits of advice, in small but meaningful ways, reinforce the idea that my actions are what control whether I’m shown respect or not. And that simply isn’t true.

Lisa Wilkinson of ‘The Project’ said it so much more eloquently than I have so please, watch this.

parkrun tourism @ Bairnsdale

My husband and I have recently celebrated 17 years of marriage and, indicative of how much we’ve changed over that time, our first consideration when choosing options for a weekend away was somewhere with a parkrun we hadn’t already done. Having not done any in Gippsland (and, to be honest, having never really been over that side of the state), we opted for Bairnsdale.

The course at Bairnsdale is very easy to find and with a perfect undercover area and toilets, along with ample parking. It’s an easy to follow out and back with the added bonus of permanent signage along the way (which always makes me jealous – would love that for the 2 parkruns which I call home).

We gathered for a brief briefing where celebrations were shared – it was a young man’s 100th run, a very impressive achievement from a junior parkrunner who had managed to clock up some tourist runs in that tally as well. And with the congratulations done, we set off.

The path is fairly narrow but wide enough for the turnout of runners and walkers and the grass at the start gives room for people to find their spot and spread out a bit. It is concrete most of the way but had a coating of autumnal leaves in certain spots which were lovely and soft to run on. The scenery is gorgeous – along the river and through a variety of areas including a section where the bats were snoozing in the trees overhead. The turnaround point is again clearly marked and there is a marshal at the boat ramp to offer encouragement and keep everyone safe. While there were some small inclines, it’s a mostly flat course and, on the day we were there, had a mix of speedy runners and walkers, along with quite a few families which is always lovely to see.

Having finished, we headed off for breakfast and chose the delicious Mr D cafe although it looked there were quite a few great options in town – country towns have certainly come a long way since I lived in one!

I can definitely recommend this parkrun not just as a place to visit but Bairnsdale as a place for a weekend away. We stayed at an apartment in Paynesville and visited some of the sites around which were even more beautiful on a Wintery weekend. It might have taken us a while to get here but I’m glad we visited. Thanks to the team at Bairnsdale parkrun for the warm welcome!

Run Forrest 2018 – race recap

I ran this event last year and had no intention of doing it again. Don’t get me wrong – I definitely enjoyed it but know that I’m not as fit as I was and definitely not as trail fit. Add to that a still dodgy ankle and I figured it was safer to sit it out. This is not a trail to be taken lightly.

And then fate intervened and I got an entry (ask my husband – it’s a funny story) so I had to run it. Thus it was that I found myself heading to Forrest with husband this morning.

One of my absolute favourite things about this one is the event village. It’s not what you might expect if you’re used to big events – there’s a couple of sponsors tents and a coffee cart but there’s also fires to stand around and hay bales to sit on. And it’s in an absolute fairy grotto on the edge of a gorgeous little country town. You just can’t beat it.

Thank goodness for the great atmosphere because, truth be told, I wasn’t feeling it. My sleep had been somewhat fractured, I was feeling queasy and just not really wanting to be there. We chatted to our friend, took advantage of the portaloos, dropped our bag under the baggage tent and headed for the start line. Somewhat reluctantly. Well, I was – husband was bouncing like Tigger, full of excitement.

It began. We started off with a loop around the outside of the event village and then back behind it to tackle the hill. I remembered this hill and it was just as unpleasant this year as it was last year. However this year brought the added difficulty of me not being as fit so it possibly felt harder. About halfway up, I was done – I didn’t want to be there anymore and seriously considered just walking back down to the event village and sitting by the fire to wait for my husband. It was such a large and prominent thought, I’m not sure what stopped me acting on it. Fear of failure? Sheer stubborn determination? Who knows? Whatever it was, I didn’t give in to it and kept going.

I turned off the hill and onto the path leading through the tree ferns – magical fairy forest time. By now, I was nearly last – I couldn’t see anyone behind me but suspected there were a few and felt a bit of a sting. Again, I wanted to give up. Another louder thought interrupted – “Why today? You’ve been last before. It’s been hard before. Why give up today?” and I think that kept me going. I can do hard things. Besides, this trail is absolutely stunning and there are much worse places to spend the morning.

So I got on with it. By now, I was trekking up to West Barwon Reservoir and decided I was hot so stopped to take off my thermal top and took a moment to enjoy the view. Then it was back to the trail and I did my best to throw myself down the hills. I’m finding this much harder since spraining my ankle – it’s 75% healed and mostly stable but I still have some pain, particularly under the pressure of downhill running so had to take it easier than I wanted to.

Before long, it was time to go back uphill to the single track loop between about 4km and 6km. I was very careful about foot placement but felt strong enough through here and found a couple of other runners who were about my speed who I adopted as pacers. My times in this section don’t reflect this strength and there is a simple reason for this – half marathon runners. Unfortunately the timing of me reaching this section coincided with the half marathon runners coming back down from Lake Elizabeth and, on a single track, there was no room for them to pass unless I stopped and stepped off the trail. Which I did many, many times. I was grateful that some of these runners thanked me and the other 10km runners for letting them through and was disappointed at those that didn’t – I understand how frustrating it must be to have slower runners blocking your path and having to wait for them to get out of your way but a small slice of manners goes a long way, especially when I’ve stopped in my event for you to continue in yours. Anyway, mini rant over. Let’s move on.

As we ran down through the mountain bike trails and back toward the village, I made sure I followed the path correctly this year then went up the hill for the final frolic through the ferns before the finish shute. By now, I was enjoying it and soaking up the surroundings, back in my usual long run mood. All thoughts of not finishing were gone and I was speedier than I had been for the rest of the run.

And then it was done. Not quite the 10km planned – I was a bit short at 9.5km but that’s normal for trail events, especially with the potential gps issues you have on the trail. We had a banana and coffee in the village before heading off to the Forrest Soupfest to partake of delicious soup and cider – perfect recovery foods.

Run Forrest is one of those special events that I feel very lucky to have in our backyard. It’s hard, much harder than you think it’s going to be with hills, rocks, tree roots, bridges and prickly things (which I picked out my leg afterwards). But it’s also stunning with views that belong in oil paintings and air so fresh you can feel it cleansing you from the inside out. I wasn’t that enamoured when I started but it worked it’s magic by the end and had me grinning as I leapt over tree roots and dodged low hanging branches. Just the tonic needed.

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 🙂