parkrun tourism @ echuca moama

Our quest to (eventually) run all the parkruns in Victoria is now into the most challenging phase. Victoria may not look on a map to be a very big state but it still takes a lot of hours of driving to reach much of it and all of those far away places are the ones I still have left to do.

And that is why we were up at 4am on a recent Saturday morning so that we could be on our way to Echuca, 3 hours away. I am a morning person but 4am doesn’t count as it’s still night so it was a challenge getting up. The two things making it slightly easier – 1) I love Echuca and 2) the weather forecast was far better up there than it was at home.

We arrived at about 7.30am and easily found where we needed to be. After a 3 hour drive, we were grateful that there was a clean toilet block next to the start area and ample parking. The weather was windy and a little chilly but definitely warmer and drier than we’d been expecting down south.

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The gorgeous Campaspe River, taken from the starting area

Briefing was short and sweet and then we were off. The course is along a path beside the Campaspe River – very easy to follow and wide enough for parkrunners and the other users out enjoying the morning. It’s a scenic course – houses on one side and bushland and river views on the other. It is also pretty much flat – there are a couple of slight inclines but nothing to really slow you down.

Being an out and back, there’s lots of opportunities for smiles and encouragement and this was definitely not in short supply with the friendly crowd cheering one another on. This was much needed as the wind was getting up a bit on the return and the finish line was a welcome sight.

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Feel like a quick workout in the middle of your run? No problem!

With our run finished, we enjoyed our smug Saturday morning eating at Beechworth Bakery (so hard to choose where to eat with so many great places on offer in town!) then wandering the Port of Echuca and checking out the Murray River. This parkrun is an absolute must for anyone looking for an enjoyable weekend away – Echuca has always been on my list of favourite Victorian places and makes me smile each time we visit.

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Beechworth Bakery – mmmmmmm

Thanks to the event team at Echuca Moama parkrun and particularly the volunteers who dug in on that windy morning – I suspect this is one we’ll visit again (possibly just because of the lure of a delicious breakfast!!!).

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parkrun tourism @ jells

I have an apology to make to Jells parkrun – I’ve been pushing you down the list. I had heard a rumour that there were hills and, while I might grimace while saying “Hills are my friends! Hills make me stronger!”, it’s a complicated relationship. When people say ‘hills’ and ‘parkrun’, I picture hills like those at Wilson Botanic or Westerfolds and my calves start to ache.

However the time had come. The thought of ‘only’ having to drive a little over an hour to tick off a new parkrun was too good of a draw card and as for the hills? I just had to pack my charm and hope I could make friends with these ones too.

Jells parkrun is very easy to find – not far off the main roads leading through and out that side of the Melbourne sprawl. Once you arrive, the facilities are great – ample parking and bathrooms that are so much nicer than what I’ve learnt to expect from suburban parks (with real toilet paper!) as well as a playground in case you want to amuse yourself before briefing.

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The briefing was friendly, welcoming and brief – all good qualities to have! Very soon we were gathered around the starting area and setting off. Up a hill. Now is probably a good time to discuss these so that I can reassure any of you who had heard the rumours I had – it’s really not that hilly. Yes, it has hills but I would call them more undulations and the upside is that for every up there is a down. The first downhill stretch is absolute bliss and I found myself gliding down it happily, soaking up the blue skies of this gorgeous Spring morning.

The rest of the course has some flat bits, some inclines and another short downhill before the gentle climb back up to the finish….so you can do it all again on your second lap! I’m normally not a fan at all of multi lap courses but this was great – I felt like the first lap had gone too quickly and I was grateful to have another chance to go around again. And I enjoyed the looong downhill just as much the second time.

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Another particularly wonderful thing about this parkrun is the variety of people it attracts – runners, walkers and run/walkers of all speeds. I’m often out on course on what feels like my own (although I’ve obviously in front of the tail walker) but there were people around me the whole time today and it was great.

And then it was done as I ran the last up and down hill bit to the finish.

There are some parkruns I’ve visited and enjoyed but probably wouldn’t choose to go back to – this is definitely not one of them. Jells was great. Not sure if it was just the right combination of weather, people and how I’m feeling but this morning was fabulous and I loved every minute, up or down hill and would happily come back and visit again. These hills and I are definitely friends 🙂

City2Surf – race recap

2 years ago today, I ran my first City2Surf in Sydney which was absolutely incredible. I remember thinking at the time that it was probably going to be a one off and I was just grateful to have been able to do it.

And then my husband became a runner too and decided he wanted to give it a go, opening the door for me to have another turn.

Running an event for the second time always makes me somewhat nervous. The first time, you have nothing to compare it to so the experience is unique and whatever time you get is great. The second time? There are pressures. Will it be as good? Will I beat my time? These were definitely the thoughts swimming in my head as we gathered in our hotel lobby and walked the short distance to our blue start corral at City2Surf on Sunday.

My self talk was all positive and realistic. I’m not as fit as I was 2 years ago and have had some big gaps in training so, in the spirit of meeting myself where I am at (rather than where I wished I was), I was aiming for a PB of smiles rather than time. Since Disney, I’ve struggled a little with the whole ‘love of running’ thing – I’ve seen it fleetingly but not consistently and I want it back. City2Surf was about reclaiming it. Because really, if you can’t have fun at this event, give up running. The crowds, the atmosphere, the entertainment, the views – all of it combine to the perfect blend.

Actually, before we hit start on this thing, let’s talk about crowds. If you don’t like them, don’t do this event. They advertise crowds of 80,000 and, even though they’re spread quite well into separately timed corrals, it still equates to a lot of people on the course at all times. They’re also a very varied bunch with elite runners, first event runners, costumed athletes and ‘enjoying the sunshine and a chat’ walkers. Not all of them start in the corral best suited to their speed so there is some dodging and lots of patience required. And I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

So it was time to start. I kissed goodbye to the speedy husband and set off at my own pace. I ran a comfortable pace and wanted to keep at that but was pleasantly surprised that I was keeping up with many of those around me. The spectators in this event are great and added to the smiles and, before I knew it, the first kilometre had ticked by.

I vaguely remembered the course from last time so didn’t quite have the same allure of the unknown but instead some comfort of mild familiarity. The police band at Rose Bay Police Station, the views of the harbour at different points, the undulations along the way and then Heartbreak Hill (which, again, was not heartbreaking). All kilometres flew by and my grin seemed to just get bigger and become more embedded. I was loving it. All of it. The scenery, the people and, most importantly, the running. I ran the bits I wanted to at the speeds that made me happy then walked the bits I didn’t feel like running (mostly the uphill bits).

And then there were the crowds. I’m not a huge lover of crowds but these were different, despite the frequent ducking and weaving and the odd accidental elbow. I felt like I got some of the Disney magic back – these were my people. People who moved at all sorts of speeds in all sorts of ways and without judgement. There were people around me the whole time, from start line to finish chute and that created the supportive atmosphere that did so much to keep my spirits high. An event where I felt I belonged.

Coming back down the hill towards Bondi, I saw that I had 3km to go and looked at my watch, curious about how I was doing in numbers. Even in long run fog, I could see that there was a chance of a course PB if I kept up my current pace. This was way beyond what I had hoped out of the day and pushed me along. At the bottom of the hill, the course loops past the finish to an out and back and, for the last kilometre, I ignored my watch and ran my heart out. As I crossed the finish, I stopped my watch and looked – a 2 minute PB. Not only did I love every step of it but I’d also managed to run it faster than before. Yes, I cried. It’s becoming something of a theme but they were such happy tears. I made my way to our meet up point in a smiley, happy cloud and floated on it for the rest of the day.

To City2Surf and all that ran her, a hearty thank you. Who knows how long it will stay but my ‘run happy’ is definitely back 😁

marathon training – week 3

Back to real life this week and familiar places to run. Along with the time and tiredness constraints that real life tends to bring.

Tuesday was another treadmill run – not only did I have further Glee episodes to keep me company, I also wanted to try out the indoor run function on my watch. Turns out it was fairly close to the distance the treadmill said (a little under but I can live with that) and gave me speed and heart rate data. It’s not going to make me a treadmill convert – I can tolerate it for short runs when I have to but it’s definitely harder.

Thursday was one of those days that, despite everything going against me, I ran anyway. It had been a massive day at work including a meeting at the end and my headache told me I had forgotten to include time with my water bottle in the day. But my training plan said run so I ran. It was a neighbourhood meander, complete with headlamp as the sun was going down and it included a lap of the wetlands in the dark. It was great.

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Saturday’s parkrun was a volunteering one as I was Run Director at You Yangs so I headed into town for a waterfront run to make up for it afterwards. Again, perfect run. I kept it ‘easy’ pace and just enjoyed it. So much so that I decided to try for my favourite sprint around the boardwalk at the end. This has been a consistent over the last few years – throwing a fast lap around it at the end of waterfront runs as a benchmark to measure how I’m tracking. And, on Saturday, I ran a PB. I only knocked 2 seconds off my time but that was a time that was set quite a while ago so it’s great to know that I’m getting back to where I was.

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Today’s long run was not perfect and it took a lot of effort to get out of the door. I woke up feeling like I might be succumbing to the germs my students have been sharing this week so I took a bit longer to get ready but ended up dressed, out the door and off to the Bellarine Rail Trail. I loved being outdoors and in the sunshine and was grateful for that, just had to suck it up and get through the running bits which weren’t great. I was thankful that the required pace on my training plan was super easy.

It’s been an interesting week of fabulous running and hard running and that’s why this blog is a handy record for me of both. It can be hard, when the ‘I don’t want to’ hits to remember the good runs so this is here to remind me. Bring on week 4 🙂

Weekly summary – 25.4km (3hr 48min):
Tuesday – 4.32km (40:05)
Thursday – 6.4km (55:49)
Saturday – 4.61km (40:01)
Sunday – 10.01km (1:32:41)

 

marathon training – week 2

I was fortunate to be on long service leave last week and took the opportunity to head up to Sydney for a few days of much needed ‘away time’ with my Dad and sister. It also served to get me excited about running as, away from normal routines and places, there were suddenly a whole new world of possibilities for my runs.

On Tuesday, I headed out of our hotel and up to Hyde Park then through that, around the Botanic Gardens and down to the harbour where I happened to arrive just before sunset. It was an absolutely magical run – warmer than it’s been in Melbourne and, without the weight of the world on my shoulders, I felt positively springy.

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For Thursday morning’s run, I’d planned another special, tourist-laden route – running across Sydney Harbour Bridge. It took a bit of navigation to get there and be on the right side for the pedestrian footbridge but it was worth it. Views from the top were beautiful and, again, the weather was absolutely perfect for running. I ran across the bridge, down and under it before soaking up the sights of Luna Park and then catching a ferry back to my hotel. I love running in the morning, just can’t generally get myself out of bed before work so this was a real treat.

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Saturday, I was back in Victoria and hubby and I headed for another different parkrun, this time visiting Lancefield (blog post to follow). A very early start but more glorious weather and a delicious breakfast afterwards.

I wasn’t sure where to go for today’s long run, especially as they’re not yet that long. I had contemplated some of my favourite routes but decided I just didn’t want to leave the house so opted for the treadmill while watching a couple of ‘Glee’ episodes. Not my preferred method but obviously what I needed today.

So week 2 is done. I didn’t add in any strength training this week due to being away from home – hard enough to juggle things to fit in the runs. But I’m feeling pretty happy about things. None of the runs were terribly hard, which is how it should be this early on and I’m looking forward to (gradually) building up to bigger things.

Weekly summary (26kms total):
Tuesday – 5.1km (45:17)
Thursday – 7.8km (68:58)
Saturday – 5.1km (44:02)
Sunday – 7.8km (1:10:02)

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parkrun tourism @ cobram

As my husband and I are working our way through the Victorian parkruns, we jumped at the chance to use up some school/uni holiday time driving to far away places and scheduled a visit to Cobram parkrun for their 2nd birthday. I jumped on Airbnb and booked a great little find just outside of town. As it turned out, it was an even better find than we thought as, on arrival, we met owner and fellow parkrun enthusiast Neeska. Definitely something to list on accommodation websites – parkrun friendly!

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The serene sunset from our cabin, accompanied by a chorus of cows.

The weather warnings were all well south of us and, despite my home event being cancelled, we enjoyed blue skies and speckles of sunshine in Cobram, albeit with a crisp note in the air. The start area was very easy to find, especially with the various tutu wearing people gathering for the birthday celebrations. We delivered our required celebratory cupcakes (or at least those that had lasted the journey intact and uneaten) and chatted to fellow adventurers who had travelled up for the event.

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A very picturesque view from the start line

And then it was time to start. The course is a beautiful trail, running along the river and through the bush. The surface is a mixture of gravel, solid ground and dirt but nothing too bad as long as you keep an eye out for anything trying to trip you up. There are some very minor ups and downs but, again, nothing too taxing. It’s well signposted and with ample marshals to ensure you don’t get lost, at least in a physical sense.

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For me, today, it was definitely a run to be lost in my own thoughts. Last weekend, my Mum died and, as you can imagine, it’s been a challenging week. The only way I can think of describing it is like the world became a little wobbly on its axis – things are exactly the same and yet they aren’t and random thoughts throughout the week have made me either laugh hysterically or cry, in equal measure. Today’s run, along the beautiful Murray River, was just the tonic I needed and made me smile, as hard as it was. Mum never got to do a parkrun but we had talked about it quite a bit and, had she been able to, she would have liked this one although she would have sworn it had mountains on it and not vague undulations.

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By the end of the run, I felt like the world and its axis had moved a little closer to where they needed to be. In a condolence message sent earlier in the week, a friend had said she hoped Mum would visit me on the trails and I think she probably did today. I was glad I’d not let the wobbly world keep me at home and was also happy to be surrounded by supportive, friendly and encouraging people of the parkrun family but not anyone who knew her and would want to talk about her. Today, she was just in my thoughts and I was grateful for that time with her.

Once it was done, we feasted on cupcakes and chatted until the tailwalker arrived then took the required birthday group photo before heading off for a delicious breakfast, just over the border in New South Wales. Here we were shown again how friendly and welcoming the Cobram parkrun crowd is and breakfast extended almost until lunchtime. It seems to be the way with all country parkruns in particular – such a strong sense of community and always welcoming to those from out of town.

Happy birthday to the event team and parkrunners at Cobram and thanks for the hospitality this morning. We’ll definitely be back, hopefully when the weather’s a little warmer!

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Mmmmmmmm!

Portland Winter Solstice run

If you’ve followed this blog for a while or know me well, you’ll know I’m not a fan of smaller runs. While many like them for the friendliness, I generally find them quite isolating as I’m often alone at the back of the pack and wonder why I would want to pay to, effectively, run on my own.

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So how did I end up heading to Portland for their Winter Solstice run? It started with my friend Vanessa. A few years ago, she took photos of the event, of bright Winter skies and people moving at their own pace, having a fun time. She sent me a couple of photos and suggested I add it to my calendar for the following year as she thought it was an event I’d like and was a great excuse for us to catch up in her home town after far too many years. The following year came around and I was tempted but something else got in the way then, last year, the chance for a catch up with Vanessa was lost forever as she died, far too young, from cancer. I couldn’t take back my previous choices or get back that time but I could definitely jump in and run this one for her so I signed up.

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We turned it into a weekend of running and started with Portland parkrun on Saturday which, as you can read about here, was incredibly friendly and set the tone well. It was lucky this had been such a good experience as the weather was not so welcoming. In fact, as I lay in my cabin and listened to the rain and hail on Saturday, I wondered whether I would actually be able to convince myself to get to the start line in the morning. Remembering that this ‘hard’ thing was something I got to choose, unlike what Vanessa had to endure, got me out of bed.

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We rugged up, got our kit ready and headed off to the starting area where the winds were out in force and the organisers quickly got us on board the bus to keep us warm. It was a short drive out to Cape Nelson Lighthouse where we were shepherded inside for a run briefing, the run director competing with the weather outside to be heard. We were given the great reminder that, while we might be prepared for some ‘extreme’ running weather, it was the volunteers we really needed to thank along the way as they were standing out in it without the chance we had to get warm.

And then it was time to start. 87 of us headed off along the road, grinning despite the weather which was at least a tailwind for us most of the way. There are certainly some undulations on the course but nothing terrible and, overall, it’s downhill as you head back into Portland. While the roads aren’t closed for the event, they’re wide and not busy so, as long as you’re alert to any traffic, you have a lot of space to enjoy. And enjoy it we did. We were sheltered from the worst of the wind by the high bushes which had gaps every now and then through which we could see the incredible coastline with vicious waves being whipped up.

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At various points, the weather threw itself at us with full force including some rain and hail but, now that we were out in it, it didn’t feel so bad and, besides, we had no choice but to keep running. The volunteers were all fabulous – so friendly and encouraging, despite the fact that we were at the back of the pack.

Before long, we had arrived on the outskirts of town and then were turning onto the canal path for our last stretch down to the waterfront. The time had gone so quickly as I’d been running with my friend up until this point but was struggling a bit to keep up so we split up for the last 2 kilometres. Running past the place where Vanessa’s memorial service was held and the hospital also had me a bit emotional so I was glad to be on my own to quietly remember and be thankful that I had her as a friend. I did some running and a lot of power walking and managed to overtake a couple of people in the last kilometre as I came up to the second of our day’s lighthouses. Then I ran past it and down to the finish line, where I was greeted warmly by my friends and by the ever friendly volunteers and organisers. Despite being one of the last to arrive, there was food and drink on offer and my medal placed around my neck. It’s the first medal I’ve had since Disney which I thought had cured me of my need for bling but I felt I really earned this one and was grateful to receive it.

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This was seriously one of the friendliest, most encouraging events I’ve been part of and I loved it, despite the weather. The course is fantastic and the volunteers were all wonderful, never once making me feel like I was holding them up or anything but welcome. I’m sorry it took so long to do this one but it’s definitely an event I’d do again.

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