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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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 @ 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 🙂

How to run 100 miles

I have absolutely no interest in running an Ultra. Ever. I know I once said this about a marathon but this time, I really, really mean it. Deep down, I always wanted to run a marathon, just didn’t think I could so was too scared to say it out loud. But an ultra. No.

However I love hearing about them, reading about them and watching stories of other people having done them. Ultra runners are a special type of crazy and one I can identify with. They get that it’s about a journey and not a destination (or a finish time) and that the trail isn’t something predictable, but that’s where the joy lies.

I came across this film today and adored it from the first minute. It’s a story of 2 guys who, despite not being runners, decide to train for and run an ultra. They are incredibly likeable and relatable and the lessons they dole out are as applicable to those of us tackling distances shorter than ultra length. It chronicles their training and what they learnt along the way. We’re then treated to their journey through the event itself, with the constantly ticking clock getting closer to cut off time (as their goal is to finish within the 36 hours).

A fantastic documentary, whether you’re intending to run an ultra or not. 😁