Barossa Brave half marathon – race recap

I didn’t seek out this little half marathon, it found me. After our Dopey challenge, I’d been looking for an event to stretch me and had found a marathon in the beautiful Barossa Valley. Even better, we found cheap flights from our local airport and locked it all in. And then the company that was organising the marathon cancelled the event. I have a lot to say about that but, rather than go into details, I have just learnt not to trust that they’re going to actually run events that they allow you to register for so won’t be bothering with their offerings in other places.

However all was not lost – the fabulous organiser of South Australia’s ‘Coastal fun runs’ stepped in and organised a smaller, charity event in its place and I signed up for that instead.

And so it was that I found myself meeting a bunch of other eager runners at Bethany Reserve in the Barossa Valley on Saturday morning. The distances on offer were a marathon, half marathon, 14km and 7km and I’d opted for the half. There were about 100 runners in the event and it had such a warm, friendly, local vibe to it. Even the huntsman who joined me in the toilet pre-departure seemed friendly and welcoming. Possibly a little too welcoming.

We all gathered at the start line, had a group picture taken and set off. The course was a 7km loop running out from the reserve, along a vineyard and a road before taking us on a creek crossing (dry but fun) and then out along an out and back arm which had a bit of an incline. And then it was time for the main event – the hill in the middle of the loop which rewarded us for the climb with spectacular views over the Barossa. And then it was down the hill, along the out and back arm again and back to the reserve…..to do it all again.

I had known from the start that this was going to be tough because of the hills but the pressure had been taken away by the very generous cut off time allowed. So I was measuring this one by how much enjoyment I could get out of it – a smile PB, not a time one. It wasn’t hard to achieve – what a glorious course on a glorious day with a glorious crowd. The hills were challenging as were the surfaces – longish grass and rutted dirt on some bits, rocks and cow pats hidden in grass on others and the always fun dry creek bed to navigate. The views were ample distraction – vineyards and farmland wherever you looked and the odd cow to say hello to. We even had gates to go through (others climbed the stiles but there was no way my legs would sign up for that so I got used to opening and closing gates). The weather was perfect – crisp and a little cloudy at the start while we warmed up then brilliant blue sky and sunshine by the last lap to bring it home. Magnificent.

Due to the loop and the out and back sections, we also all got to know each and there were lots and lots of smiles, high fives and encouragement from those completing all distances. Whenever I found it hard going, I remembered that, while I was doing the big hill 3 times, the marathoners had to do it 6 times and I couldn’t fathom how much my glutes would be screaming if that were me. So I smiled as I plodded my way up.

Husband had dropped me off then gone to parkrun and made it back in time for me to start my final lap. I definitely was plodding up the hill on that one but was still doing it with a smile – so grateful to be there and was as mentally strong as ever. My physical fitness might not quite have been keeping up with what I wanted but my mind was strong – there was no point where I felt like giving up or that it was too hard. Husband joined me for the last bit and I managed to run across the finish line to lots of applause from the crowd who were enjoying their post run wines.

What an event! Well organised, contributing to charities, a beautiful course with enough challenge to keep us amused and a great crowd of volunteers and fellow runners. Besides, any event where you’re standing at the finish with your medal and a glass of wine has to be a good thing.

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 πŸ™‚

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 😁.

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 πŸ™‚

To my running family

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I haven’t lost my love of running but clawing back my fitness after a break from my routine is a bit of a challenge and I have had a couple of ‘why am I doing this?’ moments over the last few weeks. Realising I can no longer run up a familiar hill without needing some ‘You will not pass out!’ pausing moments is disheartening, regardless of my certainty that I’ll get back to where I was and the acknowledgements of what I’ve achieved.

This weekend I have had a big, beautiful reminder of one of the most important reasons I do this and love it so much – my running family. The photos above are just a selection of those from the last few years and don’t encompass all the family members – they’re from far and wide and I don’t see some of them very often but, when I do, they’re as warm, welcoming and encouraging as ever.

Those I am fortunate to see more often have become such an important part not only of my running life but of life in general. They’re the most friendly, non-judgemental, unquestioningly supportive bunch of humans I’ve met. Running has often pushed us to the limits of our comfort zones and well beyond and, amidst that vulnerability, this family have been there, making sure we all get through it and celebrating at the end, regardless of how long it takes and how many tears were involved along the way. In all those moments where I questioned myself and whether I could do it, they were there with a resounding ‘Of course you can!’, chasing out my inner doubt with their certainty.

The 6 family members I travelled to the US with have very special places in my memories and heart, a part of such an incredible set of experiences and achievements that I’ll treasure forever. Yet the rest of the family were there through their online encouragement, post-event congratulations and just through their presence in the minutes and hours on course. I don’t need to be running with them to feel their belief and support – it’s just there.

This is a completely inadequate set of words to thank them because there aren’t enough words to do so. But thanks anyway. The world is a better place for having you all in it.

The tale of 100 parkruns

Once upon a time, there was a girl who didn’t really like to run. She thought she was a bit overweight and probably would look a bit silly if she was seen out in public, attempting to pull off some athletic manoeuvres. Especially as they would, most likely, end up with her on her face. She had tried it before but mostly on a treadmill, indoors and away from prying eyes. If she did go outside, it was at night and in baggy clothing. And she’d walk if anyone remotely judgemental came close. And then she discovered parkrun…

Alright, I’ll come clean – this is not an imaginary tale. That girl really was me. Today I ran my 100th parkrun and was lucky enough to do this at a fantastic event launch for Torquay (blog post on that to follow!). And I adore this series of photos because it reminds me of this crazy journey I’m on, how far I’ve come and all the special people I’ve met along the way.

The first photo is of me at Albert Melbourne parkrun. It was school holidays and it was threatening to rain but I pushed on and went anyway. I’d scoped things out and chosen that one because they seemed to have such a diverse mix of speeds and I thought I probably wouldn’t be the last person. Probably. I didn’t know anyone there and was more than a little nervous as I walked up. I couldn’t have received a warmer welcome (and didn’t finish last). That photo was taken while I was lining up to have my barcode scanned (by Glynn Nicholas, no less!) and I was well and truly hooked.

It did take me a while to make it a regular habit but, very soon, I found my people at Balyang Sanctuary and thrived with their support and encouragement. The fourth picture is on our Christmas Day parkrun, the one where I did come last. And realised it wasn’t the worst thing in the world.

Most of the events in the pictures were done with friends – either home at Balyang Sanctuary or away at the many event launches and different courses I’ve run on. But there were also many where I knew no one. I wasn’t alone – you never are at parkrun and I have always felt welcome, regardless of where I happened to turn up on a Saturday morning.

There are some very special photos in the last 2 rows as my husband, possibly sick of me nagging him for 3 years, has joined in (mostly so he didn’t miss out on any more delicious breakfasts!). Having him along has made the memories even more special (and added running gear and apps to the regular topics of conversation in our household).

Looking at this photo montage seriously makes me smile – so many amazing memories and stories tied up in these 100 events. When I started on this journey, I had no idea it would lead me into a life this rich and happy and am so grateful for all that parkrun and the running community have given me. A running family and a renewed belief in my ability to do anything are amongst the most precious gifts. As well as the vision to see beyond the scales to embrace my strength, persistence and resilience.

Here’s to the next 100 πŸ™‚

parkrun tourism @ Launceston

Friday saw my friends and I up early to trek off on another big running adventure – to Tasmania for the Cadbury half marathon. We had such a great time doing this last year that we couldn’t turn down the chance to do it all again.

Our plan had been to run Hobart parkrun (mostly to be able to have breakfast with Christine and the wonderful Hobart parkrun crew!) however early on Friday evening, this was put in jeopardy due to a severe weather warning issued for Tasmania. As Hobart parkrun takes place on TasWater property, they are subject to their regulations, one of which is closing the park in cases of dangerous weather. So we needed a plan b – either run a pop up parkrun in Hobart city somewhere with some of the other five30runners who had made the trek or jump in our hire car and head 2 hours north to Launceston. We opted for the latter.

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Dinner with other members of the five30runner family to kick off our weekend

So it was that our alarms went off at 5.30am and we piled into the car to head north. The winds were certainly whipping around and we could understand the need for the weather warning. They seemed to calm a lot as we got closer to Launceston and found where we needed to be. The Launceston parkrun course starts next to Aurora stadium and is a flat out and back course through very pretty countryside – all the ingredients for a great Saturday morning.

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A scenic snapshot of the Launceston course on the turnaround loop

The briefing done, we headed off for the start line and made sure we were at the back – this was definitely a walking kind of morning to save our legs for the half marathon on Sunday. I don’t walk at parkrun often but love it when I do – it gives you a chance to enjoy the scenery, have a chat and generally soak up the atmosphere. The Launceston course has a great diversity of scenery and is easy to follow – basically an out and back with a loop for the turnaround point. There were also lots of encouraging marshals out on the course to make sure you didn’t get lost, including one of the best young marshals we’ve encountered, confidently reminding us all to keep to the left.2017-01-14_launceston_parkrun5

It was also great to be able to cheer on other members of our five30 family who had been crazy enough to make the drive to Launceston as well. Most importantly, we were undertaking parkrun on this particular day in honour of a member of our running group who had passed away a few days before. While I didn’t know him personally, he was clearly well loved and a great loss to his family, friends and the running community and I thought of him and of how fortunate we all were to be able to get out here and do this.

All finished, we scanned our barcodes, had a quick chat to the others in our group then had to get back into our car and head back to Hobart – the planets had aligned to allow us the time to get to Launceston but our hire car would turn back into an expensive pumpkin if we didn’t get it back on time.

I’m so glad that we were able to fit in a parkrun and enjoyed Launceston very much – clearly a well organised and welcoming team of volunteers and a fun course. And I’m even more glad to have been able to be join the five30 family at parkrun (and pop up) locations all over Australia and beyond to honour Ben. Another reminder that life is precious and short and to be grateful for the opportunities and friendships we have.

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Balyang Sanctuary parkrun – happy birthday!

A huge happy 4th birthday to my favourite parkrun of all – Balyang Sanctuary in Geelong. We celebrated by dressing in fluoro colours, running and eating cake – is there a better way to celebrate? I even stretched myself by sewing my first ever tutu for the occasion and was so pleased with how it turned out.

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It’s funny to think how big a part of my weekend (and my lifeΒ in general) this parkrun and its people have become over the last couple of years. It doesn’t even occur me to not to get up early on a Saturday morning and all events are planned around my permanent engagement at 8am. I was thinking as I ran along this morning how I’m lucky to have made some great running friends – some I know really well and some I barely know at all but all of them offer encouragement along the way and make me feel part of the parkrun family rather than just an attendee at an event.

So, as always, I owe my thanks to parkrun and all who make it such an amazing, supportive, inclusive and inspiring family. Here’s to many, many more years of parkrunning happiness πŸ™‚

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