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.

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.

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.

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 😁

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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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 @ 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 🙂