parkrun tourism @ Birkenhead

When we planned our holiday to the UK, it was a given that it would involve as many parkruns as we could fit in. The challenge was which ones to pick?

Our first choice was fairly easy as we had decided to run the Rock ‘n’ roll half marathon in Liverpool so it needed to be close by. We chose Birkenhead, a short train ride away from our accommodation.

Arriving at Birkenhead Park station, it was fairly easy to find the location, thanks to the helpful directions posted on their Facebook page by the Run Director. We weren’t the only tourists with a couple of guys spotting our parkrun-ness at the station and asking if we knew where we going. Er no but we’re fairly sure we can figure it out!

We walked up to the start area and joined the tourists and first timers briefing to find out information about the course – 2 laps of the park plus a little bit to the finish chute. Then the Run Director did his briefing although, with so many people, it was hard to hear, despite the megaphone. And then, we were off. Literally, just like that. The briefing ended then ‘3, 2, 1, go!’ catching us a bit by surprise with the hoardes setting off before I’d even thought to start my watch.

Despite the directions sounding a bit confusing, it turned out the course was indeed very easy to follow – basically running on the path and following the directions of the ample marshals who were out and cheering. Slightly cruelly, you have to run past those in the finish chute to start your second lap but at least it adds to the cheering!

The scenery is gorgeous – very green (particularly coming from Australia where it’s a bit of an endangered colour) and lush, perfectly backed with blue skies and sunshine. The volunteers were great, very friendly and cheering everyone on all the way around.

I’m always impressed by parkruns with high numbers and how well the logistics work – we ran into the finish funnel and moved quickly through the barcode scanners.

Coffee afterwards at the Visitor Centre was perfect – wonderful to see lots of people hanging around for coffee or breakfast and no wonder as it is a great spot.

Thanks to the team at Birkenhead parkrun – a fabulous venue for our first UK event!

parkrun tourism @ Lillydale Lake

The beautiful thing about having all these wonderful parkrun events in Victoria is having so much choice. I’m now fortunate enough to have a handful locally and the options widen the further I’m willing to drive.

This morning, we opted for an alarm starting with a 5 and headed off at 6am towards Lillydale Lake. I’d heard good things about this one so was looking forward to the adventure, despite not having had much sleep and a full on week.

We arrived and found the spot easily with plentiful parking and clean toilets to greet us. The surroundings instantly made me smile – a gorgeous lake and tranquil setting with the odd duck wandering across the path was exactly what I had in mind.

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We gathered for the briefing which was all the more impressive as it was rhyming and included multiple milestone celebrations. And then it was time to start. Lillydale Lake parkrun attracts pretty big numbers so the start line was predictably a bit squishy. I kept to the back and it didn’t take long after the start before we were able to spread out a bit and find our own spots. The course takes you for 2 laps around the lake, starting by heading up towards and along the dam wall before coming back down to follow the water. The path is gravel but not thick enough to be annoying – it was the perfect surface for my still slightly grumpy achilles and was lots of fun to run on. I sometimes get grumpy on 2 lap courses but not this one – too pretty and with fellow runners and volunteers who were too friendly for me to have any grumps at all.

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In fact, this morning’s run felt great. I wasn’t pushing it hard but managed my fastest time for the year and loved the welcoming and inclusive finish line vibe at the end.

This is a definite treasure of a parkrun. While I can’t say I’m likely to regularly get up at 6am to travel to it, I’ll certainly be back if I’m in the area and, if this is your local, you’re very, very lucky.

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NYD double & a chance for parkrun tourism – Traralgon & Churchill parkruns

As New Year’s day is the only day you can officially run two parkruns, I had been eagerly checking the compendium to find out which parkruns would be offering this opportunity and crossing my fingers for two I hadn’t already done. Luckily, two popped up in Gippsland and, making the most of the school holidays, I booked some accommodation to make the most of it.

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On the way to the start area at Traralgon parkrun

Our first parkrun of the day was Traralgon so this is where we chose to stay the night – definitely a quiet New Year’s Eve when you have to be up early to run the next morning! We easily found the start line for Traralgon and gathered for briefing. It was great to see everyone beaming with enthusiasm at the New Year with many locals and visitors sharing the morning. This was a special morning in another way – my Dad had joined us to spectate his first New Year’s day double and it was great to have him there.

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The view from the turnaround point of the Traralgon parkrun course

Traralgon is a double out and back course along a winding path along the river and through a suburban park with views across to the far off mountains. The beauty of this is that each leg doesn’t feel that long and you are always out there with others, receiving smiles and encouragement. The sun was starting to get a bit of bite so was pleased to get through this one relatively quickly, knowing we had more to go.

And with that, parkrun #1 for the day was done so we waved goodbye and headed south for Churchill parkrun.

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Trying to get my head around the course 🙂

We arrived in plenty of time and easily found where we needed to be as there were lots of people gathering – those from both Traralgon and Newborough as well as those sticking to the one parkrun at Churchill. The meeting point is at the hub which is the perfect spot with toilets and shade – both of which were needed having already been for a run.

The Churchill course is another double out and back…sort of. It sounded a bit confusing on the directions but was actually really easy to follow once you set out and didn’t feel like you were covering the same ground. The track winds through the trees, along boardwalks and over bridges and includes a couple of inclines just to keep it varied. I really liked this course – not only for the opportunity to see and encourage others but also for the scenery and tranquil trail.

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There was a definitely community vibe at both events and the finish area of Churchill exemplified this with lots of people hanging around to cheer others in and chat, generally enjoying each other’s company and kicking the New Year off in the best way possible.

Thanks to both event teams – it’s a big job to volunteer any day but especially for special events and I really appreciated the opportunity to tourist at these great events to start 2019.

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parkrun tourism @ eastern gardens

I must say, I have quite liked having my NENDY (nearest event not done yet) for parkrun a mere 22km away. There was something reassuring about knowing that I had the potential to do a new event at any time I wanted without worrying about accommodation or working out whether it was driveable in the early hours of a Saturday morning. In fact, we’d considered leaving Eastern Gardens parkrun as our last event in Victoria but, in need of a change, we ventured there this morning instead.

I tried really hard to see this one through tourist eyes but it’s hard – firstly, I know the course very, very well and secondly, I know many of the team behind it (all fabulous!). So forgive my familiarity. Eastern Gardens parkrun takes place very near Eastern Beach on Geelong’s beautiful waterfront. It really is an ideal spot for a parkrun – a gorgeous park with a wide track, ample parking, toilet facilities, a shelter for rainy briefings and a stone’s throw from the water for a post-run dip. Tick, tick, tick!

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Eastern Gardens course is a very easy to follow out and back with an added shorter out and back to make up the distance. While it’s easy to follow and the track is easy to run on, the hills make it not a particularly easy run. They’re those sneaky hills which don’t really look like hills until you try to run them and they then feel very much like hills. Being incredibly familiar with this course, I knew what to expect but it didn’t help – they were a challenge, particularly in this morning’s humidity. However having a couple of out and back bits does mean there are lots of opportunities for cheering others on and receiving encouragement, all of which were flowing this morning.

Another benefit of this course is the ample selection of cafes for post-parkrun breakfast – the team generally meet at Winifreds which I can highly recommend. Or meander along the waterfront for coffee or ice cream (or both!).

And now I’m back to having a far away NENDY and facing the prospect of a long drive to tick off another parkrun – such a tough life! I suspect it will be a looooong time until we tick off all Victorian parkruns and I’m ok with that – I’m enjoying sampling them slowly. Although, with a New Year’s double coming up, maybe not that slowly at the moment 🙂

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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 🙂

parkrun tourism @ hastings foreshore

There’s been a lot going on in my running and non-running life of late so forgive the out of order recaps of my parkrun tourism.

A few weeks ago we headed to Hastings Foreshore on, completely not coincidentally, their 4th birthday. Not that we wouldn’t have visited anyway but the lure of cake made the very early wake up call slightly easier. 🤣

We arrived with plenty of time and found the meeting point easily (having spotted a Baldwin as we looked for a car park) then took advantage of the facilities (clean and plentiful) before chatting to friends that were unexpectedly also on the hunt for a cake breakfast. The run briefing was a lovely snapshot of kilometres covered, volunteer roles filled and parkrunners brought into the family and, with that, we moved to the start to get it done.

The course is a 2 lap (and a tiny bit more) around a park path and is very easy to follow. I’m always pleasantly surprised by how picturesque suburban parks are and this one has the added bonus of being by the waterfront, giving us lovely views. It’s a flat course so great if you’re after a fast time (like the first few finishers who lapped me).

The temperature was perfectly crisp and ideal for running and, by my second lap, I was warmed up enough and running happy. So much so that I actually had negative splits which might not be a big deal for others but it’s a very big deal for me!

The finish is a little bit past the start and involves turning off and I gave it all I had. As well as the usual parkrun warm welcome to the finish line, I also partook of a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast along with a piece of the most delicious birthday cake ever – absolutely perfect way to start a Saturday. We then moved ourselves across the road for (amazing) coffee and chats.

As always, I am constantly impressed by how welcoming and inviting parkruns are, regardless of which town or location they’re attached to and Hastings Foreshore is no exception. I love that you can arrive at the set time on a Saturday and be welcomed like family, regardless of where you’re from or what speed you’re moving at. Happy birthday to the event team at Hastings Foreshore and keep doing exactly what you’re doing – you’re clearly doing it right 😄