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 parkrunΒ 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 πŸ™‚

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parkrun tourism @ Bairnsdale

My husband and I have recently celebrated 17 years of marriage and, indicative of how much we’ve changed over that time, our first consideration when choosing options for a weekend away was somewhere with a parkrun we hadn’t already done. Having not done any in Gippsland (and, to be honest, having never really been over that side of the state), we opted for Bairnsdale.

The course at Bairnsdale is very easy to find and with a perfect undercover area and toilets, along with ample parking. It’s an easy to follow out and back with the added bonus of permanent signage along the way (which always makes me jealous – would love that for the 2 parkruns which I call home).

We gathered for a brief briefing where celebrations were shared – it was a young man’s 100th run, a very impressive achievement from a junior parkrunner who had managed to clock up some tourist runs in that tally as well. And with the congratulations done, we set off.

The path is fairly narrow but wide enough for the turnout of runners and walkers and the grass at the start gives room for people to find their spot and spread out a bit. It is concrete most of the way but had a coating of autumnal leaves in certain spots which were lovely and soft to run on. The scenery is gorgeous – along the river and through a variety of areas including a section where the bats were snoozing in the trees overhead. The turnaround point is again clearly marked and there is a marshal at the boat ramp to offer encouragement and keep everyone safe. While there were some small inclines, it’s a mostly flat course and, on the day we were there, had a mix of speedy runners and walkers, along with quite a few families which is always lovely to see.

Having finished, we headed off for breakfast and chose the delicious Mr D cafe although it looked there were quite a few great options in town – country towns have certainly come a long way since I lived in one!

I can definitely recommend this parkrun not just as a place to visit but Bairnsdale as a place for a weekend away. We stayed at an apartment in Paynesville and visited some of the sites around which were even more beautiful on a Wintery weekend. It might have taken us a while to get here but I’m glad we visited. Thanks to the team at Bairnsdale parkrun for the warm welcome!

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™‚

parkrun tourism @ nhill

With parkruns springing up all over Victoria, visiting some of those further away from home can be a challenge. So we were keen to make the most of the Easter long weekend and the opportunity to cut through some kilometres on Good Friday. Nhill was our chosen spot – a few hours down the highway and, even more fortunately, kind of on the way to visit relatives for the remainder of the weekend.

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After camping overnight, we were up early and arrived by 7.30am at Nhill parkrun, easily finding where we needed to be thanks to the parkrun flags that were already set up. As the clock ticked closer to 8am, there were predictions that visitors might outnumber locals but I think it just fell in favour of the locals by the time briefing started. The welcome for both sets was equally as warm. Despite being new, this is clearly an event with a big sense of community and a lot of heart, where all are welcomed, regardless of where you’re from, whether you’ve attended before or what your speed is.

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Very brief briefing done, we gathered at the start line and were off. The track is easy to follow and has cones to indicate the couple of turns that you need to take. Initially, the track is gravel and rock but then becomes grass before a long stretch of soft dirt around the lake. It was equal parts beautiful and challenging – although it was flat, I found the soft dirt stretched me a bit, possibly due to my still healing sprained ankle.

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The turnaround point was clearly marked then it was back the same way to the start….so you could turn around and do it all again. I like this when visiting tourist courses as it gives me a lap to look at the course and another lap to take some pictures. And I certainly took some pictures here. The sun was rising on the other side of the lake, bathing it in bright light which cut through the gentle layer of fog sitting on the water – an absolutely stunning way to spend the morning. Being a double out and back, there were also ample opportunities for smiles, cheers and high-fives from fellow parkrunners and this friendly bunch didn’t disappoint.

I managed to complete a relatively quick parkwalk, finishing 15th overall, 7th female and 1st in my age group. Unlikely that I’ll ever find another parkrun small enough to top those statistics so I shall just enjoy them πŸ™‚

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Once we were done, the pressing issue of breakfast was our next priority and we took a browse in town, finding the Olivia Rose cafe and having a delicious meal to set us up for the rest of our day’s travels. There are some gems of attractions in the area so, if you’re visiting, don’t rush off.

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Pink lake, just up the road from Nhill

parkrun tourism @ rosebud

It has been quite a while between parkrun launches for me. That inconvenient (but amazing) marathon training/marathon/holiday thing kind of got in the way of parkrun for a while and I missed a few around Victoria. So today, we made up for it by getting up at silly o’clock to head to Rosebud to celebrate a new parkrun baby joining the family.

Rosebud parkrun starts next to the beach and was very easy to find with parking not far away. As well as toilets and drinking taps, there is even a playground for you to let out your inner child (or do hill repeats running up the side of the slide as some of the locals were doing). It was obvious from early on that this one was going to be a popular launch and there were certainly lots of people gathered for the briefing. The run director, Nadine, did the usual welcomes with 2 things that I particularly liked – 1. for those attending their first parkrun, this isn’t just a run, it’s a movement and 2. if you’re a local and are after a fast run or PB, come back next week. With the numbers today and the fact it’s a two lap course, we were all going to have to practise some tolerance and consideration.

And so, it was time to start. The starting flags were on a wide grass area which made it easy and people slotted onto the path quite well, just before we reached the boardwalk section. This is a where it got a bit tight, particularly as the faster runners had already hit the first turnaround point and were heading back towards us. I settled in to the left and kept plodding along at whatever speed the crowd would allow. Very soon, I was also at the turnaround point and heading back towards and then past the start line to turnaround point number two. The path is concrete all the way but I moved onto the grass at different points to give my legs a break. And then, after turnaround number 2…..it was time to go and do it all again. I’m not the biggest fan of multi lap courses but this one didn’t feel bad at all. It’s very flat and quite pretty, running along the waterfront with the boardwalk section a nice diversion and something different to run on. Running past the finish line a second time wasn’t as disheartening as I thought and the turnaround appeared quite quickly and then it was, finally, time to run through the flags.

It was great to see crowds still hanging out and chatting while waiting for all finishers and I took the opportunity to get my pirate picture (having joined the parkrun pirate club at Clermont Waterfront in Florida without realising it). As always, we followed it with delicious breakfast – almost too many places to choose from within walking distance but we settled on the the GPO Hotel which was great.

Congratulations to the event team at Rosebud on a fabulous launch – definitely one to visit if you’re down that way and I’m sure it’s going to be a very popular one with the Summer crowds. And those looking for an ‘aaaaarrr’ for their pirate club membership πŸ˜‰