parkrunning Down Under

Stuart and Tamsyn with M asleep in her buggy at Orange parkrun.

As soon as we had booked our flights to Australia, I got online to check out where the nearest parkruns were. I found that there was a parkrun at Gosling Creek in Orange, just a couple of miles away from where my brother lives. Just two weeks before we were due to arrive in Australia, a new parkrun was starting in North Wollongong, which is near to where my sister lives. Sadly, there are no parkruns in Hong Kong (yet), so we knew we’d have to miss one run whilst away.

Our first parkrun in Australia

The first parkrun that Stuart and I did was run #3 at North Wollongong parkrun. It seems as though there has been some disagreement with the local council about parking, so the start of this run has changed from being in Wollongong to being at Fairy Meadow. This is a shame as there are no facilities there, whereas there are lots of cafes and coffee shops in Wollongong.

It is an out and back course, starting in a small park before heading off on a sandy path. It’s an interesting route with a little uphill, a boardwalk section and a section on grass. It is picturesque and not too busy. Also, it starts at 8am, which is earlier in the UK, but not as early as parkruns in Queensland which usually start at 7am!

Tamsyn running with others at North Wollongong parkrun.
Near the start of North Wollongong parkrun

Tamsyn looking determined whilst running.

The original plan had been for Stuart to run with M in her ‘new’ running buggy. However, my sister and her husband decided not to run, so M was able to wait with them whilst Stu and I ran.

Tamsyn giving a thumbs up whilst running.
Nearing the turnaround point

I always perceive Australia to be a very sporty country, so I was surprised at how few competitive runners were taking part. More people were jog/walking with quite a few children. I think it’s great that it’s such an inclusive event. It might be because the weather was quite warm, which made the conditions challenging. Maybe the speedier runners are out earlier?

Tamsyn's result from North Wollongong parkrun.

The lack of lots of super speedy people meant that I came 11/121 females and was 3/15 in my age group.

parkrunning at Gosling Creek

My next Australian parkrun was Orange parkrun. This is a much more established event that takes place at a nature reserve called Gosling Creek.

The Run Director did a nice briefing and there were quite a few tourists at the event. I’m guessing that some of them were in Orange because of the mine, rather than just as sight-seers. We got a huge round of applause for having come from the UK. This was possibly because Orange is off the tourist trail, although there are some lovely wineries in the region.

This time, M was joining us in her running buggy, so Stu agreed to push M and to run with me. Neither of us is on form, but even with a running buggy, Stuart is much faster than I am, so it was quite a challenge.

Again, this parkrun was a nice mix of surfaces. It is a looping course with some reasonably steep inclines that are fairly short. There are sections on grass, trail and boardwalk and the scenery is lovely.

The Run Director welcomed each runner back individually and then took a photo of the three of us. As you can see, M was exhausted by her early morning exertions!

Tamsyn and Stuart with M after Orange parkrun.

Tamsyn's result from Orange parkrun.

My time was relatively slow for me, so I was pleased to find that I was 7/76 females and 1/5 in my age group!

Last parkrun in Australia

Our final parkrun was again at North Wollongong on our final morning in Australia. M had not slept well, (she’d spent a lot of the night screaming) so I really appreciated Bryony and Jonno getting up early to take us.

M stayed at the beach with her Uncle and Aunt. Stu had a foot niggle, so he agreed to run with me. I realised at the start that I had failed to bring my inhaler with me. That was a bad move as the path was very dusty and it made breathing extra hard. Frustratingly, I didn’t have a drink with me.

Tamsyn during her second parkrun at North Wollongong.

I couldn’t remember how long my previous run had taken me, so I decided that I would aim to finish in the top 20 females. I set off towards the front. When we got towards the turning point, we saw the fastest runners on their way back. I started counting the female runners and could see that I was in the top 20, but that I would need to keep pushing to retain that position.

Tamsyn's result from her 2nd parkrun at North Wollongong.

Out of 107 females, I finished 15th. I was 2/17 in my age group. I also achieved a PB for this course.

Overall, I really enjoyed being a parkrun tourist in Australia. There are so many interesting courses and I’ve never been to a parkrun event that wasn’t friendly. I’ve now done 3 international parkruns, but am still stuck on 19 different UK events. Maybe that’s something I need to do more of next year.

Which is your favourite parkrun and why?

Fat Girl to Ironman has been nominated for the 2018 Running Awards. I would be really grateful if you would vote for me. Thank you 🙂

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9 Responses

  1. Glad to hear you had a good time in Australia! Unfortunately we Australians tend to be very sporty as children and then stop immediately after graduating high school – last I heard, Australia has the highest rate of obesity in the world, even higher than the US. Things tend to be much worse in regional and rural areas too, and Orange/Wollongong would definitely fall into those categories.

    Are there many fast runners at parkrun UK? My anecdotal experience has been that the faster runners tend to come to our parkrun (Bendigo, regional Victoria) every now and then but don’t run every week – whether that’s because it doesn’t fit their training or because of something else like not wanting to show off (which is a very Australian thing) is hard to know. In our town at least, parkruns are also competing with a healthy athletics and cross-country scene so it’s sometimes a bit much to do parkrun on Saturday morning and then back it up with XC on Saturday afternoon. Interesting to think about!

    • The increase in obesity rates really surprises me, as I definitely didn’t see as many large people as I do here in Southampton (and far fewer than when I’ve visited USA). Also portion sizes in Australia seem more moderate (I was surprised at the size of hot drinks that I bought as they were much smaller than in the UK).

      A lot of the seriously competitive runners from local clubs don’t do parkrun every week, but my parkrun is so big (up to 1000 runners every week) that there are always quite a few fast people there.

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