02 September, 2012

Running riot!

I don't know whether it is the weather, the change of season or any number of other reasons, but there seems to be rather an upsurge in the amount of running happening around town and along the Barwon at the moment. This is a good thing - really!
I have also noticed an increase in the number of people saying that they want to run, but either can't find a suitable group to run with, don't know how to get started or - as in my case - were struggling to find the motivation to get back into some sort of running form. Hopefully this post, whilst not exhaustive will address a few of these issues.

Around the bend at Balyang Sanctuary
Of course there are the running groups which are well established and have been around for a long time, such as the Geelong Cross Country Club which hosts the annual Geelong Half Marathon around the river. The club makes regular use of the river - having its clubrooms just near the Moorabool Street Bridge - and many of the other trails around town, the Bellarine Peninsula and beyond. Their season starts with the half marathon which is held each year on the first Sunday after Easter and continues with a race each Sunday morning until about September.
Geelong Half Marathon 2012
Then there is the Geelong Run Club which meets each Tuesday evening at 5:45pm for a 6pm start at The Running Company, Shop 2/222 Pakington Street, Geelong West. They run from there up and over the Melbourne Road and railway line to Western Beach and then head round to Eastern Beach before returning along the same course, covering a distance of between 5-6km. They advertise a variable pace and an atmosphere of fun and participation and have been around for a few years now.
In addition, there are any number of individuals who find their own routes around town and a variety of private groups who do their own thing. Recently however, there have been some new additions to the running fraternity. First of all, back in July we saw the opening of the Troop Loop. Not a running group, but an improvement on the running facilities available for those wanting to run between Breakwater and Newtown.
Doing a reverse Troop Loop?
At about the same time, I was given a heads up by an old netballing foe about a new running group due to start on a Saturday morning by the river. And thus the Parkrun phenomenon came to Geelong. For the uninitiated, the Parkrun concept evolved from a single race established in England in 2004. Since then, it has grown into a series of timed, 5km runs held weekly in countries around the world. Each Parkrunner registers on-line and receives a unique barcode. At the end of each race, this is scanned and results are posted on individual Parkrun websites. There is no cost to participants as Parkrun is supported by sponsors and administered by volunteers. It is pitched to be accessible to everyone from kids and beginners to experienced athletes.
Geelong's first Parkrun was held on 26th August, 2012 around a course starting by the Barwon at Balyang Sanctuary, heading downriver to the Moorabool Street Bridge, crossing over and heading back upstream to cross again at Princes Bridge before a short dash to the finish line. I completed my first Parkrun yesterday morning (1st September, 2012), finishing 21st out of a mixed field of 69 runners.
For those with time to spare after the run (it is not a race), there is always an invitation to coffee at the nearby Barwon Edge Cafe.
Jogging out of the sunset
In the meantime however, as I waited for Parkrun to arrive, I saw a small article in the newspaper about another running group which was just beginning. Calling themselves Geelong Runners (or more fully, the Geelong Social Running Club), they ran from the BBQ area in the Eastern Gardens at 5:30pm (soon to be 6pm as the days grow longer) on a Wednesday afternoon and 9am on a Saturday morning. They were happy to accept anyone from experienced runners to absolute beginners.

Less intimidating that an established group, covering a relatively short distance, accepting of all levels of ability, free of charge and starting at the reasonably respectable time of 9am on a Saturday. This sounded like just the thing to improve my failing motivation.
So, on a cool morning just over a month ago I joined Geelong Runners and now on most Saturday mornings I pull on my runners and head for the gardens. And yes, it worked! My motivation is back. They are indeed a varied group. Coming from across the globe and with ages spanning about four decades, they range from complete novices to runners with considerable experience and skill. For the quicker runners it is a leisurely workout, but from little things, larger things grow and those of us who are up for it have since been on some longer runs with more in the offing.
Alternatively, for those perhaps with limited time or "commitment issues", there are the one off fun runs which crop up each year. They are often sponsored charity events and open to all ages and fitness levels.
In February, Geelong hosts its own Multi Sport Festival, incorporating a variety of events including 5km and 10km fun runs along the Waterfront in aid of the Give Where You Live charity.
Not a bad place for a run! Looking across Corio Bay at  the Eastern Gardens.
During March, the Australian arm of the international Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team stage a run around a loop course on the Barwon between Princes and Queen's Park Bridges, over 6km, 12km or 18km distances. This can be a handy warm up for the Geelong Half Marathon which is usually only  a few weeks later.
On Mother's Day each year, Geelong stages its own version of the Mother's Day Classic, the largest community fundraiser for breast cancer research in Australia. The Geelong event is a 4km or 8km walk or run around the Eastern Gardens.
However, the biggest annual fun run  is the Cotton On Foundation's Run Geelong, held in November it offers a 6km or a 12km course taking in the sights of the bay, the river, Eastern Gardens and the hallowed turf of Simmonds Stadium - home of the Cats. Established by Lee Troop in 2009, it is a major fundraiser for the Geelong Hospital's Children's Ward.
Possibly one of the longest runs around would have to be the Bellarine Rail Trail Run. This is a return course along the Rail Trail from Queenscliff to Drysdale (17km event) and back (34km event). It is a free training run - not a race - which was originally held along the full length of the track from the Geelong Show Grounds to Queenscliff. It became an out and back event when safety concerns and the logistics of an increasing field size became a problem for the organisers. The total distance remains the same.
And then finally, if you haven't spent enough time running throughout the year, there is one last chance to get a run in before the start of each new year with the Dawnbusters Fun Run, which as the name suggests is run early on the morning (a 7 am start) of 31st December. It is a 5km course around the Waterfront hosted jointly by the Geelong Cross Country Club and Give Where You Live.
The links below will take you to the websites for the particular clubs or events:



Mother's Day Classic 2007 (Sport Event)
 Geelong Mulit-Sport Festival 8-10 February 2012

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