This morning, I went for a bike ride around Champ de Mars in Paris. It was a ride of about 4km and the scenery was lovely. I saw the Eiffel Tower up close (I think I even rode under it), some Parisian pups, lots of tourists, and fit looking people running through the park. I saw all this today*, I did…
* OK, so the tracking information in the first two pics, along with the Google watermarks, show that I wasn’t really in Paris this morning. I was in sunny Sydney, sweating it out on my exercise bike, which features a clever black box designed to trick the exerciser into thinking they’re having fun.
This little iFit device links my stationary bike to the ‘live feed’ Google map of the route I am riding, so I can watch the images on my ipad as they update (along with the incline/resistance on the bike) to simulate my progress on a ride on this actual track. Oui oui.
As a gadget geek, I am quite taken with this new toy – I have already ridden through a park in Spain and Central Park is on the schedule too. Of course, looking at photos on an iPad as I pedal doesn’t take away from the pain and discomfort, and it’s not even close to being there in real life (or IRL as the gamers say). And there’s no incentive in the form of a fresh baguette or pain au chocolat at the end of the ride.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard of parkrun – I hadn’t heard of them until I read an article in the local paper last week about one starting in our area. Such a cool idea – I’ll let the parkrun people explain it: parkrun organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all.
Sounds pretty good, yes? And when they launched a parkrun at Balmoral Beach in Sydney, a picturesque part of the world not far from where I live, I thought I would go along and see what it was all about. As an aside, I haven’t been running for over 12 months after being scared off by a couple of big injuries in quick succession. And I wanted to avoid going back to the physio’s torture chamber and putting on those horrific communal short shorts (which I wrote about here last year).
Saturday was a lovely day in Sydney and I arrived at Balmoral about 10 minutes before the 7am start. There were an assortment of people there – almost all of them looking like super fit and fast runners, sponsored by major sporting brands. I started to suspect that the parkrun promise – encouraging people of all abilities to take part – had not quite reached glamorous Balmoral.
I skirted the edges of the group, still thinking I could skulk away and get a coffee and just watch them, but then summoned up the courage to speak to a volunteer in a fluoro green vest. Meg was a parkrunner from Curl Curl on Sydney’s northern beaches and had come to help out with the first ever Mosman parkrun. She assured me that there would be lots of ‘normal’ people there, even some walkers, but as we looked around the group, I think we both doubted whether that was true. Then I saw some people with prams and a few older ladies and thought I might as well give it a go.
And so I did. I ran the whole way – more of a shuffle than a run, mostly – and when I was tempted to walk, the words of my Camino buddy Shane rang in my head: DO NOT STOP. And so I didn’t. The atmosphere was lovely and there were lots of smiles and high fives from the 102 runners – the fastest ran past like a blur and finished in half the time it took me, but I was very happy just to get to the end and find the earlier finishers hanging around to clap and cheer the slower peeps.
So, that was a great start to Saturday morning – exercising (for free!) in a beautiful place with nice people – and all done before 8am. Everyone was nodding and smiling and looking forward to building this little community that had just formed.
Now I don’t want to get political, but this story has since taken a bad turn. By yesterday, Mosman Council had squashed the new parkrun community like a bug – cancelling the Balmoral run because of blah blah blah. An annoying setback, but hopefully the organisers will be able to come up with a different route that doesn’t upset the precious people and lets the parkrun community thrive. If only so I can try and beat my first run time and feel like an Olympian with a new PB!
What a fantastic day we had – arriving at Sydney Olympic Park with tens of thousands of peeps of all ages, shapes and sizes, while most of Sydney was still in bed on a lazy Sunday. Passers-by must have thought there was some sort of cult gathering, as everyone was dressed in white – some with crazy wigs, angel wings or colourful socks and shoes to help them stand out from the crowd. Thanks to the awesome eagle-eyes of the youngest Steph in our gang, we somehow managed to meet up with everyone at the starting area. And then we waited. Standing in the sun, already roasting hot before 9am, as they released runners in waves from the crowd of thousands that were in the queue.
The music was pumping and there were beachballs, dancing, Mexican waves and people-watching to keep us all entertained as we waited for our turn. The place was buzzing, I tell you – such an amazing experience to be a part of something like that, everyone was smiling and laughing and enjoying the fun atmosphere: DEFINITELY the ‘happiest 5k on the planet’, as the organisers had promised.
My friend Anne and I were caught out by a nice sort of chap who seemed to be spraying water at people in the crowd – we were so hot and thirsty after standing around waiting to start, so we went right up to him to be refreshed…and then realised that the tank on his back was actually full of purple coloured water, which was now all across our faces and shirts. Ah well, off to a colourful start!
It’s hard to explain what happened from then on – each km was marked by a colour and at the colour ‘checkpoint’, it was bedlam as volunteers sprayed liquid colour or blasted coloured powder at you as you passed through. Gone were the pristine white t-shirts and the clean faces as people emerged looking as though they’d been dunked in colour.
And with all that was going on, the 5k passed pretty quickly and soon we were running Chariots-of-Fire-style to the finish line. And it was then that my lovely friend Steph decided to open her packet of coloured powder (meant to be saved for the ‘finish line festival’ when all recent finishers throw them in the air together, I might add). She opened it and threw it…IN MY FACE. So my left cheek, ear and down my neck was a very dark (and very pretty, to be fair) magenta colour. An interesting beauty note for you, peeps – painting your skin a really dark magenta colour really makes your white teeth ‘pop’ and looks like you’ve had a Hollywood-style dental whitening session. But be warned that you may scare young children and yourself, when you finally get to a mirror.
We all had such a great time at the Color Run – I highly recommend signing up when it’s next in your town!
You might recall some time last year when I posted about the Color Run, which was coming to Australia for the first time in 2012/2013. Well, Sydney’s time has come and it all happens on Sunday morning. Basically, it’s a really fun run – the organisers call it the happiest 5k on the planet – and at each km mark, a group of random strangers throw brightly coloured powder at you. Hopefully not in a mean way, although my lovely friend Steph is prepared and bought us some protective glasses (don’t worry, they’re not like a scientist’s lab goggles, they’re Ray Ban lookalikes).
We went along last night to register for the event in the CBD and if the registration hype is anything to go by, we are in for a great time on Sunday. It was a lovely sunny evening and the music was pumping as hundreds of people stood in Martin Place after work to check in, get their packs and maybe buy some of the crazy Color Run gear on offer. Pink tutu? Sure! Knee-high fluoro socks? Absolutely! White short shorts with ‘COLOR THIS!’ written across the back? Alrighty then. For the record, we didn’t buy these things, just saw them for sale at the Color Run shop.
Anyways, we’ve got our official t-shirt, race bib, headband, temporary tattoo, big pack of coloured powder to throw at the ‘finish line festival’ and the rest of our gear ready and we’re very excited to be out there on Sunday. At Sydney Olympic Park, no less. With my friends Steph, Stef, Steph and Anne in the Sydney summer sunshine. (The Steph/Stef/Steph bit isn’t a gag either – it wasn’t a pre-requisite, must just be something great in the name!)
And if you’re interested, or if you just want to see something cool, or if you want to get in the zone for Sunday Run Day, here’s the official Color Run You Tube clip… Have a great weekend!
You might recall that I suffered a bit of an overuse injury when running in Dublin recently. As a result, I have been laying low and doing very little (aside from walking slowly and painfully like an arthritic granny) for about six weeks now. It’s really disappointing, as I had been getting into a regular running pattern and was definitely seeing improvements in my ability to run further and longer. Not even close to marathon fit, by any means, but pleased with my progress. Anyways, then my bursar got bursitis and thought it would be funny to maintain a constant vigil of pain in my left leg, from my hip to my knee. Good times, bursar, good times. That led me to the horrors of the physio and his torture chamber, which left me bruised and battered. And better, it would seem. I’ve been doing my stretches (not in public, as most of them are quite strange looking) and thought that today would be a good day to get back on the run.
It’s a beautiful summery day in Sydney today, so I went to my old stomping ground – which also happens to be a welcome flat course – around Canada Bay. It’s a lovely spot to walk and run – between the water and the trees, you can kinda forget that part of it is next to one of Sydney’s busiest roads.
So I walked most of the course, with three five-minute running intervals. Which felt like the physio was right beside me, punching me in the thigh as I ran along. Luckily, vanity prevailed, and the fear of being out-run by the elderly kept me going.
As often happens, there was a chick keeping almost the same pace as me (although probably not leaning to one side as much as me), so we traded places as one or the other started to run for a bit. I took this photo when she was ahead, as I thought it wouldn’t have been very sporting to turn around and take one as she dropped behind me. She was wearing a top like a zebra – when she was behind me, I wondered where “stripey lady” was at; and then when she repeatedly ran ahead and stopped just metres in front of me as if to taunt me, my mind said, “Oh, there you are, stripey face cow”. I’m not proud of myself, but that’s what I thought.
And as it approached midday, I was feeling pretty hot (not as in smokin’, but as in sweaty) and there, towards the end of the run was this classic Aussie mirage, looking so inviting.
And now? After stretching and applying anti-inflammatory gel and taking anti-inflammatory tablets, I’ve got a pack of frozen corn nestled next to me, trying to get rid of the pain that has crept back. But hopefully this is the beginning of my comeback and my bursar will return to life as before – when I didn’t even know it existed.