Stuff I see, which you might not.

My first parkrun

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.

Mosman parkrun, Balmoral Beach. [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Mosman parkrun, Balmoral Beach.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

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).

I was in there somewhere! [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

I was in there somewhere!
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

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.

Flagging the end of the run.  [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Flagging the end of the run.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

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.

Some Mosman parkrunners. [image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

Some Mosman parkrunners.
[image from Mosman parkrun Facebook page]

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!


Time for the Color Run

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).

Uh huh.

Uh huh.

We sure are!

We sure are!

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.

The official Color Run tutu.

The official Color Run tutu.

Yep, all that.

Yep, all that.

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!)

The Shirt.

The Shirt.   

The Race Gear.

The Race Gear.

The Powder.

The Powder.

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!


Back on the run

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.

Not bad, eh? NB, this was taken on one of my many walking breaks.

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.

Discrimination in our community. KEEP TO YOUR SIDE, BIKES!

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.

Run along, stripey.

Nice day for it.

Did I mention the trees? Such a pretty vista from the path, any way you look.

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.

They really need a slide from the bridge directly to the pool for walkers/runners – so near and yet so far…

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.


The First Sydney Color Run – I’m in!

I’d never heard of the Color Run until my friend Anne asked if I’d like to join her team – when I checked it out online, I saw that it looks bizarre, crazy, colourful, fun and very very very different to a normal fun run. So, of course I’m in. They call the Color Run (American spelling – it’s really bugging me not to write ‘colour’, believe me) ‘the happiest 5k on the planet’.

According to the organisers, there are really only two simple rules: (1) you have to start the run in white shirts and (2) you have to finish the run covered in colour. I love their big picture explanation: “Runner/walkers begin the 5k at the start line like a brand new pristine coloring book. By the end, they look like they fell into a Willy Wonka… tie dyed… vat of colored goodness. We are the creators of an all new paint race phenomena!” Of course, they had me at Willy Wonka.

So, how does it work? Apparently, “each kilometer of the event is associated with a designated color: yellow, orange, pink, or blue.  As the runners/walkers reach the Kilometer COLOR RUN Zones, they are blitzed by our volunteers, sponsors, and staff with COLOR.   All products are 100% natural and safe.  You can eat the stuff if you’d like (we have tried it and don’t suggest it, it is surprisingly high in calories and leaves a chalky aftertaste).  Of course, we save the best for last, ending the race with a color extravaganza of epic proportions.

Basically, you run 5km and every km, people jump out and shoot or throw coloured powder all over you. This is the first time the run has come to Australia, after being rolled out across the USA. The first Australian Color Run is in Melbourne in November and we get our turn in Sydney in February. I’ve registered and, by the looks of the peeps in this promo video, better make sure I don’t have any appointments for the rest of the day…Let me know if you’re in Sydney and want to join in the colourful fun!


I have run into trouble

And so, it has happened. After keeping up my running program while I was on holidays and feeling great about the fact that I was injury-free as I ran further and further, I have hit a snag. And by ‘snag’ I mean ‘inflamed bursar’. At least, I think that’s what the physio called it when I visited on Wednesday. I was confused as I always thought a Bursar was that old guy at school in charge of collecting the fees and managing the books, but seemingly it’s also the name of little sacs of fluid in your body that help the tendons or muscles (or somethings) move smoothly. Until one gets inflamed and makes you walk like a cowboy / old grandma; and hurts when you sit down and stand up; and hurts when you move your leg in bed; and hurts when you get in and out of cars. Yes, it hurts.

No more running for the Pinkies – for now.

But it hurt even more when I went to see the physio. He seemed like such a nice young man on introduction – he asked me lots of questions and got me to do some tricks like standing on one leg while he tried to push me over. Fun stuff like that. My hip was already a bit sore when I arrived – I confessed to him that I’d felt as though it was getting better before the appointment and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to describe the pain to him, which would have wasted his time. So, I cleverly decided to hop up and down on the bad leg a few times – and man alive did that do the trick. It did seem like a good idea at the time, I swear.

These Wexford donkeys were the last to see me running – for now.

Although I obviously knew that the injury site was around my hip, I wasn’t sure what the appropriate clothing would be to allow the physio to do his work. He said that I’d need to change into shorts and, hey presto, he produced a box of shorts from somewhere in the office. A box of other people’s shorts, of all colours and sizes. I told him I’d try a few on as if I was having a fun day at the shops, but as I shuffled through the box, I realised that although there were a range of different sizes, there was only one length. And that was probably best described as ‘pole dancer short’. Now, I’m a pretty conservative lass and I’m not known to flash my lily white pins around town, so it was only the promise of ending the annoying pain that saw me get into a pair of teeny tiny turquoise shorts and try to look both sporty and confident at the same time. All while managing a distinct lean over to the right to avoid inflaming my injury.

Anyways, the physio then proceeded to poke and prod and ultrasound and massage and release fire ants and thunder bolts and daggers. At least, that’s what it felt like, but there probably weren’t any thunder bolts. And then, like all good practitioners, he encouraged me to “just relax”. ARE YOU FOR REAL, MAN? It was like a crazed attack and I had to put my hands under my head so that I wouldn’t punch him in the face. I told him that’s what I was doing and he laughed and said he had never been hit yet. Lots of attempts, apparently, but none had connected. It sounded like a dare to me, but I battled on and tried to pretend it was all fine. Unfortunately, a poker face is not one of my talents, so he kept apologising as my face must have contorted into a series of loony grimaces.

That’s how I felt too, baby.

And just when I thought the torture was over, he returned with a heat pack and an ice pack and placed them both in the neighbourhood of the injury. I’m not sure how those two things don’t just cancel each other out – it seemed a bit like trying to serve baked ice cream for dessert – but he left them on for a while and disappeared. I lay there on the bed, with my head on the pillows, and dozed off into a slumber. NO, I DID NOT. I lay there on the bed that’s really a table, in my borrowed shorts that were probably for a pole dancer, with my head on two pillows that have surely supported the heads of many other victims, with the medical equivalent of baked ice cream on my hip.

And I have to go back this afternoon.


A bat and a park

I’ll warn you now that today’s post isn’t terribly exciting – it’s about a cookie and a park. But since this blog is all about finding little sparks in the everyday, and it’s my travel diary while I’m on the road, here it is…

Today was a bit rainy, so we went shopping. We met Barry the Bat at a cafe. A nice take on the traditional gingerbread people and perfect for Halloween next month – although maybe a bit scary for little people to eat a biscuit with big fangs…

Then this afternoon I went for a run in a park here in Dublin, during a break in the rain.

It looks like a nice park, right? That’s what I thought too – then I saw this graffiti on the fence and spent the rest of my run looking over my shoulder. They were out.




Run, Pinkies, Run

I mentioned a little a while ago that I bought some ridiculously bright pink running shoes in an attempt to run faster. After a reasonable testing period, I am thinking of writing to the manufacturer to tell them that THEIR SHOES AREN’T WORKING PROPERLY.

As a bit of background, I am not what you’d call a natural athlete. It is not a genetic gift with which the children in my family were blessed. I mean, you know, we can all walk without bumping into stuff, but we weren’t really runners or netballers or footballers or gymnasts or swimmers. My younger brother and I were t-ball players (and I don’t even know if that version of junior baseball exists anymore) and I played volleyball and a teeny bit of tennis in high school. Where the coach was the same creepy old dude that had coached my mother when she attended the same school some decades earlier, so it wasn’t exactly Wimbledon.

The Bay Run, Canada Bay in Sydney.
[Image from NSW Govt Planning & Infrastructure]

Anyways, a few years ago I started to run a bit because it seemed like the thing to do. I felt like I was still too young and too dog-less to be going for walks, and running always looked pretty cool. When I watched other people doing it, that is. I was running a few times a week for a while there (the Bay Run in Sydney was my stomping / slumping ground) and my fitness improved and I remember feeling fairly self-righteous after I exercised. But then I fell off the wagon. And the cruel thing about a long break in exercise is that it’s not like riding a bike – your body (well, at least, my body) doesn’t pick up right where it left off and say, ‘oh yeah, we’re running again – I remember this, let’s go’. Not even close.

Path to Mosman Bay.
[Image from Sydney Diary Star]

So now I’m starting again. Along a beautiful track, with my new shoes, the Pinkies, for motivation. And since I’m a bit older, I don’t want to risk getting injured or collapsing on the side of the road, so I’m following a training program called Couch to 10k. I had started with a Couch to 5k program a few years ago and I liked the gradual increase in intervals, so that the running kind of snuck up on you. And I also liked the way they encouraged you to take a day off every other day.

I found an app called 10K for Pink – it’s a free app that someone somewhere had recommended and it’s pretty good – I’m up to Week 6 of the 14 week program now. It’s great because I can just concentrate on breathing while I play my music and a lady in an upbeat voice interrupts at intervals to tell me what to do – “start running”, “start walking”, “you have one minute left” and my favourite: “start your cool down”.

If the Pinkies aren’t exactly making me faster, at least they’re super-light, which must surely mean that it’s a little easier to lift my feet. And it also means that I have no excuses when I go on a couple of trips later this year – the Pinkies will be coming with me, tucked into my suitcase and ready to run in the northern hemisphere. Since the first trip is in a few weeks, I thought I should introduce the Pinkies as (a) it will help to keep me running, now that you know and (b) they may post from their travels if they run across any everyday sparks. And if you’re thinking of running, you can check out the Couch to 10k program that I’m using here. It did seem like a good idea at the time!