Perry Lakes parkrun

There’s nothing like the launch of a new parkrun to draw a crowd – of parkrunners. The launch of Perry Lakes parkrun last Saturday was no exception despite a temporary return of winter temperatures and rain. What better way to start the weekend than to huddle with your tribe, teeth gritted against the cold, rolling your eyes at the lunacy of wearing shorts and singlets in the rain, knowing that by 9 am you’ll be delighted that you made the effort? Well, 272 people thought it was a good idea in Floreat on Sep 30.

I’ve been to a few launches, but this one was particularly close to my heart as my Nomads on the Run squad trains at Perry Lakes every Monday morning. We stick to the paths mind you, so this was a new adventure as the route offers up an opportunity to go off-road and negotiate softer, yet more challenging, surfaces.

Perry Lakes is a beautiful 80-hectare reserve with two lakes teaming with birds, a grass oval beloved of dog exercisers, and asphalt and concrete paths under tree canopies that, in summer, offer a welcome respite from the sun. There are also clean public toilets (a Nomad obsession) and a water fountain or two. Really, it’s yet another gem that Perth offers walkers and runners (and dogs). In fact, Perry Lakes was the location of the 2016 World Masters Athletics Cross Country Championships.

On Saturday, the Mayor of the Town of Cambridge, Kerri Shannon, was there to say a few words, welcoming parkrun to the neighbourhood. In his run briefing, Event Director Jon Storey, (who has run over 300 parkruns), mentioned swooping magpies and unleashed dogs as potential hazards on the route but really, as a Perry Lakes regular, I think the biggest danger is tripping over one’s own feet on the cross-country sections. Obviously, for normal people, this is no danger at all, but for the minority group ‘Runners Prone to Tripping’ of which I am a fully signed up member with the scars and hospital bills to prove it, the prospect of negotiating an uneven surface was daunting.

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Perry Lakes parkrun route, with the first kilometre marked in blue, is two laps of this course.

The route is two laps of the park. It starts on a wide asphalt path – traffic-free on weekends – then after about 900m turns onto a cross-country section, around 400m long, which is a little more demanding in terms of foot placement and balance. I did however not fall so yay for me – twice!

The next section is on a concrete-turns-into-asphalt path with a return to grass – clipped and even grass as it’s part of the dog exercise area – at around 1.8km. At 2.1km, there’s a change in surface again as runners enter another tufty grass, cross-country section before a return to asphalt and a u-turn, marking the almost halfway point and the start of the second lap. I’d estimate that about 2km of the flat 5km course is off-road, of which only 1.2-1.3km is on uneven grass.

As expected, I found the tufty grass tough to run on which is kind of funny for someone whose home parkrun requires 800m of negotiating sand, rocks, seaweed, and hyper-active dogs. I did manage it more speedily on the second lap which makes me think that mastering this cross-country lark might be a question of practice – unlike plodding along on sand, which after more than 80 parkruns, is still most certainly the boss of me.

The volunteers as always were well organised and encouraging with several familiar faces from the Perth parkrun family. Many in attendance were, like me, visiting from other parkruns, but 56 people turned up to walk or run their first ever parkrun. Welcome to the tribe first-timers. Saturday morning just got awesome.

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Courtesy of Perry Lakes parkrun Facebook page

If you’re new to parkrun, or wondering how it works, head here.

 

No More Excuses! Start Running.

So it’s the second week of the year, and your new year’s resolution to take up running hasn’t quite turned you into the gazelle that you’d envisaged. In fact, you might have been a bit rash in deciding that you could become a runner after all. True, it seems that everyone else on the entire planet is either trail running, parkrunning, or embarking on a marathon training plan (or all three), but clearly they haven’t struggled the way you have. Clearly they haven’t got the excuses for staying sedentary that you have. WRONG! If you are using any, or all of the excuses below, to stall your running journey, you’re deceiving yourself. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. If you are physically healthy, you can run.

EXCUSE #1: I’ve tried running but it’s hard.

No shit Sherlock. If running was effortless, we’d never walk anywhere, we’d run. It’s precisely because it’s challenging, and physically and mentally demanding, that it’s rewarding. The truth is, that even after running becomes a well-established habit, it can feel hard some days (at times, every day). It’s also true however, that running isn’t half as hard as your brain will tell you it is. There’s nothing your mind will like better than to try and sabotage your early running efforts with an internal dialogue that stalks your every step with phrases like: Stop, it’s too hard, stop, this is crazy, it hurts, it must be bad for you, stop for goodness sake, stop, you mother is right, this is bad for your knees, stop for the love of all things sedentary STOP!

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Remedies: Run with others. Running at a pace that allows you to chat with another runner is not only distracting from any pain but it also drowns out negative thoughts. If you don’t know anyone you can run with, get on Facebook, reach out to other beginners, join a running/coaching group, or form your own. Facebook is teeming with running forums. If you’re not ready to go public with your new activity, then follow a 0-5km (also called couch to 5km) program.Buy an app, listen to the instructions as you run-walk. As long as you stay committed to the 8, 10 or 16-week program, you’ll make progress. The trick is, for those challenging running stints, with no one to talk to, you need to talk to yourself. Try overwrite your negative inner voice with positive mantras such as I am strong, or I love running. The mantra doesn’t need to be true to be useful. Honestly, I ran Melbourne Marathon last year in a state of dehydration and nausea, and the only thing that kept me from completely freaking out was talking to myself, repeating such phrases over and over, to the beat of each footstep. Yet, six years ago, I struggled to talk myself into running 200m. Running, you will discover, really is a mental game, and nowhere is that more apparent than when you start out.

EXCUSE #2: I’m too slow

Granted I’ve never heard a man express fears that they can’t join a running group or a parkrun because of fear of being too slow to keep up but it is a comment I’ve heard from women. The answer to this fear is – it doesn’t matter if you’re slow. If you’re starting out, you should be running slowly, at a pace that allows you to speak full sentences as you run. Speed is irrelevant when you start. In fact, speed can be counterproductive because if you put your body under too much duress too soon, you are likely to get injured. You need to build up both pace and distance over a period of months to allow your muscles, ligaments, and tendons adjust to their new training loads. So, run slow. Running is running.

EXCUSE #3: I don’t have a runner’s body

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Please go to your nearest parkrun and have a look at the diverse shapes, sizes, and running forms on display. The only thing you have to know about a runner’s body is that it runs. End of. 

EXCUSE #4: I’m too old.

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I always thought it a bit comical that when I started running in Malaysia at the ripe old age of 40, I automatically slotted into the Veteran category at races. My father thought I was crazy to start running ‘at my age’. Since moving to Perth and joining Masters Athletics Western Australia, I’ve discovered that being in one’s mid-forties is still fairly young in runners’ years. I’m frequently inspired by septuagenarian marathon runners, women in their mid-fifties who make me look slow as a snail, and former state champions who, though not as nimble as in their prime, keep moving forward one step at a time. If you’re healthy, age is no barrier, and honestly running can often feel like giving the onset of menopause and the encroachment of age the proverbial finger. Age (or death) will get you eventually but that’s no reason to give into it prematurely. 

So, don’t lose heart, if the shine is going off your new year’s good intentions. Stick with it. Join a group or buy an app. Get a coach if you need one. Start walk-running at your local parkrun. Do whatever you need to do to get you started. You deserve it.