Gungahlin parkrun, ACT

Gungahlin parkrun course
Gungahlin parkrun course – arrow marks the wrong turn.

I had the car till 11, so could head to any ACT parkrun, with three of the four roughly equidistant from where I stayed in Downer. All looked good – similar fields, beautiful locations. Gungahlin won my vote, on the basis that I’d head to Burley Griffin while sightseeing, and Ginninderra has been done by a fellow tourist already, and isn’t a loop. I suppose Gungahlin isn’t a pure loop, as you cross the start and do another 200m or so to the finish, but it’ll do very nicely.

Yerrabi pond
Exploring the route beforehand. Sri Chinmoy may run races here.

I arrived nice and early to make sure I could park – partly to avoid panic, mostly to avoid embarrassment while faffing with the automatic. I walked into the park at the same time as the run director who commented on my 250 shirt, then realised he knew me – we ran together at Railton before Christmas, he was the Canberra visitor that day. We didn’t chat much on either occasion, but now I see he has run 30 different parkruns, including his recent tourism burst in Tasmania, so that was an opportunity missed.

Gungahlin parkrun crowd gathers
The crowd gather at the start – 323 finishers on the day.

Still, he did a mighty fine and relaxed job as RD on the day. Just one thing that might have been good – give the marshal on the bridge (where the arrow is, not coincidentally) a couple of instructions. More later.

The run loops round Yerrabi pond, on a tarmacced track that might be shared with dog walkers and cyclists, though we didn’t see any today. A blessing with 300+ runners. It’s scenic, for sure. There would probably be some shade, and it’s pretty flat, so it could be quick, though in the summer you might get a head/tail wind as we had today, or very hot temperatures – running there in winter comes highly recommended by the run director. Today was a glorious day in Canberra. About 25 degrees at the highest, therefore cooler in the morning, but still plenty sweaty. I’ll take it, though – it was 35 or so yesterday.

I set off reasonably well up the pack, but was a fair way back – I start slowly, and also still can’t judge where to stand, so was a little too far down the pack. The run today had visitors from a training group, or something – 6 unknowns among the 8 ahead of me on the day, anyway, there for a speed session, but either not registering or not wanting to put their name to it. Officially, then, I was first in my age category, but might not have been, and I was beaten by the unregistered first female runner – who was out of sight.

As I worked my way through the pack, targeting an older bloke who I’d heard say he was aiming around 20 mins, I found myself in a pack of 3 fit ladies. They were being paced to 20 by a lanky runner who seemed to be pacing himself. Certainly he had plenty of ability to push on, and breath to talk, though his pb isn’t much quicker. Selfless every week, perhaps. Motivated by beating as many of them as possible, I ran through, and headed that group, with everyone else out of sight.

Running up to where the arrow is, the two runners ahead disappeared across the bridge. I had time, as if in slow motion as I approached his position, to watch the marshal leave his spot by the bridge (bear left) and nonchalantly nudge a sign round (bear right). Go past the bridge, it seemed to say. I pointed that way. He did nothing. I ran onto the bridge. So did three or four people behind me. We got a loud shout from another runner, and turned round to join the right course.

The sign was clear. The marshal was not. Perhaps he didn’t actually know. A classic ‘you had one job’, to stand there and point right, but no complaints on a free run, and at least I ran the full course. As a pack formed temporarily while we reoriented and those behind had time to catch up, there was a little chat about Steve being in a lot of trouble for cutting the corner. I heard him later talking about the results not lying. All good fun. Though results do lie if people run different courses. Not that any of them were scanning in anyway, so it really mattered even less than it normally would (which is not at all, to my mind).

Gungahlin parkrun
Nearing the home stretch, sub-20 pace pack behind me (more spread out than I remember them being).

A little demotivated, I worked to get to the head of the pack again, and it was here that I realised the tall bloke was pacing, and at least one of the female runners was really chasing the sub 20. Two of them got it, including one who had never run that quick before. The other has a much quicker pb, though hasn’t run that fast recently. I think the third was another non-scanner, perhaps disappointed at being slower than potential.

I managed to hold them all off, despite tired legs, motivated by being able to hear footsteps and the pacer motivating them from behind. They had actually spaced out a fair amount as we came along the section pictured above – here we turned left, into the last km, downhill and with a tailwind, all of which was motivation enough to get going, quite apart from the footsteps behind me.

A lovely run, though tough when pushing on a warm day. I had a brief chat with my RD near-chum, ran around the reserve a bit and pushed off to shower before returning the car and sightseeing while in town. Perfect parkrun, once again. That’s my 23rd Australian parkrun, and I’ve now run in 7 of the 8 states. I had 11 in 5 states before I came on this trip, adding Tasmania and now ACT this time.

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