Nambour Park Run
Information about Nambour Parkrun can be found on their Parkrun web page. It is my goal through these reviews to simply give you a view of the runs through my unique perspective. I will break this into four sections which will include general feel, the course, my final thoughts followed by the mandatory post mortem coffee scene. Let’s start by looking at the general feel, pre-race.
Nambour suffered blow after blow and now it stands at the gateway to the hinterland as a depressed ghost town, a mere shadow of its former self. But before you get too depressed, it is not all doom and gloom, Nambour is on the way back and it’s evolving. As it reinvents itself it is amazing to watch its various attempts at springing back to life as a place with substance. Nambour is a glowing ember which wants to grow and give birth to the phoenix of the Sunshine Coast community. Granted it probably will never grow to become the epicentre of the Sunshine Coast like it once was, but it will be fascinating to see what it will become.
Nambour Parkrun represents the new evolution of the Nambour township and, as such, it is the must run member of the Sunshine Coast Parkrun community. Having said that I must tell you that as a Parkrun it is not going to be one that you will visit to set a PB (this would be impossible – read the course for reasons why). It is also not a place that you will break in your new shoes or bring your pram along for a run. It is a run that that will strip you to your soul and build you back up again, just like the community that it represents. While none of my proceeding words will do it justice when all is said and done, Nambour Parkrun is simply a run that must be experienced to be understood.
The run is staged out of Parklands Regional Park on Radar Hill Road. As it is a regional park it doesn’t allow dogs and you are running on tracks with steep ascents and declines with rocky surfaces and creek crossings, so you need to watch where you are running to prevent twisted ankles. Prams can be taken along for the ride but it is not advised unless your child is wearing a helmet and has a five-point safety harness! It is a little bumpy to say the least, but if you and your child are the adventurous types then I would say you will both delight the field with your squeals of excitement tinged with terror.
As I did my brief warm up I remembered why it has been exactly 12 months since I ran here last. My ego just wouldn’t let me forget it. As an average, I usually run around 21 to 22 minutes and finish just outside the top ten for most of my Parkruns. On the 4th on May 2018 I ran the 5km at Nambour park run with a soul sapping time of 36 minute and a placing of 25th. This Parkrun chewed me up and spat me out,and I simply ran and hid for a full year before I had the guts to return and face my demons to produce this blog.
On my return to Nambour the field is just as small as I remembered it and it is once again packed with hard core trail runners who stand up to this course and simply smile. Trail runners are an amazing breed! They run because they can and I love that. They have no bells and whistles they just love to run and it is so refreshing to look around the field and see the wizened features etched on their faces, the utilitarian clothes hanging off tightly striated muscles and you can’t help but do a double take as you try to work out if their shoes are splattered with dried blood or red dirt.
I am shocked out of my musing as the event bizarrely starts with a 500m walk to the start line. It turns out that Nambour has two iterations and we are to do the infamous Course B today which is the one that is chosen when the Course A loop is deemed too dangerous to attempt. Proof once again that Nambour is nothing if not interesting and creative in the face of any problem that is thrown their way. After the picturesque walk ends, we wait for the stragglers to catch up and then we are off!
Be warned and strap your ankles is all I can say! Whether it is Course A or Course B this Parkrun has the potential to take your running career and smash it like a wooden dingy thrown onto the rocks in a storm. That one moment that you drift off and misplace a foot on your weakening ankles you will be punished with some stretched or torn ligaments. On this day, I did pass one of the speedy front running hares limping back towards the start line after an unfortunate twisted ankle, so once again hasten slowly on this course because this much ‘fun’ does come with some risks.
The best way to describe, and possibly prepare you for this course, is to talk you through the elevation gains and losses. After your initial 500m walk from your eventual finish line to the start line you are perched at what seems the top of a ridge line at 55m in elevation. Unknown to you if you are a first timer, is the fact that the just around the corner is a 40m rise which requires you to climb consistently over the next 500m. After this point you then drop 30m over the next 500m. From this point forward you will never settle, as a series of rinse and repeat yo yo elevation gains and losses keep you on your toes (pun intended). There is absolutely no flat section where you can just zone out and let your legs fly out in front of you. You are either climbing like a mountain goat or you are pin wheeling down the side of what seems like a sheer cliff face.
The second kilometre is brutal, but not for the reasons you would think. While many of you will look at the attached elevation graph, see the 35m elevation gain and think that looks hard, it is actually the 300m section at the end of the second kilometre that saw me plummet through the field. As I plugged up the 35m climb over 700m I was happy that I was passing a few of the faster pace setters that took off earlier. As I passed one of the runners he looked at me and said ‘good job mate, I hope you are just as good going down hill!’ Once I crested the top of the hill and I looked down the hill that fell away in front of me I knew that I would be passed by that very wise man very shortly.
In the next 300m section the elevation dropped away 75m over some variable terrain. From muddy and slippy sections to deep rutted tracks sliced into the landscape to sections of gravel strewn dirt to keep you totally bamboozled and questioning your every choice of foot placement. Every meter of this torturous descent must be watched and while I was gingerly navigating down my personal Everest I was passed by 13 runners all with far greater descending skills than I.
Kilometre three sees you hit the turn around. You convince yourself that it will be better on the way home, but you know it won’t be. Not after a 5:01 for the first kilometre followed by a 5:57 for the second kilometre, where I somehow managed to run slower down a hill than I did running up it. Kilometre three, with its 65m climb, saw me post a 7:41 spilt which was achieved through an effort evenly divided between a walk/run strategy consisting of a fast-paced knee pushing walk and an energy draining effort at running where my pulse went through the roof and my pace marginally lifted above its walking benchmark. In retrospect I should have just walked the whole hill and saved my energy for the slightly less steep sections in kilometres 4 and 5.
The final two kilometres was mind-numbingly painful as my legs had given up after being pounded on the descents, to the point where my knees screamed and my ankles felt like they were swelling over the tops of my shoes. Added to this was the searing pain in my calves and quads from the ascents. The 1 km lap beeps on my watch played with my head as my body was giving everything but my mind was consistently disappointed with the times being shown and asked my body for more.
Then, I kid you not, Nambour placed an Emu on the path in front of me and suddenly all my pain was gone and my brain was wired as I knew I was in the middle of the highlight of my running career. As I ran initially behind, then next to, the emu I was suspended in disbelief and I oscillated between brain fog and clarity. The emu ran with such grace and effortless speed.
It was an Emu on a Parkrun course, what episode of The Twilight Zone was I in the middle of. As I drew up next to the emu, I craned my neck to the left and he to the right and we simply turned our wary eyes to each other and shared a moment as our strides briefly united and we both thought ‘what the hell are you doing here’ before the emu gave me a master class in change of pace and was gone. It was so bizarre and I looked around to validate the experience with anyone that was near me. As I turned around I was faced with a bemused smile from a fellow runner and a shrug of his shoulders which showed equal parts disbelief and acceptance that this is Nambour Parkrun, anything is possible. I also got the feeling he would have made the same shrug if a Lion chased an Antelope along the path, such is the experience at this Parkrun.
It was a special moment and only lasted for a few meters, but it was enough to recharge my body and mind and get me back into groove again. I did the last two kilometres in a 5:18 and a 4:43 spilt, which allowed me to reclaim some lost positions from the fiasco of the hill in kilometres 2 and 3. I finished the race with a 28:40 which was an 8 minute PB on Course B. I finished once again just outside the top 10 with a 14th place. While I will walk away from this race with a smile on my face, I can say that I did not conquer this course. It simply played with me like a cat with a ball of wool. It slapped me around and sunk its claws in once or twice, but in the end I was lucky enough that the Nambour Parkrun was in a patient mood and allowed me to think that I had a personal victory.
I love this course and not just because of the emu. I reason I love it is because it doesn’t want to be loved, it wants you to hate it. I know that is terrible to say, but rest assured it is a good love-hate relationship. I personally love the beautiful bushland setting and the cooling microclimate of the shaded course. I love the people that organize this run, their positivity and their love of running is infectious. They make people feel welcomed and want you to have a great time. I also love that the course is challenging and lulls you into a false sense of security then regifts the flying start by slapping it back into your face on the return. And what I most love is that it tries to teach patience.
My dislike of the course can be summarized in the stopped watch starring back at me when I cross the line. Not only does it show a time which is well outside my 5km PB time, it doesn’t even have the courtesy to show me a full 5km. In the case of the run I did for this review it showed 4.78km. Which meant even if I did have the perfect race and nailed a PB it wouldn’t have ‘counted’ because it wasn’t the full distance. In many ways that is what this run does. It gives but not fully. I would equate it to a cat as a pet. A cat will let you stroke its but only as long as it wants you to pet it. This course will purr for you as your feet fly across the surface for the first 3.5km, then turn around and scratch you across the face in the final 1.5km if you forget your place or it gets bored with you. While this may sound slightly melodramatic, you need to experience this course to see that my personification of the course is pretty accurate.
My final take away for this course is don’t get caught up in wilful ignorance, you will need to hasten slowly over these 5km (4.78km!). I came away with a 14th place and a course PB of 28:41, which was 11 places and 8 minutes faster than last time and I got to run with an emu! AN EMU!
Post mortem Coffee Scene
To quote the most popular movie in Australian history ‘The Castle’ “Dad says I am the ideas man”. Reflecting this quote I would like to say that this Parkrun needs a coffee van. Being in a regional park it is a fair drive to get to the nearest coffee shop to reflect on your run and check to see if you have blisters, ticks, leeches or all three. A coffee van would allow you to lie on the ground under the 100 year old trees and ask them for their wise advice about how to run this course better.
Short of bringing your own thermos filled with coffee or tea I suggest that you head to one of three locations in Nambour town centre. The old mill site, Nambour central or the lane way that runs next to the council chambers. All three of these locations offer very good coffee and a great snapshot of a city of the past and a town settling into its the future.
Nambour Town centre
If you had the worst run of your life, like I did the first time I did this run, or you came to the Nambour Parkrun with the intent of running with an emu but missed out, then I suggest that you go to the Nambour Central Mall. Sandwiched between the Dunkin Donut and Big W is two well-worn massage chairs that your stiffening muscles will beg for you to sit in. I suggest that you pin your ears back, get an average coffee from Dunkin Donuts, put in your $2, close your eyes and let the mechanical fingers prod your pain away. Granted getting a massage in a mall chair for everyone to see is not the most dignified act, but who needs dignity when you have had the most soul sapping running experience of your life. I promise once you leave the chair you will be ready to rebuild your running career.
The Old Mill site
Next to the Coles, which is just west of the official town centre, sits the site of the deconstructed sugar mill. There are a few carefully placed monuments to the past lifeblood of this once thriving town. The tram lines and the crusher from mill stand as a naked and impotent reminder of what they used to be. Sitting on the corner is the Good Bean. An earnest coffee shop that has good coffee, food and outdoor seating so you cam sit and watch the world go pass for a little while and engage in spirited conversation about the run without anyone noticing or even caring that you are dressed in sweat soaked lycra.
Bury street next to Council Chamber
Running just off Currie Street, which is the main drag of Nambour, is Bury Street which houses the old Sunshine Coast Council chambers and the Nambour Library. Opposite the chambers is my pick of coffee shops in Nambour; Small Change Espresso. This coffee shop is the brave new evolution of Nambour culture. Go here if you want to mark your Parkrun success and wish to contribute and celebrate the rebirth of this amazing town.
Next week – Mudjimba Parkrun
Park Run Facts
First Event: 21/11/2015
Number of events: 189
Number of runners: 2,531
Number of runs: 12,170
Number of first finishers: 139
Number of clubs: 187
Number of PBs: 1,860
Average number of runners per week: 64.4
Average number of runs per runner: 4.8
Biggest Attendance: 210 (And the first one run)
Average run time: 00:37:39
Total hours run: 0Years 318Days 5Hrs 27Min 5Secs
Total distance run: 60,850km
Female record holder: Simone FITZGERALD - 22:32 - Event 61 (25/12/16)
Male record holder: Dean CANE - 19:05 - Event 135 (05/05/18)
Age graded record holder: Chris BELL - 71 % - 20:07 - Event 98 (02/09/17)