Running for fitness and frienship
Nothing could be more exhilarating than running through some of the most beautiful foreshore scenery, parkland and bushland along the North Shore.
As running festivals and competitions grow in popularity each year, clubs are providing not only training opportunities but also friendship networks for members keen to extend the weekend run into a social activity and entertainment. The Australian Health Survey for 2014 identified physical activity as one of the most important contributors to maintaining overall good health, and the time spent on physical activity has been an important focus of government research and policy development.
Speaking to a few members from North Shore's most popular running clubs, it's clear the organisations are catering for a wide variety of ages, skills and sporting competency levels - and the benefits are not just related to sport - they are providing their members with much more.
Sydney Striders is one of the largest running organisations on the North Shore and is this year celebrating its 35th birthday. The club says at a time when many organisations are losing members, it has been growing from strength to strength.
It was started in 1980 by North Shore local Charles Coyille, who wanted to put together a group of runners to train for marathons.
The group commenced with just a handful of runners in the Artarmon area. They would each plan a run of 20 to 30 kilometres that ended with Sunday breakfast, and it was not too long before the group grew to 20 people.
Joe Degabriele, who has been a member for the past 20 years, says Sydney Striders is "more than just a club".
"It's a community with a supportive environment where everyone has the aim of staying fit by running," he tells North Shore Living.
"We have a host of different courses, and we have runners that are novices to highly-accomplished competitive athletes who run at a state and national level. We all train and support each other.
"The Sunday running schedule mixes bush, fire trails and roads, and members spend time chatting with each other for the 15 to 30 kilometres," he says.
The club provides maps of where each run will go as well as detailed instructions. "It's always a friendly pack," Mr Degabriele continues. "It's a pace that most people want to run and the courses are marked out with planned water and toilet stops. It's a very welcoming environment and one where everyone can socialise and discuss the runs and techniques.
"I enjoy discovering the different parts of Sydney, especially the bush tracks and trails on the North Shore, with the friends I have made. We spend two to three hours on Sunday morning solving the world's problems. Sometimes there is so much chatter going on up a quiet street that you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a casual social club,” he laughs.
The Sydney Striders has a strong contingent of junior runners, with nearly 100 juniors representing the club in the NSW Athletics Association.
Norihside Running Group
Northside Running Group president Timothy Lyndon says he has been thankful about how "welcoming and easygoing" everyone in the group is - especially as he has only been with the club for the past three years.
"I was impressed that someone as relatively new as me was able to take up the position as president,” Mr Lyndon says.
"In the Northside Running Group, we have people come along who have never run before but want to give it a try, right through to those who can run up to 200 kilometres.
"The majority of our members just enjoy turning up on a Thursday or Saturday and running between 10 and 16 kms, so we can cater for all levels. Our oldest member is in his 80s and still going strong," he tells Nonh Shore Living.
"For me, one of the best things about being a member is the friendships you make. The attitude of someone who has just been for a run is infectious - they are fun and happy people to be with. The fact that the membership fee is just $60 for a full year is certainly a major benefit as well.”
Another Northside Running Group runner, Sally McElwain, echoes these sentiments.
"What I do enjoy most about running on the North Shore is the tracks we run on. Every run is so scenic and there is always something different to look at. You certainly don't have to pound the pavement - there are lovely tracks along St Leonards bike path, Lane Cove and Balmoral."
Parkrun has organisations around Australia and oversesa.
Mosman parkrun is a five-kilometre run held every Saturday at Spit West Reserve, with organisers saying it's just "you against the clock”.
The run started locally in October 2013 and has grown in size and popularity since then. It has now become a firm calendar event for many people in the area.
Run director and local resident Mary Botto says the club has 63 events, with more than 700 different runners taking part, but with an average of 34 actively participating each week. "Our youngest participant is five years old and the oldest is a man in his late 70s." she tells North Shore Living.
"We have a combination of runners taking part – from distance and ultramarathon athletes to families who run together, grandparents, mums with prams to people with dogs.
"Besides the obvious health and fitness benefits, I think one of the best reasons for coming down to The Spit is the connections you make - it really makes me feel more connected to the community. I often bump into people I met through parkrun on the bus or on the street. I've made so many new friends,” she says.
Another runner, Kathryn Hodgkinson, who is now Mosman parkrun event director, powerwalked her first parkrun on the Northern Beaches but thought Mosman - where she lives - needed its own running group.
"What inspired me from the beginning was the sense of belonging, friendship and also community that I felt during my first ever parkrun. It didn’t matter that I was by far the slowest in the field - I was encouraged, supported and cheered on right to the finish by people I had never even met before.
“It felt amazing and I wanted everyone in not only Mosman, but on the North Shore, to feel the same way,” Ms Hodgkinson tells North Shore Living.