The alarm is set for 5am and despite getting in late from a work Christmas party Paul Graham and Katherine “Caddy” Oswin are preparing to drive the three hours from Melbourne to Wangaratta to complete their 55th different Victorian parkrun in just over a year. It seems a long way to go for a five-kilometre event lasting little more than 20 minutes, especially given the Richmond couple has a perfectly good parkrun just around the corner at Westerfolds.
They’re chasing Victorian statesmanship.
And their strategy is simple; “Beach runs in the Summer and northern runs in the Winter”.
Paul, 40, was having a few beers with friends on a golf trip when at around 2am they began discussing the fast approaching Ballarat parkrun that morning. “I was telling Tim Wood there must be around 50 in Victoria and he should do one near him,” he said.
Tim had a better idea, challenging Paul to do EVERY one.
Paul got wife Caddy, 31, on board and off they went.
“It actually seemed like fun, but even doing them every week and the holiday double and we are still trying to get there after a year,” he said.
A year and more than 13,000 kilometres on and Paul and Caddy have just four parkruns left on their original list – Hamilton, Cohuna, Cobram and Shepparton. “By the looks of it, we will be complete by New Year’s Day, doing Cobram at 7.30am and Shepparton at 9.30am,” Paul said.
“It’s been great fun. We are calling it our time of adventures before dentures, as we will battle to have such luxuries, if kids or basic maturity ever come along. But it has been a great run so far and we have met a lot of great people and been to some great communities,” he said.
There have been some big trips – none bigger than the 718-kilometre journey to and from Portland parkrun and the 765 kilometre round trip to Mount Beauty, via Wodonga.
Birthdays and wedding anniversaries have been replaced by parkruns, with filling up the car with petrol and breakfasts out, now synonymous with Saturday mornings.
Remarkably the couple, which was almost always late to Westerfolds has made it everywhere on time, albeit with some close calls. They also spend less time actually running, with their times improving dramatically over the year. Caddy did her first parkrun in a time of 37.07 and this year notched up a 24.28 PB at Pakenham.
She’s been the first female finisher on many occasions, while just a few weeks ago Paul crossed the line first at Ararat. “I’m still trying to get under 20 minutes without any luck, while my mates who run them less regularly do it easily which is quite annoying,” said Paul.
They’re seven letters short of a complete alphabet – and are considering adding Ocean Grove and Rosebud to their original list to make it five.
There have been plenty of highlights, with the “interesting looking geese at Phillip Island” and Wangaratta’s “peaceful” course at the top of the list. “Which may explain why my time was seven minutes slower than normal,” said Caddy.
The couple’s normally city bound car has enjoyed long drives on the open roads, with many a weekend spent combining their love of parkrun with Caddy’s interest in hockey. “One of the highlights was doing Lalor parkrun and then Caddy’s team winning their grand final,” Paul said.
There’s been international travel too, sadly for Caddy though after convincing her companions to join her at parkrun in Malaysia, the event was cancelled that day.
Paul said the only other low light was “Spilling my coffee on myself this morning and ruining two shirts before the morning has even started”.
“For me, it hasn’t been a huge commitment, just a great way to kick off each weekend. Though I’m still not sure if I like running or not!” Caddy said.
Either way, the sleep-deprived couple is ready for their next big challenge – a baby due in 2019.
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