About halfway between Sydney and Melbourne, Wagga Wagga – or Wagga to the locals – is a growing regional city on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. Even better, the rural town has a parkrun.
Wagga Wagga means “place of many crows” in the Wiradjuri language and is NSW’s biggest inland city, largely due to the transient nature of the city’s adjacent army and RAAF bases.
Another claim to fame is the Wagga “beach”, a sandy, gum tree-lined spot on the Murrumbidgee River where locals like to gather for a BBQ, rope swing, swim or kayak.
Wagga is a hub for agribusiness, sport, art and culture and bigger than many expect. The summers are hot and dry and the town boasts plenty of charm and wide-open spaces.
Event Director Rebecca Baker said Wagga was a town that prided itself on community spirit, which was why parkrun was such a great fit for the locals. “I was moved by parkrun’s inclusive model when I first started running in Sydney and when I moved to Wagga I knew instantly the town would grab the idea with both hands and yes, run with it,” she said.
Wagga parkrun starts and finishes in the Apex Park on the edge of Lake Albert. It is an out and back course along an asphalt path (which is dog and pram friendly) and is mostly flat. The course runs along the north side of the lake which is lined with trees.
In winter, the lake provides a glassy, misty surface which Rebecca said was “stunning”.
Tourists are always welcome at parkrun in Wagga and Rebecca said it was a great town to visit to get a dose of true country charm. “People who have visited me and my family from Sydney or Melbourne are always so surprised by our hidden gem. There are lots of pubs to choose from, plenty of high-quality accommodation, friendly locals and shows at the civic theatre.”
Rebecca said the volunteer roster was often filled by army and airforce personnel as well as staff from the local hospital. She also said people of various religions took part. “Every week I see new friendships being made, old friends meeting up and just a general feeling of fun at parkrun, which I think every community needs.”
After Wagga parkrun, the team get their caffeine fix at Mock Orange Cafe, which Rebecca said was the best coffee in town. They are really keen on supporting community projects, which of course we love and they give our volunteers free coffee each week.
Looking for a way to choose your next holiday destination? With more than 2,000 parkruns worldwide, more and more parkrunners are using parkrun to see the world. Canberra based couple and parkrun regulars since July 2013, Kat and Michael Sliwinski are using it to see Australia with their two daughters, Elle (2) and Eve (4)….
I just completed my first parkrun. Though I am able-bodied, I am awaiting a total knee replacement surgery and have played wheelchair Rugby League for a number of years. I asked my local parkrun if I could do it in my chair and they were happy to have me join, which I did last…