Back of the Pack: Australian runners a world apart
Debra McBride, president of the Brisbane (Australia) Road Runners Club, is helping the club celebrate its 30th anniversary. The BRRC hosts runs every two weeks, mixing distances to accommodate all levels of runners.
By Jerry Rhoden
Between the jet lag that resulted from our trip to Australia, and the aftereffects of the previous evening’s birthday party that was the reason for our visit in the first place, we were exhausted. It was impossible to know how we’d feel about getting up for an early morning jaunt with the Brisbane Road Runners Club on Sunday, Sept. 9.
The club, with about 430 members, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012. It puts together a run every two weeks, originating from the South Brisbane Sailing Club. Distances vary, allowing the club to cater to runners of all persuasions.
Diana Southern was on the steering committee for the club’s formation. Now content to participate in the club’s fortnightly weekend runs, she originally was tapped by Dr. Andy Semple, then-director of the University of Queensland Athletics Club Marathon Training Clinic. He was interested in promoting participation in the sport, which spawned the Queensland Marathon and Road Runners Club, the precursor to the BRRC.
“It was for marathon training originally,” Southern said. “But we thought that might cut some people off, so it became the Brisbane Road Runners Club.”
The BRRC is one of more than 90 running clubs in the vast state of Queensland, including such colorful names as the Enoggeroos Orienteering Club, the Mooloolaba Lazy Runners Club, and the Skinnychino Hash House Harriers.
“The longest we do is a 35k,” said BRRC president Debra McBride, who has done two marathons. She likely will do more as she has “unfinished business” with the Gold Coast Marathon. She described that run as being a good first marathon because it’s in Australia’s coolest month of the year (July) and because it’s relatively flat.
The BRRC even hosted a Junior 2k on this Sunday, an outreach to the younger set who might be interested in taking up the sport.
Australians are an active lot. Everywhere my wife and I went on our trip – encompassing both Sydney and Brisbane – we saw people running, walking, cycling, and even kayaking or rowing.
For a visitor, it’s not only cheaper than a taxi, it can be a testament to the perceived safety of the area.
“It helps to be here at the beginning of spring,” McBride said. While back home in the United States we were wrapping up our summer, the Southern Hemisphere was coming out of its winter. “People are getting out of their winter woolies and feeling motivated.”
The BRRC’s 5k/10k route on this cool morning was a simple out-and-back, on a paved route along the Brisbane River. It was difficult to imagine the horror and damage that river has wrought along this very route.
Two small plates affixed to the front entrance to the South Brisbane Sailing Club denote the high-water mark of the river during the Brisbane floods of January 2011 and January 1974 – about 3 feet and 5 feet up, respectively.
While the river has brought fear, death and destruction, it also has brought forth the types of strange-but-amusing stories so prevalent throughout the Land Down Under. During a cruise tour of the Brisbane River, our guide told us that sharks can sometimes be found swimming upriver from the Pacific Ocean, and can be seen jumping from time to time.
As picturesque as this sounds, one local river tram got an up-close view when a 3- to 4-foot bull shark jumped out of the water, hit the sloped front of the boat and was launched straight onto the passenger deck. It flopped about before making its way to a gate that let it back into the water (presumably with some help from a deckhand).
Perhaps it was fitting that I wore my Waves; the Mizuno Wave Inspire 8. (Oh how I wished to be wearing ASICS’ Aussie-inspired GEL-Noosa Tri!) It was not a chip-timed race – just clock-timed – as it was more of a training run than a large-scale charity race.
But the BRRC does participate in the International Women’s Day Fun Run in March, which drew about 7,000 participants according to McBride. That event is a fundraiser for the Chicks in Pink initiative to benefit breast-cancer research.
Neither my wife nor I ran any kind of record time that day, but we were glad we looked up a local running club while traveling. It opened up a world of new experiences.