Runners growing in Hunter Region with plenty of events to choose from

SHARING THE LOVE: The Night Striders women's running group provides a safe and supportive place to run with others and has grown to around 600 members in the past seven years. Picture: Marina Neil
SHARING THE LOVE: The Night Striders women's running group provides a safe and supportive place to run with others and has grown to around 600 members in the past seven years. Picture: Marina Neil

In winter sickness seems all around us but there is another epidemic I’ve noticed sweeping through the Hunter Region: it’s the running epidemic and it’s highly contagious.

I have always enjoyed being active but it wasn’t until I signed up for the City2Surf about 15 years ago that I really developed a “sickness” for running.

I say sickness because I think it’s fair to say there is something sick about enjoying the pain of running when you are pushing yourself to achieve your goals.

But the feeling after, when the endorphins are flowing, is where the addiction starts and there seems to be plenty in our region hooked.

You can’t go to an event in NSW without bumping into someone from Newy on the start line or in the finish shute.

Hordes of Novocastrians made the trek to Sydney for the iconic City2Surf on Sunday, many who never would have dreamed of ever being “a runner”.

I have two good friends who have caught the bug. They both professed a fervent dislike of running before I managed to talk them into going down one year. It is now an annual pilgrimage.

I spoke to two ladies last week who are part of the Night Striders running group, who coordinate times for women to run together in a safe, supportive environment.

One was Darlene Reis, who co-founded the group in 2010 with Melinda Roberts.

“The first year we had about 22 people and then the next year it was a hundred and now it’s close to 600,” Darlene said.

Her first running event was the 10k at the Lake Macquarie Running Festival 12 years ago. She had her son in the pram and had to sing Mary Had A Little Lamb the whole way. It ignited a passion and next was the Hill2Harbour 10k, followed by a half marathon and then a marathon. Now she is doing 100km trail runs.

Her friend Sanji Johnson is much newer to running but one can sense she is headed along the same path.

Just over 12 months ago she started parkrun, where she met some other Night Striders who convinced her to join them. Sanji is now gearing up for the Lake Macquarie Running Festival’s 10k on August 27.

LEADING THE CHARGE: Dave "Robbo" Robertson has been integral in inspiring a region of runners in the Hunter. He brought parkrun to Newcastle five years ago. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

LEADING THE CHARGE: Dave "Robbo" Robertson has been integral in inspiring a region of runners in the Hunter. He brought parkrun to Newcastle five years ago. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Along with a host of runners from here I am heading to Barrington Tops on Saturday for the 16km Thunderbolt Trail Race.

Years ago I never would have dreamed of doing a trail run but after “mastering” the 10k and doing a few half marathons trail running seems to be the next step.

Running expert Dave “Robbo” Robertson told me parkrun has been a great starting point for many.

“It seems like the region is developing not only an appetite but an ability for running with more and more people doing half marathons and trail runs now,” he said.

“parkrun is such a great introduction, or reintroduction, to running and lots of informal running groups have formed from there.”

If you are looking to challenge yourself, there are plenty of events coming up. You might even catch the bug too.

Winter Warmer Workout

Spring is looming large and now is the perfect time to establish a fitness routine, which can take time so set achievable goals. If 30 minutes a day is too much, start with 10 and build from there.

Combine strength and cardio for a short but effective workout:

15 squats (add a slam ball to work your shoulders); 20 shoulder punches (with or without light weights); 15 rows (bent-over or seated); 20 mountain climbers (standing shuffles for an easier option); 20 walking lunges (add weight to make it harder); walk, run, row, cycle, skip 5 minutes. Repeat twice.

Upcoming fitness events

Lake Macquarie Running Festival, August 27, Warners Bay: Sign up for a 21.1km or 10.5km challenge. There is also a 4km kids event. www.lakemacrunning.com.

Wollombi Wild Ride, September 2, Wollombi: A recreational mountain bike event for riders of varying abilities. There are 13.5km, 30km or 58km options. wollombiwildride.net.

Walk 4 Hope, September 16, Croudace Bay: A 4km walk raising funds and awareness for Huntington’s Disease, a rare disease with a range of symptoms which generally worsen over time and affects a person's ability to feel, think, and move. www.huntingtonsnsw.org.au.

Renee Valentine is a writer, qualified personal trainer and mother. r.valentine@fairfaxmedia.com.au.