I loosen the top button on my shirt and take in a half breath. The day is finished; the evening has started in half-light. This is a short story of a single run around Melbourne’s tan track.
I sit in my car at the top of one of Melbourne’s great running spots – the tan; that beautiful 3.87km loop around the Botanical gardens just out of the heart of the CBD. This loop is the heart of the running community in Melbourne, once a horse track for Melbourne’s more wealthy inhabitants. It somehow never gets old despite the uncountable laps of this track I’ve done. I squirm to get out of my work clothes and into my running gear, flashes of people walking, jogging, and running across the crunchy surface of the tan, sloshing through puddles.
How many great ideas have been created during a run around this loop?
The crunch of gravel reach my ears, a familiar friend, as I reach for my shoelaces. The cool night air breezes over my head as I ease down the steep Anderson St., weaving through the faint sounds of people chatting in small groups. Monday nights’ – often maligned, has become an institution for our group of amateurs – training and striving for something only we each individually know. Monday is our easy night after a solid Sunday long run. We gather on the corner, leaning into small rocks to stretch out tight calves.
Short conversations on how the weekend sessions went and how the body is holding up intersects with banter about anyone and everyone. We stretch out along Alexander parade with the river following us on our right. We’ve run this path too many times to count, but it always feels fresh, and never gets boring. The pace is soft, gentle, allowing the muscles to warm from the mild friction. The light drops of rain run off my jacket as the city skyline looms up ahead and just as quickly falls away as we curl around to face away from the city and climb up towards the Observatory and past the Shrine of Remembrance.
It somehow never gets old despite the uncountable laps of this track I’ve done.
It darkens as our group move swiftly under the large trees lining the Botanical gardens. We press on up Hamsters hill, so named after our friend who always pushes the pace up this part of the loop, the highest peak of the tan track. We push over the top and down Anderson St – a very steep stretch that leads you back down to the river. I listen to people coming the other way strain up the steep hill, each with their own battle, each with their own goals, and each with their own reasons for being there.
I love how individual this beautiful sport can be, yet how much camaraderie, friendship and groups can drive you to achieve greater things. On our second lap around, there are fewer people to navigate. Fast thoughts of the day start to ebb into slower ones, and I begin to notice little things about this track. We cruise past the signpost that records the fastest known laps of the tan – great professional runners like Craig Mottram, Steve Moneghetti, and Lee Troop. But it is the amateur names on the top 100 list that inspire and are of interest because it is those guys that I’m running with tonight. They don’t run to make a living out of the sport, they do it because they love the idea of improvement in themselves, of striving for a new best time, for celebrating running as a great way to live.
But it is the amateur names on the top 100 list that inspire and are of interest because it is those guys that I’m running with tonight.
The run comes to an end, I say goodbye to my mates. As I putter back to my car, I stop to think. How many steps have been taken on this surface? How many great ideas have been created during a run around this loop? How many minds have been eased of their worries from a lap of this park? I crack a smile and drive off home.