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The Sydney versus Melbourne debate continues to rage fiercely between residents of Australia's two largest cities. Usually the argument is framed in terms of beachfront property, major sporting events, restaurants and coffee. For runners the question can be equally vexing – especially for those corporate nomads caught up in a regular Sydney/Melbourne shuttle. I've been there. The struggle to maintain your running habit while devoting huge chunks of your time and energy to working interstate is a very real one.
As a Melbourne boy I was a dismal failure in this regard, falling into the trap of hanging about in the Sydney CBD – a pretty dire place to launch a run from. So I didn't. Then I asked quintessential business traveller and fellow running tragic, Lisa Biffin, who currently calls Sydney home, to suggest some ideas for runs that interstate visitors to the harbour city can try.
Lisa instantly suggested exploring some of the fantastic scenery on offer in Sydney’s parks and trails. Here are three of her favourite runs.
Harbour Bridge Run
I like many others, didn't realise that you can actually run over the Sydney Harbour Bridge. This run is truly spectacular as it takes you from the CBD over to North Sydney and provides breathtaking views along the way. Finding the entrance is a little challenging as you need to navigate through an area known as The Rocks, which is a rabbit warren of paths, ancient rock staircases and narrow streets. However, many people commute to and from work this way, so you can usually find someone to follow. Once across the bridge, you arrive in the suburb of Kirribilli (home to the Prime Minister’s official Sydney residence). Explore the Kirribilli foreshore along the harbour if you have some extra puff.
The Centennial Parklands are a stunning group of public parks located about 3km east of the CBD. Here there are plenty of options available for constructing runs of different lengths within the park. The most popular track is a 3.6km loop of the main park, but if you have time to explore, there are a myriad of ovals, hills and off-track trails to be discovered to add some variety to your training.
The coastal run: Bondi to Coogee
A little effort is required to get out to the eastern suburb of Bondi, but it's definitely worth it. This incredibly scenic trail takes you from Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach across impressive clifftops through beachside hideaway suburbs including Tamarama, Clovelly and Bronte and stretches across about 5km of coastline, finishing at Coogee Beach. The only downside to this run are the crowds, narrow pathways and the abundance of stairs that stretch along the course.
It wouldn't be much of a Sydney/Melbourne debate without some options for runners visiting Melbourne thrown into the discussion. I'm in my element here, having spend many hours exploring the runs on offer around the Melbourne CBD and slightly further afield. My top three runs for visitors to Melbourne include:
The Tan is a 3.8km loop around Melbourne's Botanic Gardens. It’s an obvious one, I know, but it needs to be on your bucket list. It is a bit of a benchmark test for local Melbourne runners. So if you're after some water cooler chat with Melbourne running colleagues, test yourself on a clockwise circumnavigation (with its challenging climb up the Anderson Street hill) of this fantastic trail.
The Yarra River
A comprehensive set of sealed trails allows you to explore the city’s biggest river, heading towards Melbourne's estern suburbs. Very fit runners can construct long loops as the river doubles back on itself towards the city at Hawthorn. For the casual jogger, a comfortable timed out-and-back run is the way to go. Just keep an eye out for speedy cyclists!
If you have access to a car, or are confident navigating public transport, there are some great parks with awesome running trails within a few kilometres of the CBD. Princess Park in the inner city suburb of Carlton (3.2 km loop) or Caulfield Park (2.2km loop) in North Caulfield are great options if you have a demanding training session scheduled. The main reason is they are much less busy than The Tan, which can get hectic in peak times.
Please feel free to share your favourite runs for visitors to Sydney or Melbourne. In coming months I'll take a closer look at Perth, Brisbane, Canberra, Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart.