I really have no excuse not to get fit these days. When I first arrived in Australia in Sydney last October I was impressed by the “outdoor gyms” they have lining popular running routes. Various pieces of exercise equipment line pathways often frequented by joggers – pull up bars, benches, and so on. No wonder this is such a fit and healthy country. Many Brits, myself included, often cite poor weather and lack of convenience as excuses for not doing exercise as regularly as we perhaps should. Now that I live in an apartment with a free pool and gym and there is a beautiful park down the street complete with outdoor gym fixtures, I cannot make any such complaint.
The section of track where Timo Glock shunted in 2008 and Pastor Maldonado crashed in 2012
I’m lucky enough to live five minutes from the centre of Melbourne and ten minutes from a non-Tilke Formula One circuit in the form of Albert Park. The transformation since the Grand Prix in March has been incredible. Now the park is back to being a stunning home to joggers, swans and 45 sporting clubs from cricket to Aussie Rules, plus an 18 hole golf course. The climate here, though unpredictable, lends itself well to outdoor exercise and today was in the balmy mid-twenties with a pleasant breeze across the lake. When it does get chilly, the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre provides a variety of indoor sports and there’s a swimming pool which is outdoors but has a canvas roof – Melburnians often have four seasons in a week and are well prepared for it.
One of Albert Park’s many outdoor gym facilities
So today I headed down to Albert Park, for the first time since my four days at the Grand Prix in March, to join the joggers in a lap of the F1 circuit. Unlike a running machine in a gym, a park like this is beautiful and varied enough to stop you getting bored. And whenever I was starting to struggle a bit, there was a piece of outdoor gym equipment by the side of the lake. I could give my legs a rest and stretch some different muscles instead before resuming my run. There are plenty of different routes you can take too, to incorporate different parts of the park and F1 circuit (although the fantastic pontoon bridge crossing the lake during Grand Prix time is sadly gone). At the bottom of the park there is a large warm down circuit facility to make sure you don’t ache too much later. I honestly cannot think of a better place in the world to run.
The warm down area between turns 13 and 14 of the circuit
As well as the scenery, there’s the added bonus – if you are an F1 nut like me – of checking out each corner of the circuit and seeing how different it looks compared to when race weekend is in full flow. What is remarkable is how different the place looks without the colossal amounts of barriers, signage, catch fencing, marquees and so on that were bumped in. There is turn three, where Nico Rosberg’s race ended this year and where I remember Martin Brundle famously crashing in the first modern Albert Park race in 1996, except now it is just a car park. There are all the pit buildings, except now they are just empty shells with nothing but a small café and some soccer goalposts stored in them. There is the sweeping back straight, where Timo Glock and Pastor Maldonado crashed spectacularly late on in the 2008 and 2012 Grands Prix respectively, except now it just has a few of the park’s iconic black swans on it. The rest of the park is just, well, a park – complete with tennis courts, playgrounds, parking meters on the faded grid straight and very little to remind you that once a year this pretty grassland is transformed into a mecca of speed drawing the world’s eyes back to Melbourne.
…and during the Grand Prix weekend. Image credit: my girlfriend aka The Little Backpacker
But it makes the perfect setting for a jog. It’s not the only place to run in Melbourne, either. The Tan track south east of the CBD is also famous with joggers, and was the start and finish point of Melbourne’s biggest charity run “Run for the Kids” that I worked at a few weeks back.
For a few years, I have read enviously of Formula One journalists like Autosport’s Jonathan Noble running the Grands Prix track each weekend a couple of days before the race. It is now run as a charity event, where a significant portion of the F1 paddock strap on their running shoes and run the track as one. To be able to actually run a track myself (a gorgeous street circuit without Tilke-drome boring corners) is a dream come true. It’s a thrill to live so close to a Grand Prix circuit and a joy to live in perhaps the sportiest city of the sportiest country in the world. There really is no excuse not to get fit now…
The exit of turn one, scene of many a start of season incident
The inside of turn one hosts a game of Aussie Rules
Only the kerbs give away that this is for one weekend a year a first class FIA Formula One circuit
As a reminder, here is my experience from the Grand Prix weekend itself: