Here’s the first of my Explore Your Own Backyard series. In between overseas trips, I’m exploring where I live while I save up enough money to go travelling again. You might be surprised what’s in your own city. So get out there and explore. First in my series is how I discovered a way to explore and get fit on Brisbane’s forest trails.
Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
If you’re looking for new ways to burn some calories and love the great outdoors, have you considered hitting local forest trails?
I’ve recently picked up trail running and found it a great way to exercise, explore my own backyard and get a good dose of sunshine.
Trail running was a natural step up for me as I love to hike. After a pinched sciatica nerve looked set to ground me to physio sessions and a life of running on a treadmill, I turned to weights and hiking instead.
Hiking proved to be my saviour strengthening my back and legs enough that I could start running again – and also instilled a passion for hiking in me.
I recently moved to trail running after getting my distance up on paths and the road – and finding some great trails nestled in the Brisbane suburbs. During the week, I still stick to the shared paths and head out to the trails on weekends – for a run or sometimes just a walk. It turns out Brisbane has some terrific bike paths and trails and I’m excited as each weekend rolls around to get out in the great outdoors and hit a new trail.
I’ll put it out there though that trail running is hard and is really challenging. You’re up against steep hills, often slippery dirt and uneven ground. It takes a while for you to get used to running on a trail and I’d recommend walking a trail before you run it. Only a couple of weeks ago, I took a nasty tumble tripping on a tree stump on the trail and gashed my knee open. I’d now recommend you keep some basic first aid supplies in your car – something as simple as alcohol wipes, bandaids and a small bandage. Trust me it’s a painful drive to the pharmacy when your leg is filled with dirt and is bleeding everywhere.
For my Brisbane friends, or those that are visiting, here’s my favourite outdoor paths and trails in the Brisbane area. You can run or walk any of these trails.
Mt Coot-tha Forest
There are more than 60 trails on offer on Mt Coot-tha ranging from easy to hard.
Some of the trails are just for those on foot, while others are multi-use trails for hikers, mountain bikers and horseriders.
I’m currently trying to conquer the Powerful Owl Trail – a 2.8km one way trail made up of some pretty steep sections. I’m still walking up the hills and jogging the rest. It’s a good work out if you go up and back a couple of times – I notched up nearly 12km last time I went. You can park at either end of the Powerful Owl Trail either at the Gold Mine or Silky Oak picnic areas.
There are some natural obstacles on the trail such as exposed tree stumps, large rocks and slippery gravel sections so take care and walk the trail first to identify the obstacles. Coming off the Powerful Owl Trail is the Eugenia Circuit, an easy walk through the eucalypt forest and over a couple of bridges.
Another good one is the 1.5km Jacksonia Trail, which winds downhill through the trees and then links up with several other trails.
Seven Hills Bushland Reserve
Seven Hills Bushland Reserve is located near Morningside in Brisbane’s south. It’s a great place to start out trail running (it’s where I started) with small but steep hills and wide well maintained paths. The area is well signed and there’s entry points at the end of suburban streets throughout Morningside, Cannon Hill and Norman Park.
Another good reserve nearby is Whites Hill Bushland Reserve. The paths leading up the hill are not as suited to trail running as Seven Hills with a number of large rocks on the path (they are spray painted yellow though) so there are some trip hazards. Up the top of the hill it’s better though with wide bitumen paths.
You can access Enoggera Reservoir from the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre on Mt Nebo Road at The Gap or from Payne Road near the Park n’ Ride bus station. I did the 10km Enoggera Reservoir trail from Walkabout Creek Discover Centre starting on the Araucaria Track which is part of the D’Aguilar National Park.
You follow the Araucaria Track for a couple of kilometres and instead of heading in a loop around a peninsula of the reservoir, keep heading around the reservoir.
Once you leave the Araucaria Track you leave all the signs behind but just kept taking the trails on the left to walk around the entire reservoir.
I came out at the bus station and then you head up the hill and follow the signs back around to the discovery centre.
I did a mix of walking and running on the trail and it took about 90 minutes. The Araucaria Track is the best place to start your run as it’s flat and mostly smooth. The further you go on the more hilly and rugged the track. Most of the track is dirt, but as you head further along the reservoir, you’ll hit some grassy sections.
At the end of the trail, you may want to take a dip in the reservoir near the discovery centre. This is a popular spot for families, kayakers and paddleboarders.
Brisbane River Promenade Run
Out of the forest but still fitting with the outdoor theme is the Brisbane River Promenade. I work in the city so instead of rushing out the door and heading home I’ll take a run along the river. My usual route starts either from the Go Between Bridge or Kurilpa Bridge and then crosses back over the river on the Goodwill Bridge.
This is a great little run with scenic views of Brisbane as you run alongside the river and over the bridges. Most of the run is flat so it’s an easy run that you can take at whatever pace you like. The return loop starting and ending at the Go Between Bridge is about 6km.
My favourite stretch of run winds past the Southbank stretch of the Brisbane River and over to the Kangaroo Point cliffs.
Brisbane’s shared paths
I’m pretty impressed with the shared path network throughout Brisbane’s suburbs.
The one I really enjoy is the Bulimba Creek bikepath leading from Minnippi Parklands. It’s a fairly flat path alongside the Bulimba Creek and it’s easy to get in a good amount of kilometres without worrying about cars.
I’m also just discovering the Norman Creek circuit – and there’s many other paths throughout the rest of Brisbane. Just head out and explore and look for the blue signs with a bike on it. This will point you in the direction of some of the paths.
ParkRun is a weekly timed running event held in parks across the world. In Brisbane, ParkRun is held at 7am every Saturday morning and takes advantage of the shared paths. It’s a great way to time your run and pushes you that little bit extra to get up in the morning, go for a run and see how you go against other runners.
I’ve done the ParkRuns at Minnippi Parklands and Stones Corner in Brisbane and the Lake Ginninderra one in Canberra but there’s plenty of others across the country – and the world. Visit http://www.parkrun.com to find your nearest ParkRun.
My Running Tips
It took me awhile to feel comfortable running instead of cursing every minute. For the first month, running was hard work, but then your body seems to adapt as long as you’re consistent.
Tip number one – figure out where you like to run.
Once you’ve decided you are going to start running, the first step is finding the right surface and location. Experiment outside the gym. The gym is not for everyone – in fact I exercise 10 times more without a gym membership. Getting outdoors is easy for me. I’m not very good at running on grass and prefer concrete or gravel.
Look around your suburb and experiment with a few places. You might enjoy running around the local streets, bike paths, bush reserves or there might be a local oval.
My second tip is be consistent.
Routine works for me. Without a plan, it’s too easy for me to talk myself out of going for a run. It’s a given that I will run every afternoon whether it be running home, a run by the river after work, or running along the bikepath as soon as I get home. I don’t think about when I’m going to run or if I feel like it, I just get changed and do it. The more I do this, the easier it is.
The more consistent I am with my running, the better it feels, and the further I run, the better I feel after a run. Got to love those endorphins.
My third tip is find a running buddy. I ended up finding mine at work. I run with one of my colleagues along the river a couple of times a week after work and my boss sometimes joins me for trail runs on the weekend. It’s a good way to mix it up, you can have a chat in between running sections, and you might find some new places you enjoy running.