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Labertouche North run

Countryside near Labertouche with Bunyip State
Forest in the distance.

During the late 1970s and 1980s, we had a holiday shack in an area called Labertouche, about an hour's drive east of Melbourne.  The shack was on the edge of what was then State Forest and is now, Bunyip State Park, ideally located for running, especially in the days when my then wife, Barb, and I were serious long distance athletes.  Many weekends and vacations were spent with a crowd of our running friends, training twice a day, interspersed with board games, volleyball and cricket.

I had many great running courses, of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty, most of which I could still find my way around, 30 years later.  When tuning up for an approaching marathon, a favourite course was the Labertouche North Road 31km loop with moderate grades that could be run hard the whole way, occasionally at less than 6 minute mile average pace (3:45/km).

Our shack at Labertouche.

It started out southwards with a gradual downhill run out of the forest into an area of hobby farms with some great vistas along the way.  It passed the small local rural school, before flattening out as it swung north-west along Labertouche North Road through grazing properties to the halfway point.  Here it entered the forest and climbed the first of two major hills before descending into the forested Bullock Creek valley.  The dirt road was mostly bordered by towering eucalypt trees, but occasionally provided sweeping views to the south, and at other times wound round the side of spurs passing over small creeks hidden in groves of tree ferns.

The route passed by the rustic and remote Brighton Grammar School outdoor education camp, nestled on a couple of hectares in the forest, shortly before crossing Bullock Creek and beginning a steady climb out of the valley.  From the top of the climb, a gradual 5km descent along the gravel forest road winding through the forest and wildflowers allowed for a fast run back to the finish.

A firetruck flees the 2009 bushfire near Labertouche.

One reason this course lives large in my memory is that for a long time I considered my best time of 1:55 a time worthy of a good athlete (on a training run).  Then, one day when I had arranged to run it with an accomplished marathon running friend, he turned up at the shack in a sombre mood.  His wife had left him the previous day, along with their two children, and there were lots of emotions bubbling just below the surface.  He still wanted to do the run, but I didn't see much of him after we set out.  He smashed my best time by six minutes!

On another sad note, one of the devastating 2009 Victorian bushfires burnt out much of the Labertouche area, including our old shack (we sold it in the 1990s) and the Brighton Grammar camp, along with huge swathes of my cherished forest.

For today's exercise I walked 5km through nearby McMasters Beach.  I originally intended to do 10km, but wasn't very motivated and returned early, despite feeling physically fine.