When Jess and I relocated to Newcastle from Maitland in 2013 we had a couple common requirements such as proximity to our respective places of work and walking distance to a good primary school. We then had our personal requirements, top of Jess’s list was being close to friends and mine? Simply to be jogging distance to the Fernleigh Track!

Anyone from Newcastle and Lake Macquarie regions will know “the track” but for those from further afield, think “Bay Run” or “The Tan”. Get the picture? The Fernleigh Track may indeed be spelt incorrectly according to Local Legend Kurt Fearnley but that doesn’t stop him and Christie Dawes clocking up many kilometres each week on its beautiful surface. As a former railway line it has been wonderfully surveyed with even gradients for the climbs and long sweeping bends whenever a slight change of direction is required. The track extends from the heart (and soul) of Newcastle in Adamstown and extends all the way to Belmont on the edge of Lake Macquarie. It is home to runners, walkers, cyclists, prams, dogs, tricycles and the odd 2 stroke thumper! It’s ’our’ track and one of those public infrastructure assets that just nails it!

I remember running the Fernleigh railway line and sighting the mystic tunnel in my early runs with Ian Leitch back in 1998. Then upon returning from a block in Canberra the track was suddenly there. At least a section of it from Adamstown to Burwood Road at Kahibah. Only a 3.2km section but still terrific for training. Once stage two opened up in 2005 we had sealed track all the way to Whitebridge around 5km in length. It was now a game changer for folks wanting to run 15km time trial course for World Championship and Commonwealth Games marathon preparation! Ok, so those guys were not massive in number but I think there were countless runners and triathletes and a couple Elite Wheelchair Athletes celebrating the Adamstown Whitebridge 5k.

About the time of ’05 ’06 training partners were a bit hard to come by. Not everyone takes to the idea of 15k flat out at a pleasant training experience! During this time I was blessed to have the company of Steve Manning and David Rundle for many of my key training efforts. Steve and I trained almost daily together for a four year period from 1998 along with Angela Sheean (now Leadbeater). Steve was not running heaps in 2005 and 2006 but was only too willing to help me out. David I knew first as the passionate runner who didn’t run much in 1998. He would often ’pop along’ to an intense speed session at No.1 oval in Newcastle and jog a few laps telling jokes during our recoveries, on one occasion being told to ’shut up’ in more colourful tones from a tightly wound 800m runner, Mitch Praddle, who wanted to get on with the session. Since those days David has become one of my closest friends and allies in our sport. He is passionate and unwavering and demonstrates his support in practical ways.

Today’s workout was some threshold efforts of around 12minutes along the “the track” with my squad. The clean surface is excellent for getting some road running in the legs which is important for the road races on the horizon. As fate would have it David Rundle appeared on a mountain bike half way through the session. I had to leave him mid-sentence as my recovery time was up and the next effort was due. Without hesitation David was after me and then alongside so he could continue the story!

It was a throwback to 2006 sitting in behind David on “the track” being dragged along out of my comfort zone. While riding next to a runner might seem a small thing, it can make all the difference between a good workout, and a great one. Thanks Dave and Steve!

By the way regarding our 2013 house purchase, everyone got what they wanted and my jog to the start of the Fernleigh Track? A lazy 250m!