merewether baths

I woke this morning breathing the rare air found on my high horse during last Mondays blog, “Creature of habit 97 days to go”. Rolling over in bed I accepting the consequences of the ’creature’ needing some more rest after a big weekend in my hometown delivering the Parkes fun run. Today’s run would have to wait until this afternoon.

Winter afternoons are a bit problematic with regards to natural light and upon departure I was faced with the prospect of a run under streetlights. No matter; I have tried and tested ’streetlight loops’ and tonight I went for the out and back to the iconic Merewether Beach. A lazy 11-12k on the flat and plenty to see along the way.

Merewether Beach and accompanying Ocean Baths have been home to my Sunday long run for almost 2 decades. Upon first arriving in Newcastle I was invited to attend my first Sunday long run with local coach Hans Tiller. A group of young men were there including David Askie, Michael HolmesSteve Manning, Dave Manning and of course my future coach Ian Leitch. That run started and finished at the Merewether Ocean Baths and involved a run around the Merewether headland, across Burwood Beach and on into Glenrock National Park. At the conclusion of the 80 minute run there was a ’bonus loop’ out to Dixon Park headland, another 700m or so. I wondered why the extra loop and then I released; after turning at the top of the headland the boys were starting to stretch their legs. Little did I know but it was expected that the last half a mile was to be run as close to flat out as possible! Using the elevation from the headland Askie and Holmes took off down the narrow path which also played host to folks enjoying a Sunday stroll.

As any good distance runner knows a good kick is all about timing and from memory it was Leitchy who ran away from the rest of us, bare chested and sporting a summer tan to envy all the surf lifesavers on guard! The buzz of the morning was capped off with Hans Tiller casually observing the antics of his stable with a set of sports drinks sitting in front of him at the picnic table, cold and ready for consumption. From there the ritual continued with a ’quick dip’ in the ocean baths. I was a fan for life and have maintained the ritual ever since.

The Merewether urban-scape of 2016 is a lot different to 1998. Back then anyone could park close to the baths; the footpath was narrow and resembled more a cross country trail, coffee at the surf club was a blend 43 instant, surf-house was a home to 2000 pigeons and the beautiful people….they had not quite arrived.

Flash forward to 2016 and Merewether is now a strip to envy Venice Beach, Bondi or the Gold Coast. Newcastle has arrived and with it the requirement to be beautiful should you be seen working out along ’the strip’. Matching outfits, fake tans, i-devices and things that go beep if you slow down are all now part of the Merewether scene. There are other things too like a running surface that is 4m wide and provides ample room for couples to walk hand in hand and half a dozen sweaty runners to pass without incident. There are now multiple coffee shops and restaurants including the immaculate Surf House  home to at least 2000 patrons every Sunday and zero pigeons! There are the completely revamped ocean baths with excellent flow so the good stuff gets pumped in and yesterday’s water pumped out. There are also at least 200 runners from various groups around town who meet at various times and did I mention the coffee outlets? There are lots of those!

So as you can see, change is not all that bad, particularly if it means there is coffee involved!