The Fernleigh Track stretches 15km from Adamstown in Newcastle to Belmont on the shores of Lake Macquarie. It is a pedestrian and cycle track converted from an old railway line linking the two jurisdictions together along with some coal mines in the early and mid-20th century. But enough of the history lesson.
When choosing a new house for my family a few years ago top of my priority list was being close to the Fernleigh track. We managed to snag a great spot just a couple hundred metres from the Adamstown end of the track. Score. There is now also a Pokemon Go coin stop at the beginning of the track too. Double score!!
I have been running along the track since its early construction from 2005 and retreat there often when I can’t stand the thought of traffic or to perform key training sessions. The track is surrounded by trees and built into the landscape and therefore protected from the elements making it the go to location during inclement weather such as this morning 55km/hr wind gusts!
Back in 2005 and early 2006 I had Adamstown to Whitebridge section which was all of 5km long. I recall running three times over this distance to capture 15km of hard effort, often with Steve Manning or Damien Jakal on the bike in support as I prepared for the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games Marathon. Fast forward 10 years and I am still looking for 15km of track for my pre marathon training sessions but now a one-way journey along the track will capture the distance. Running the track in a southerly direction offers me the chance to split my journey into three unique sections;
1. Get the uphill done early; the first 2k from Adamstown to the tunnel is the slowest and toughest. The track rises quickly at first to 2k as I exit the Fernleigh tunnel (a 150m long old railway tunnel) to a mighty 98m above sea level at the 5km mark at Whitebridge (a railway platform along the track).
2. Roll the middle third downhill; while the uphill is over by 2km the downhill back to almost sea level is a perfect even gradient lasting 5km! this makes a perfect mid run pick up as I throw caution to the wind hurtling down through the bush from Whitebridge to Redhead.
3. Flat and fast to finish; from Redhead to Jewells and then onto Belmont the track is flat. Our local running Pastor Andrew Dodd believes there to be hills in the final section. We hold divergent views. Hills or flat the final 5k is a chance to string together some quick kilometres through paperbark swamp (the track is elevated at this point) and across some boardwalk sections to the final destination.
So today was my final ’extended’ marathon pace hitout along the track and along with some assistance from the boys in the training group I was able to place a big tick in the â€œ15km @ marathon paceâ€ box. An important training effort 4 weeks out from my marathon and no doubt I wasn’t the only one doing something like it.
Note: The Lake Macquarie Fernleigh 15 is a running race held every October on the track running as per my description above. The event is on 23rd Oct in 2016.