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In our ongoing running reviews, we'll be checking out some of Melbourne's most-loved running tracks and jogging trails. This week, we take a look at Carlton’s Princes Park.
We’ll consider the nature of the workout, any interesting features, and a range of other notes and thoughts that we find worthwhile. Like, of course, whether there’s anywhere nearby for a good post-run coffee or not. Let’s go!
Track: Princes Park
Location: Carlton North
The gorgeous Princes Park precinct sits only 3.5 km from Melbourne CBD. It is nestled amongst the beautiful, tree lined streets of Parkville and Carlton, and is an absolute hub for exercise, socialising and outdoor activity.
Princes Park boasts multiple soccer pitches and football ovals, cricket nets, tennis courts, outdoor strength equipment, a 22,000 seat stadium, and of course, a running track.
But it’s not all about working up a sweat. The area also contains a playground and BBQ facilities too.
The running track is a 3.2km round loop. There is a paved gravel track all the way around and a flat concrete portion of the track extending along the Royal Parade side of the park.
The whole parkland has minimal undulation with no significant incline or hills of note. It caters to a general workout for runners of any ability or experience.
One handy feature is a series of distance markers every 500m around the loop, which is great if you plan on doing time trials or fartlek/interval training.
In recent years the Princes Park track has been included in the Sunset Series of fun runs, with a 4km and 8km event usually held in February. Training at the park is a great way to prepare for the event if you plan on getting involved.
The additional benefits.
The middle of Princes Park is home to its most prominent visible feature – Ikon Park.
Formally known as Optus Oval, Ikon Park is the training base and administrative home of the AFL’s famed Carlton Football Club, affectionately known as The Blues. With an equal-highest sixteen AFL/VFL premierships, the club has seen its fair share of success over the years.
The Latin mantra featured on the Blues’ emblem, ‘mens sana in corpore sano’, translates as ‘a sound mind in a healthy body’. With the serene gardens carpeting the area around their home and a constant stream of joggers plodding the outskirts, it seems like a pretty fitting philosophy for the park in general.
As previously mentioned, Carlton’s boutique stadium holds an estimated 22,000 people at maximum capacity. Traditionally the home ground of the Blues in years gone by, there were 962 senior VFL/AFL games played at the venue over 11 decades, the last being on May 21, 2005. Although the ground is no longer used for senior AFL games, it still holds elite junior AFL, and VFL matches.
Living a short stroll from Princes Park means I am a regular visitor. At this time of year I ride past the track each morning on my commute to the clinic, admiring the early morning risers trotting around in the chilly winter conditions. I also do a late evening jog around the 3.2 km course each Monday night for a bit of post-weekend recovery.
Wednesday nights, I meet up with some mates for a solid one hour footy training session. We use the ovals for ball drills and running conditioning. The grounds are always in great condition and the council usually have the light towers on past 6pm, which really helps to brighten spirits as the dark winter rolls in.
Otherwise, a relaxing Sunday stroll through the parklands with the dog and a takeaway coffee never gets old!
In summary, Princes Park is an inner city gem. Ideal for running sessions, walking the dog, picnics and play, social sports team training or just some peace and quiet amongst the foliage and fresh air, it’s an excellent option for anyone north of the CBD. See you there!
Be sure to watch this space. We’ll be back soon with another running review, to give you the facts on Melbourne’s best tracks.