Almanac Running – Torrens Parkrun: Midnight Oil, African wild dogs and Skyshow




Adelaide’s oldest parkrun is along the northern bank of the Torrens. Officially a river, it masquerades as a serene, fetching lake or a dam. And during drought, a puddle.

Beneath the eucalypts at a quarter to eight there’s roughly one hundred people and it swiftly swells to five hundred. An expectant mob, connected by a single, voluntary purpose and it’s great to be part of a global movement.

I feel a propulsive, rousing energy.

The Run Director takes us through his script. It’s informative for new faces and provides moments of comedic engagement. After the Welcome to Country, he does a roll call asking who’s from overseas. England, Canada, New Zealand, among others. Hands are flung up and we applaud. We’re then taken on a tour of the country.

‘Anybody from Victoria?’ Arms go skywards. Melbourne. Geelong.

‘New South Wales?’ Folks variously confess they’re from Sydney, Wagga, Byron Bay.

‘People from Queensland?’ Hands wave above the sea of heads and torsos, and I wonder how many have on matching shoes.

Each state and territory acknowledged our host then introduces himself with, ‘I’m Ojo Dojo.’ He asks, ‘Did you bring your?’ A crowd participation moment follows as the throng choruses, ‘Mojo!’

We’re east of the weir and the Red Ochre Grill, which might be as old as red ochre. Glancing about there’s a par 3 green with capped chaps putting, gliding rowers on the lake, while rushing by, and I understand this is the collective noun, are round-gutted lycras of male cyclists.

I stand by two lads wearing AUFC caps. One announces, ‘Let’s try to run 4-minute kms.’ His mate giggles, ‘The coach won’t be happy if we blow up!’ They laugh as only the youthful in pre-season training can. I often hated it but would gladly swap. Considering their fresh dials, they can’t even imagine being retired from footy.

Briefing’s done and we’re away.

There’s an orange-vested pacer with 25 on his back, so I latch onto him like a docking mechanism. I keep him in sight. I’ve got a plan. I’d like to again run 24-minutes something.

Like trolls we go under bridges and soon pass the BBQ buoys all moored and obediently awaiting midday rissoles, snags, and onions. Inflatable boats laden with flammable cooking equipment and grog, skippered by pre-frontal cortex-undeveloped yoof: what could go wrong?

To the left is Memorial Drive, venue of my first concert in 1984. It was Midnight Oil’s Red Sails in the Sunset tour with school mates, Nick, Smithy and Frosty. The Drive usually hosts tennis, and this was not that genteel leisure. More dope than double faults.

We swarm under the Torrens foot bridge which transports punters to and from Adelaide Oval. Footy and cricket have revitalised the city and highlights at the redeveloped stadium include Travis Head’s NYE pyrotechnics, the Crows and Cats Preliminary Final of 2017, and both Glenelg flags.

Heading west along the riverbank, the 25-minute pacer’s still a bus-length ahead, and I want to pass him on the way back. I’m chomping after him like Pacman.

Albert Bridge’s now above us, with its stylish architecture. We’re by the zoo and I recall taking my boys and the African wild dogs and their ungodly stench. Closing my eyes, I recall my nostrils smarting at their flyblown meat perfume. It’s available at Chemist Warehouse. Back at parkrun, Mistletoe Park marks the turnaround.

Among this morning’s joys is the absence of traffic noise. However, swimming into view is the slanting expanse of Elder Park. Again, I’m back in the mid-80s. Can you hear the spectral echoes of SA-FM’s Skyshow? Is that the thump of INXS beneath the swirling hiss of fireworks? Look, so many tank tops, neon colours, and foam eskies!

I put on my indicator and pass the pacer! Sheltered by trees, the finish line startles me. I loathe when the end’s in widescreen, mocking sight a long way out and like an oasis in the desert, remains maddeningly distant. Today’s threshold jumps out, hugs me and this is splendid.

Not unlike an injured emu, I hobble with hands on hips, grabbing some air. I note a groaning table of food provided by the volunteers. What a community is parkrun and especially this effervescent Torrens group. I’ve broken 25 minutes.

I take half a banana.


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About Mickey Randall

Now whip it into shape/ Shape it up, get straight/ Go forward, move ahead/ Try to detect it, it's not too late/ To whip it, whip it good


  1. Bring back the foam esky, I say.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Well done on breaking 25 minutes Mickey! Great first concert answer if you ever go on Rockwiz.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Well played Mickey.

    My second concert was Skyhooks at the Drive in Dec 1975 – the ‘Tiser gave it a dud review so I wrote my first ever Letter To The Editor – unpublished of course.

    We used to run in the Corporate Cup around the Torrens loop 40-odd years ago. My best time for the 4.5k was 20:04, not sure if it was the same distance as your park run, but I think it finished roughly where the footbridge now comes out.

  4. Daryl Schramm says

    Memories come flooding back. My first concert was at The Drive. Elton John. Can still remember the crowd response when Crocodile Rock started late in the proceedings.
    Corporate Cup. 4.4 km loop as Swish mentioned. A very popular lunchtime see and be seen. Not to mention the time trials for umpiring training. 4km in 14 mins was the contract. I never managed it. Would struggle to waddle 1 km now. You are putting me to shame Mickey.

  5. Mickey Randall says

    Foam esky story #25. Some Kapunda friends and I went to the Test. Stephen parked his lime-green Gemini by the North Adelaide Golf Club and opened the boot. He’d kindly bought and packed a brand-new foam esky with, no doubt, West End Draught beers. It sat there invitingly in the boot. Stephen and I reached in, and grabbed the handle. Lifting it up the walls and lid came up. The bottom of the esky and all the beers and ice remained on the boot floor in a neat tableau. Thanks Smokie.

    Luke- I put my name down to be in the Rockwiz audience but the show concluding and me needing to live to 97 meant this is now unlikely. I must try to track down the setlist for that gig. Thanks.

    Swish- was the reviewer David Sly or was that before his time? If you have it, please publish it. It could be a nice companion piece to the fan letter on the back cover of Ego!

    That’s a pretty decent time, I reckon. Parkrun is 5k and I’m happy with how I go, under WFA conditions but the results are often humbling when I see people considerably older, thrashing me! There’s a bloke getting around well in his sixties running sub-20 minutes. The Corporate Cup route remains where you describe but also at Semaphore and in Mawson (Awesome) Lakes. Thanks.

  6. Barry Nicholls says

    Good work, Mickey. In my mid-20s. There are some lovely reminders there. I used to run the River Torrens three times a week ( when I was living in a flat in Wakefield St Kent Town). One day, I was a bit miffed when an ‘old’ bald bloke easily ran past me. When I looked up, I realised it was Barrie Robran.

  7. Karl Dubravs says

    Great post Mickey. Sound like it was a ‘better than sausage roll moment’ as your expectations were realised this time around. I remember ambling alongside the Zoo a few months back – must have been 2000+ bats (or do you call them flying foxes in SA?) in the nearby trees – I ambled a bit faster at that point.

  8. Mickey Randall says

    Daryl- it’s good to see The Drive’s hosting a few gigs. Must get in there for one. 4k in 14 minutes seems a very solid standard! Did they have to so it running backwards? Assuming Murray Ducker had no problems with that!

    Barry- I imagine Barrie’s polymath-ing had no limits. Would love to know beyond footy and cricket how he did. Very well, I expect.

    Karl- They’re known variously as bats, fruit bats and flying foxes. The colony is approaching 50,000. I also find them disconcerting and avoid the area. Some describe bat droppings as boring, but I’d just rather not collect some on my head or shirt.

    Thanks, everyone. Nearly beer o’clock here!

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    While you are off having a cheeky schooner Mickey, I’ll answer your polymathic enquiry about Barrie.

    According to Bruce Pointon’s huge biography of him (or should that be Him?), Barrie was a keen Basketballer at local level and yes, his singlet did bear #10.

    Barrie played Badminton competitively (although I’m sure it was goodminton in his case).

    Onto Tennis. After badly smashing his ankle playing footy for Walkerville in 1983, Barrie joined Memorial Drive Tennis Club and quickly climbed the ranks. He also officiated as an umpire or linesman at three Davis Cup ties and four SA Opens.

    One sport that he didn’t master was Golf, although he also gave that a crack.

    He is still going around for Tranmere Bowls Club – Dave Brown bumped into him at Hope Valley the other week.

  10. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks for your research, Swish. Just as Warney would’ve preferred running around on a forward flank for the Saints and Charlie Watt’s true passion was jazz, I wonder if footy was Barrie’s first love.

    Tracked down the Midnight Oil setlist although I have no idea if it’s accurate. Great representation from across their catalogue-

  11. Peter Crossing says

    Thanks Mickey. Well run.
    I remember Sunday morning Weir runs back in the day.
    Memorial Drive concerts. Four come to mind.
    Elton John 1971 – a madman at the piano. The concert interrupted by a thunderstorm. Didn’t slow Elton down much. He did a tap dance on the piano. Extraordinary.
    Nefarious events occurring further down on the banks Torrens at that time. George Duncan was drowned six months later.
    Rolling Stones 1973 – Brilliant. Mick cavorting. Mick Taylor lyrical. Keef’s grunt. Charlie and Bill stonyfaced and metronomic. Bobby Keyes honking sax breaks. 200 punters broke the fence down to gain entry.
    Boz Scaggs 1978 – full lock power slide
    And the ultimate
    Neil Young 1985
    Three concerts in one. NY and the International Harvesters, NY solo and NY with Crazy Horse. Powderfinger and Cortez the Killer. You betcha. He did the lot.
    Thanks for prompting the memories, Mickey.

  12. Mickey Randall says

    Thanks Peter. That’s a terrific set of four. Would love to see Neil Young.

    Worried that he was aged 52, I thought I should see Keith Richards and his band in concert before it was too late, so a friend and I saw them at Footy Park in 1995. It was great but we were a long way from them, sitting in a stand on the forward flank.

    I reckon Boz goes well. Silk Degrees gets a regular spin here.

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