Melbourne’s most popular running track, though it’s also perfect at a more leisurely pace, lies just across the road from United Places Botanic Gardens. Looping around the Royal Botanic Gardens, the wide 3.8km track is traditionally taken in a clockwise direction. From U.P. this allows for a gentle descent along Birdwood Avenue towards the city before circling back along the Yarra River and Alexandra Avenue. This takes you past the track’s official starting point, the Pillars of Wisdom, and its list of the fastest 10 male and female times (Craig Mottram’s 2006 record of 10 minutes and 8 seconds remains unbeaten). Continuing clockwise, the route’s only major challenge, the hill on Anderson Street, signals the home straight and a well-deserved refreshment at Matilda or any of Domain Road’s other fine establishments.
Interestingly, despite its immense popularity amongst runners, dog owners and leisurely flâneurs, there is no definitive consensus on why it is called The Tan. It may be named for the track’s sandy coloured gravel, its origins as a tanbark horse-riding track for Melbourne’s gentry, or as an affectionate contraction of the Royal Botanic Gardens’ name.