A Great Australian Charity Day Out: Oxfam Trailwalker 2014

Well, on Saturday it was the big one for Mrs Bob and three of her friends. They had all been training hard for the last few months, Saturday was the day they would find out if they would make it or not.

Their mission was to walk 55 kilometres starting as a team of four and finishing as a team of four. Not everyone on that day from the over 300 teams taking part would make it.

55 kilometres; that’s about 35 miles. I want you to stop and think about that for a moment; work out somewhere that is 55 kilometres (or 35 miles) from where you live and imagine walking to that place.

Yes, it wouldn’t be easy would it?

Well, this walk was even harder, this was no pavement walk on relatively flat ground, this was a bushwalk up and down the hills and slopes of Brisbane Forest Park.

map55 kilometres is tough enough, but incredibly there was also a 100 km track and those mad enough to take that one on started a day early and had 48 hours to complete it. As you can see from the map, the full track stretches from Mt Glorious, through Mt Nebo and finishing off at Mt Coot-tha.

Our team started at…

Checkpoint 3, Lake Manchester

The team set off at 8:30 AM with hundreds of others, but it wasn’t long before all the participants had begun to spread out. In this picture there is still a very long way to go, they’ve only just started. The fourth person is, of course, holding the camera…

55k walk 001You don’t get to see these kind of views without climbing some hills…

55k walk 002

55k walk 003My job, along with the three other husbands, was to be the support crew. We would meet them at checkpoints 5 and 6 as well as the finishing line to hand over food, water, changes of shoes and most of all, encouragement.

Organisation

This isn’t just a story about four girls going for a very long walk though, it’s also about Australia’s amazing ability to organise these kind of events. Whether it’s a fun run, a serious marathon, a bike race, a swimming competition, in fact any kind of sport including my five a side football or my daughter’s netball competitions, these events are always impeccably run.

This charity walk was no different, with volunteers teeming around the event to make things go smoothly. They even had a link on their website where you could track each team’s progress through the checkpoints.

We first joined our girls at…

Checkpoint 6

At Checkpoint 6, going from right to left, the big tent had First Aid, then to patch up all those aching and blistered feet, a Podiatry Department, next to that was Physiotherapy and then the free tea and coffee room…

55k walk 004…and finally, far left, the official Check In desk…

55k walk 005CheckinYes, having covered 31 kilometres they did have ‘just’ 24 clicks left.

They even had plenty of tables and chairs scattered around for people to relax…

55k walk 005It was around 5 o’clock in the evening by this time and we were there waiting to greet our girls who had been walking solidly, barring one 40 minute stop, for 8 and a half hours. Ah, here they come…

55k walk 006Three of the team made their way almost immediately to the Podiatry room to have their poor aching blistered feet tended to. Then they all sat, ate, drank, rested and talked for a while, mainly about their aches and pains.

I have to say, I wasn’t convinced they were all going to make it to the end, they each looked absolutely shattered. But by 6:30 PM, their rucksacks on their backs, they disappeared into the darkness with their torches strapped to their heads.

55k walk 00712 kilometres and three hours later we were meeting them again at…

Checkpoint 7

Physiotherapy? Yes please…

55k walk 008The Finish

The finishing line was at JC Slaughter Falls, which is at the foot of Mount Coot-tha, but to get to it, first they had to go to the top of Mount Coot-tha.

Just what they needed!

To make matters even worse, as they trudged ever upwards, what had been a glorious winter’s day here in Brisbane (around 24° to 25°C and sunny) at this point turned to rain. Oh well, it could have been worse, about 55 kilometres (what a coincidence) to the south there were quite vicious thunderstorms.

At 1:30 AM in the morning, exactly 17 hours after they had started their journey, the husband support team and some very sleepy young girls were there waiting at the finishing line. With impeccable timing we heard an announcement over the tannoy…

Team 499, The First Timers, are approaching…

And they were…

55k walk 009…and running…

55k walk 010…so fast I could only snap a blurry image.

A quick check-in…

55k walk 011And then a very small glass of champagne to celebrate a massive achievement…

55k walk 012Most important of all though is that they raised $1,875 for Oxfam. Find out more about this massive event over at the Oxfam Trailwalker website and if you live in Australia, book yourself in for 2015’s 55 km walk, or maybe you fancy the 100 km walk instead?

And if I haven’t posted enough pictures for your liking, more than 29,000 photos have been posted online since 2006 over at the Flickr stream for Oxfam Trailwalker.

Awesome girls

55k walk 013Kristina, Stacey, Lisa and Mrs Bob

But not just ‘awesome girls’, it was an awesome event, impeccably organised and simply great fun to have been involved in.

It was also a long day; we didn’t get home until just gone 2 o’clock in the morning. Just in time to watch the World Cup.

Some event stats

100 kilometre walk

  • 207 teams started
  • 195 teams finished
  • 98 teams finished with all 4 walkers
  • Average time: 29 hours 23 minutes

55 kilometre walk

  • 109 teams started
  • 103 teams finished
  • 78 teams finished with all 4 walkers
  • Average time: 14 hours 43 minutes

Total amount raised (so far): $932,733

My favourite statistic though is for the two teams that came ‘last’. Remember, the 100 km walk needed to be completed in 48 hours and I know I didn’t mention it, but the 55 km walk needed to be completed in 24 hours.

One team took 44 hours and 52 minutes to complete the 100 kilometre walk and another team took 20 hours and 53 minutes to reach the finishing line in the 55 km walk. They got there at 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock in the morning respectively.

That’s determination and there’s certainly no such thing as ‘last’. Everybody who took part in these gruelling walks whether they finished or not are heroes and I am in complete awe of them all.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Lauren @ Sweet Home Australia June 24, 2014, 8:37 am | Link

    Very inspiring! I’d love to do this walk someday and see so much of the nature near Brisbane. I’m curious, how did these ladies train for the 55km walk? What was the longest distance they walked before the event? I can’t imagine just setting out on a Saturday morning and walking 6 hours for training, and that’s not even half of what they did!

    • BobinOz June 24, 2014, 7:33 pm | Link

      Yes, certainly very inspiring.

      They started training by doing 10 km walks which only take a couple of hours, but they were doing them at least a couple of times a week. Then they increase them to 15 km walks on occasions, but mixed with 10 km walks as well depending on available time.

      Then they would do a couple of walks in one weekend, say a 10 km and 15 km. Then with a couple of weeks to go, they did one 27 km walk in about six hours.

      That’s the furthest they walked in training, but it was clearly enough. I think people who train to run marathons only ever run half the distance in their preparations. Come the event, adrenaline takes you through the other half.

      It was good preparation, but even so, the actual walk was really hard, but I think both mentally and physically they were all trained up and raring to go. Failure wasn’t an option for them.

      Cheers, Bob

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