The Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane weekend is finally here. Walking the 100km from Mt Glorious to Mt Cootha changed my life 12 months ago, so this year I am volunteering. I signed up for three shifts totally 19 hours plus 5 hours travel time to and from home over the course of the 48 hour event and completed the first two shifts yesterday. I am just one of the hundreds of volunteers who are filling over 500 shifts needed to help Oxfam run the event. And I am having a fantastic time.
It was cold and dark when I arrived for my first shift as a bus marshall at the registration area at Bellbird Grove. At 6am Bellbird Grove was a hive of activity. Support crews dropped off their teams. Teams moved around with nervous excitement as they registered, made final gear adjustments and boarded the buses that would take them up the mountains to the start line at Mt Glorious.
My role was to manage the flow of cars in a small section of the carpark that we were using as an overflow when buses blocked the road as they reversed along the narrow road into the bus parking area. To achieve my goal, I got to use a light sabre (a baton with red flashing lights) to guide the traffic. I also had to use my most friendly smile to ask people not to leave their cars parked in the overflow carpark due to it being needed to manage the flow. It was easy and fun to play with the light sabre and talk with the support crews and teams.
After three hours my shift was over. The sun had risen, all the walkers were delivered safely to the start line and we could all breath a big sigh of relief that everything had gone well with this complex registration and parking puzzle.
At 2pm, after a few hours of rest, relaxation and geocaching (I found 10 caches, bringing my total to 200), I reported for my second shift at the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane Event Control Centre at The Gap. I was rostered on as an event courier for an eight hour shift.
When I arrived at the Event Control Centre I was greeted by Steven, who was part of my Trailwalker team last year. We were total strangers before the event and haven’t seen each other since though we have had some email contact (our not seeing each other is merely a feature of us only having met as part of the walk – not any negative reason). It was fantastic to catch up with him for an hour or so at the beginning of my shift while things were quiet.
Things didn’t get busy until about an hour into my shift but then I got to go out and do a few different jobs. My first task was to travel to Checkpoint 5 (Bellbird Grove) where a pile of bollards and bases awaited us. The other event courier, R, I was rostered to work with and I had to put the bollards together and then place them along a 2km section of road that the walkers would be walking down towards the end of the event. Each bollard weighed about 7kg so it was a good physical job. R drove as I placed the bollards out of the back of the van. We also turned on some generators to ensure there would be light for participants and support crews after the sun set.
While we were at Checkpoint 5 we saw the first team check in, suck down some gels and sports drinks then leave again. They were running and had covered 73.3km of the walk, starting at 7:30am. It was only about 4pm. They would go on to complete the whole 100km event in 11hours 54minutes. It was impressive to see the team running out of the checkpoint. This is a benefit of volunteering at an event like this; it’s one of the only ways I will see the front-runners.
After laying out the bollards we returned to the Event Control Centre to pick up the volunteer meal deliveries. R took a load on his own while I teamed up with G who was in the event catering crew. We loaded up 28 meals and set off to deliver them to the trail marshals working on the final two sections of the course. It took us about two hours to make all our stops. We then delivered the left-over meals to the finish line and Checkpoint 6 so that trail marshals heading onto the course later in the night could enjoy some meals.
While at Checkpoint 6 we took our meal break and enjoyed the vegetarian spring rolls and carrot cake. The food was delicious and fresh. We also had the pleasure of watching the third-placed team pass through the checkpoint. It was clear that they were starting to suffer but they still looked incredibly strong as they went through their checkpoint routine. Their support crew had everything set up professionally so the walkers / runners could just grab their nutrition off the table, rub on extra anti-chafing ointments and head back out onto the course. We could hear the support crew encouraging their team, urging them on so that they didn’t stay too long at the checkpoint and lose momentum before the final 12km push.
Back at the Event Control Centre, my final task for the night was to drop one of the Oxfam employees back at his hotel. He’d been on his feet all day, probably for more than 12 hours, and was clearly exhausted. It’s great that Oxfam are able to use event drivers to drive their staff ‘home’ so that they don’t risk accident or injury with tired drivers trying to navigate in an unfamiliar city (Oxfam’s offices are in Melbourne).
I had a magnificent day as an Oxfam Trailwalker volunteer. By the time I went home I had given 11 hours plus 2.5 hours traveling time to Oxfam. And I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. I will be leaving home again in the next hour for my third shift as an assistance checkpoint coordinator at the busy Checkpoint 6 from 1pm-9pm.