Do you know a recipe for inspiration? I do:
Take 1,100 walkers attempting to travel 100km within 48 hours.
Add 1,300 patient people willing to be support crew for the weekend.
And 600 generous volunteers.
Mix them all up in the Australian country side.
And you have the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane.
This weekend, I had the privilege of supporting my sister and brother-in-law, and their friends who completed the challenging 100km Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane in 32hrs 28mins. Like most teams on the course, team Take a Hike had an epic time on the course.
One of the challenging things about the Brisbane Trailwalker is that there are no support crews or spectators anywhere on the course until checkpoint 3, which is 45km into the event. The start line is at the top of Mt Glorious, a place too small to accommodate spectators, so teams are totally alone from the time they are dropped off at registration at the foot of the mountain until they are already tired and in pain almost half-way through the event.
My team arrived at checkpoint 3 at about 6:30pm (10 hours after they started the walk) already hurting. Three members of the team had pretty bad blisters and my sister had sustained a shin injury. After getting some food into their systems, they all visited the podiatrist and physio tents to get patched up.
The Brisbane event continues to be a relatively self-sufficient affair. After teams leave checkpoint 3, they don’t see their support crews again until checkpoint 5, which is 76km into the walk. For our team, that meant a long walk through the night.
As support crew, we set up camp at the Bellbird Grove checkpoint in the shelter of some trees as close to registration as possible while staying out of the hectic floodlit area where teams were coming, resting and going. The other support crew team member and I slept about five hours in our tents before getting up to meet the team as they came in.
The tents gave our team a chance to get a few hours sleep out of the cold dawn air. It certainly seemed to help a bit to improve spirits and get them moving again.
Unfortunately, there was nothing we support crew could do to help ease the team’s blisters and strained muscles. But the volunteer podiatrists and physios certainly did a great job patching them up so that we could focus on feeding, watering and encouraging the team.
Over the course of the weekend, there were so many sights and colours that caught my attention. These two photos are just some of the many I took … I could fill a whole album with the little things that inspired me over the weekend.
But ultimately, it was about my team, who all finished the walk together at 4:58pm on Saturday evening after leaving the start line at 8:30am on Friday morning. My brother-in-law did finish but he’s hidden behind my sister in this photo. There was not stopping at the finish line because they were (understandably) too wrecked to want to pose.
Personally, support crewing for Take a Hike was such a fantastic inspirational experience. I had been feeling flat after pushing myself in so many races and events since February. I was feeling a bit lost for goals for the second half of 2013. But the Oxfam Trailwalker is always guaranteed to inspire me (that’s why I have been involved here in Brisbane for the past three years). It’s my annual fix of ‘what’s possible for me?’.
I miss long distance trail running. I love it so much and wanted so badly to be out on the course. I don’t get that with many other sports. So my goal is to run the North Face 100 in May 2014, and to complete a 50km and 45km trail ultra in October and November this year as preparation. I was unable to fulfill my NF100 dream in 2013 due to injury in 2012. But this time I am going to be more sensible in my approach. The Brisbane Marathon in August is my first step to the NF100. I don’t want to run fast, I just want to be out on the course.
Congratulations to Take a Hike and all the other teams who started the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane 2013. Whatever happened while you were out on the course, whether you finished or withdrew, it takes great courage to attempt something so far out of the ordinary. You, your support crews and the volunteers are all so inspiring.