Tag Archives: Oxfam Trailwalker

Oxfam Trailwalker 2013 – So inspiring!

Do you know a recipe for inspiration? I do:

Walkers on the track

Inspiring walkers

Take 1,100 walkers attempting to travel 100km within 48 hours.

Patience is a virtue for support crews

Patient support crews

Add 1,300 patient people willing to be support crew for the weekend.

A volunteer taking a well-earned break

A volunteer taking a well-earned break

And 600 generous volunteers.

A gorgeous place to spend the weekend

A gorgeous place to spend the weekend

Mix them all up in the Australian country side.

Oxfam Trailwalker

Oxfam Trailwalker

And you have the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane.

At 88km the team were no longer walking normally

My team of walkers at 88km (notice the strange walking styles that have developed as a result of the exertion – the girls did have bags but the support crew were carrying them when we took this photo at the CP)

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.

Walkers mking progressOne 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.

A lovely spot to camp

A lovely spot to camp

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.

my sister taking a sleep stop

my sister taking a sleep stop

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.

My sister's feet at 76km

My sister’s feet at 76km

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.

Some support crews were creative

Some support crews were creative

Another creative support crew

Another creative support crew

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.

Take a Hike finishing the walk

Take a Hike finishing the walk

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.

Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane 2013 – Trail marking

Trail marking kit

Trail marking kit

A small army of volunteers hit the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane trail today. Our task: to hang the markings that will guide the 1,100 walkers through their 100km odyssey. The army consisted of seven teams of three to four volunteers. Each team walked one stage of the course hanging numbered yellow markers every 100m and big red arrows at every intersection.

Views on the way to the trail

Views on the way to the trail

I started the day by riding my motorbike up to Mt Glorious over the Mt Nebo Scenic Route. After a week of rain, the sun was shining and clouds hung low in the valley, promising a perfect day for walking.

Volunteering made fun

Volunteering made fun

There’s no easy way to mark the trail: we volunteers simply had to walk our section of track. Not that it was a hardship – rarely are there volunteering opportunities that both help a fantastic charity and get you outdoors hiking in the bush. It was certainly worth taking one of my annual leave days off work.

Lunch at England Creek (Right Branch)

Lunch at England Creek (Right Branch)

I only met my walking companions today at the start of the trail. But over the course of the next seven hours we got to know a little about each other, shared some laughs and found a delightful spot for lunch on the banks of England Creek (Right Branch). I knew this lunch spot was here from my walk down here the other weekend when I completed a recce of the first half of the section of the Trailwalker course that we marked today.

Views from the trail

Views from the trail

The first half of our walk traveled downhill through dense forest. We then crossed England Creek, which was about calf deep. Then we spent the rest of the walk climbing back out of the valley to the top of the range. Actually, the photo in my ‘About me’ page of me sitting on the track in the Oxfam Trailwalker 2011 was taken in the same spot as I was standing when I took this photo of the view. How things have changed. But one thing hasn’t: that view made the long uphill grind worth it.

For the next two days I’ll be out at the event supporting my sister’s team of walkers. I can’t wait.

Total: 17km hike

Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane – Come along as a volunteer

It’s just 6 weeks until the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane, and the good folks at Oxfam are keen to hear from anyone who is free to volunteer during the event. There are plenty of different roles available, from checkpoint or trail marshal, to logistics or IT, and even trail marking or sweeping. You don’t need to be free for the whole weekend. Most shifts seem to be about 8 hours long and you can nominate any time that is suitable to you.

I was a volunteer for three shifts over two days last year and wrote about my experiences here on my blog:

And here’s some pictures to prove I enjoyed the experience:

Flashing my light sabre while helping park cars at Registration

Flashing my light sabre while helping park cars at Registration

Stirring the Gu with a massive paddle

Stirring the Gu with a massive paddle

Not only was the experience fun, but it was also intensely inspiring to see all those teams out walking 100km to raise money for a worthwhile charity. One that is close to my heart because it is but for the grace of God that my four grandchildren are safely living here in Australia not in war-torn Sudan, the country their mother escaped as a 12yo girl. When I look at my daughter-in-law and grandchildren, it brings home just how important it is to support charities that work to provide the developing world with resources to have the basic things we take for granted: food production, water and shelter.

This year I’ll be volunteering as a course setter all day Thursday 13 June before support crewing for my sister’s team from Friday.

If you are free to give some time and energy to Oxfam for the Trailwalker Brisbane 2013, click here to learn more and register.

Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane – Day 2

Welcome to Checkpoint 6 – 88km down and only 12 to go

Checkpoint 6 felt like a big children’s picnic when I arrived just before 1pm to start my third and final shift at the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane. Clusters of families and friends had set up chairs, blankets, eskies and tables all around the edges of the park. They were all in various stages of support-crew life: waiting for teams to arrive, putting their own needs aside to look after their teams, or packing up to cart their bundles of heavy gear back to their cars. Men kicked footballs to boys, toddlers waddled around under the watchful eyes of their parents and the few teenagers who had been dragged along sat with their heads down listening to their iPods.

I was rostered on for an eight-hour shift as an assistant checkpoint coordinator. My main role would be to sign volunteers into their shifts and make sure they were happy. We had a team of 15-20 Oxfam volunteers and numerous health volunteers, such as podiatrists, physios and first aid. The Oxfam volunteers were all allocated to a range of roles. These included:

  • trail marshals who stood at trail intersections and road crossings to both guide walkers and cheer them on
  • parking marshals who helped support crews getting their cars in and out of the loading zone and carparking spaces efficiently; our team of parking marshals also helped tired support crews carry boxes and bags
  • check-in and check-out operators who used laptops to log teams’ in and out of the checkpoint, which also helped keep Event Control and the internet followers appraised of teams’ movements
  • checkpoint coordinator who was responsible for the whole checkpoint; a busy role
  • a communications officer who was responsible for using a two-way radio to keep in contact with trail marshals, parking marshals and other people as necessary
  • checkpoint support who we asked to greet all the teams as they arrived at the checkpoint and cheer them in from the checkpoint gate, about 100m from the check-in desk.
We had a fantastic team of volunteers at our checkpoint and we all worked together to make sure walkers and their support crews had the best possible experience at this, the last checkpoint at 88km into a 100km epic.

Stirring the Gu with a massive paddle

I didn’t have a dull moment during my shift. I did everything from mixing big tubs of sports drink and filling water containers to carrying chairs to trail marshal locations and delivering chocolates to volunteers within walking distance of the checkpoint. As day turned to night, the walkers and their support crews arriving at our checkpoint needed more support because it was so tough to walk into the second night. We set up light wands to help walkers find the trail out of the path and torches to help support crews navigate their entry to the park. Volunteers greeted each team as they exited the trail and walked with them all the way to the check-in desk, encouraging everyone to clap for them as they ended the second-last leg of the walk. We had a walker who needed a taxi and another team of walkers who needed  a lift to the finish line; we helped both sort their rides out. Everyone in our volunteer shift went over and above our position descriptions, and hopefully they found the experience as rewarding and enjoyable as I did.

Taking a rare break … it only lasted long enough to take this photo

While last night I saw the first and third teams move through checkpoints 5 and 6, tonight’s walkers were going through an entirely different experience than those teams out the front had. The first three teams to the finish spent last night at home in bed and had today to recover. But the teams walking through our checkpoint last night had been out on their feet for between 27 and 35 hours with still 12km to walk. While many would have had a short sleep at a checkpoint last night, they would have been on their feet for most of those 27-35 hours.

Two walkers at our checkpoint had a story that amazed us all. They had arrived from the UK two weeks ago to live in Australia. After they arrived, someone they met here told them he needed an extra two walkers for his team; did they want to fill the spots. The team was to be the local man from Brisbane, the man and woman from the UK, and a woman from Canberra (I think the Brits said she was Russian, but might have my teams mixed up). A few days ago, the man from Brisbane came down with malaria and had to withdraw, leaving the remaining 3 walkers with no support crew because the now ill former teammate had organised the support crew. The three of them made it all the way to checkpoint 6 while carrying all their own food, clothing and water for the entire walk; they had huge packs. At checkpoint 6, the woman from Canberra continued while the Brits stayed behind and took her gear so she could finish with a light pack. They had no transport, no money and no contacts they could call on. Another support crew agreed to take them to the finish line to watch their team mate finish the 100km walk. We kept the disappointed Brits company; they were disappointed and falling asleep in their chairs. But I believe they should not be disappointed. Most teams will have walked with 5-7kg on their backs and support crews to feed them. These three walkers did it all on their own carrying what looked like about 15kg of gear. They achieved an amazing feat.

I left the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane at about 9:45pm last night. I had an amazing two days working with fantastic people, both Oxfam staff and volunteers. It was a fantastic experience about all that’s good in society and humanity. I can’t speak highly enough of the Oxfam staff who put this amazing event together. Hundreds of volunteers cumulatively gave up thousands of hours of their time to not only support the walkers but also support other volunteers who were supporting the walkers (for example, event couriers, catering crews, IT support and trail markers didn’t cheer on the walkers; they helped make sure other volunteers could do that effectively). Hundreds  of people gave up time to be support crews for their friends, families and colleagues who were undertaking the challenge of walking. About 1,400 people had the courage to toe the start line to give this epic adventure a go. And thousands of people donated over a million dollars to support Oxfam’s work.

I know a lot of people today say that the world has become a bad place. I know that our media focus on the crime and cruelty in the world. But the reality is that people today are as kind, generous and decent as we’ve ever been. Events like these are graphic proof of that fact.

Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane – Day 1

Flashing my light sabre while helping park cars at Registration

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.

Loading bollards in the van at Checkpoint 5

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.

Laying out the bollards leading out of Checkpoint 5

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.

The volunteer meals were pretty good last night

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.

Volunteering at Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane 2012

The Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane 2011 was an important event for me because it got me back into training. No, I didn’t train properly before the event but afterwards I decided to become a triathlete.

This year I can’t fit the Trailwalker into my race schedule so I decided to nominate as a volunteer. I was so excited today when Oxfam’s volunteer coordinator phoned me to invite me to assist on Friday and Saturday afternoons / nights as:

  • event courier on Friday afternoon / night
  • assistant checkpoint coordinator on Saturday afternoon / night.

Each role is described on the Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane website.

The event is being held from Friday to Sunday 15-17 June 2012. I’m really quite excited at the opportunity to be involved in such a wonderful event and to see it from a whole new perspective. Besides, I love being part of the behind-the-scenes team. I got my first taste as a backstage crew member in high school for the Rock Eistedford and love being triathlon technical official. I think it’s the unique combination of teamwork, invisibility, atmosphere and joys of getting front row seats to the event that keeps me coming back for more.

Bring on Oxfam Trailwalker Brisbane 2012. It’s going to be a brilliant weekend. Good luck to all the teams walking this year. I’ll be cheering for you from the sidelines.