Tag Archives: Volunteering

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

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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.

Variety Santa Fun Run

Ready to cheer on the 1,800 Santas

Ready to cheer on the 1,800 Santas

1,800 Santas turned up for the annual Variety Santa Fun Run and Walk in Brisbane this morning. And what a fantastic morning it was. I wasn’t able to participate as one of the red-suited fat men so I volunteered my time to stand on the sidelines as a marshal instead.

The start line pre-event

The start line pre-event

Variety is a children’s charity. They provide equipment, support and laughter to children in need who are disadvantaged, sick or have special needs. Examples of their work include the Variety Freedom Program, which helps children gain mobility and communication; the Variety Future Kids Program, which helps children who are disadvantaged or who have special needs to receive access to education; and the Variety Caring for Kids Program, which provides equipment to hospital paediatric wards.

Running Santas

Running Santas

Walking Santas

Walking Santas

Santas of all ages and abilities turned up today to tackle the 5km loop course along the Brisbane River. They were each issued with their own Santa costume and event number. Importantly, no timing chips are issued for this event and there is no stop clock. The Santa Fun Run is purely for FUN. And that’s one of the things I love about this event.

I ran as a barefoot Santa last year and had so much fun. This year, when the event was announced, I contacted the organisers to offer my time so that I could still be involved even though I can’t run just yet. Sure, I could have walked. But I decided instead to wear a high visibility vest and shake a rattle (provided by Variety) to cheer on those braving the hot Brisbane morning.

If you are in Brisbane and want to have a fantastic day out, keep an eye out for the Variety Santa Fun Run 2013. You won’t regret it. If I’m free, you might just see me standing in high visibility clothing cheering you on again. Because this is one charity for whom I would gladly give my time again.

 

 

Read the ride instructions!

It’s 9:30pm and I’m madly racing around the house grabbing all the things I might need to be one of Dino’s helpers at the Midnight Century. I’ve borrowed Mum’s ute (I ride a motorbike), and thrown in my track pump (just in case someone gets a flat), a handful of tools (you never know what will happen in the dark of night), sleeping bag (just in case I’m too tired to drive straight home afterwards) and some sugary treats (to keep me awake through the small hours).

I’m in the car by 9:55pm, leaving plenty of time to drive from my home at Mt Cotton to Brothers Leagues Club, Ipswich. I even read Dino’s flyer, which he’s just resent me, to check the location of the ride. I’m all set. And I’m excited because I’ve never been to an Audax Australia ride because I’ve only recently joined the club and then injured myself.

I arrive at Brothers Leagues Club, Ipswich around 11pm. And I immediately realise something’s wrong. There are no bicycles here. Not a single car with a bike rack to be seen in the carpark. I check my emails again on my mobile. On re-reading Dino’s flyer it becomes obvious that I need to go back to primary school. Either I can’t read (the flyer says Saturday) or I don’t know my days of the week (today is Friday). HAHAHA!!!!!

The moral of the story: read the ride instructions! 😉

I laugh at myself for the whole hour-long drive back home.

Washpool World Heritage Trail Run: A volunteer’s perspective

Waiting for the runners to arrive at CP2

The Washpool World Heritage Trail Run offered runners of all abilities an opportunity to explore the World Heritage listed Washpool and Gibralter Range National Parks. Runners could chose from 9km, 25km and 50km trail running events, depending on their abilities and intentions. Thirty-one intrepid adventurers chose to run the 50km option.

I was going to run the 50km event but had to withdraw due to injury so I decided, instead, to make the 450km (280 miles) trek each way to volunteer at the on-course aid stations for the 50km runners. I’m glad I did because the event was a fantastic opportunity to spend time in a beautiful part of the world and to be part of such a wonderful event.

A gorgeous quiet place to camp

For most runners and volunteers, the event started with an overnight camp at Mulligans Hut campsite. With a large area available for campers, this represented a unique opportunity to spend time with other runners and their families outside the usual race environment. It also allowed runners to relax in the lead up to their chosen event, rather than having to leave home early to drive anywhere.

A lot of logistics go into trail running events

Instructions and promise of a hot weekend

The finish line being prepared

A lot of preparation goes into an event like this. Beyond the acceptance of entry fees and scheduling of the event, the race director also has to negotiate access to the course and camping facilities, set up the course signage and remember to bring equipment for every possible eventuality. In this case, Washpool National Park is a remote wilderness area in which about half the 50km course was inaccessible by car and in which there is no mobile phone coverage. To make matters more challenging, the area is currently experiencing a heat wave with daytime temperatures reaching in excess of 35’C (95’F). This makes the provision of water and other fluids at aid stations even more important.

It’s wildflower season

More wildflowers

The event is held in October to make the most of the wildflower season. Washpool is blessed with an array of native Australian plants that burst into flower in the spring. While the blooms were slightly subdued this year due to a lack of rain, the area still had plenty of white, purple, yellow, orange and red flowers.

CP1: Food and hydration options

CP1: We lined the drop bags up and tried to keep colours together

As a checkpoint volunteer, I worked with the fabulous J, who is also an ultra runner who came to volunteer for the day, and K, who was a spectator who happened to have a campervan that was the perfect size to throw our mountain of gear into. Our first task was to take everything out to the 9.5km mark where we set up CP1. With a long 28km stretch of trail between CP1 and CP2, many runners had requested drop bags.

As this was our first stint as ultra marathon CP volunteers, J and I didn’t have any real plan about what to do until we arrived. But then it all became very natural to us: we set up the food and hydration table on one side of the track and lined all the drop bags on the other so that everyone had easy access to their gear. It seemed to work well when the runners arrived shortly after we set up.

Drop bags lined up in the shade at CP2

Other than cutting up fruit, our biggest task was filling waterbottles and bladders

After the final runner left CP1, we loaded K’s campervan and transported everything down to CP2, just 10km down the road but a long hot 28km run for the runners. We had plenty of time to set up the food and hydration table, and to line all the drop bags up in the shade of the trees. J, K and I then settled in to get to know each other a little better to pass the time.

While the first few runners cleared CP2 quickly, most of the field needed some assistance here to fill drink bottles and hydropacks. At times, we could focus all our attention on a single runner while there were also times when we would be moving between 5-6 runners at a time. It was a privilege to see the full field make their way through the checkpoint and to be part of their personal journeys.

One by one the runners left CP2 to tackle the final 15km

And then, one-by-one, they all left us to continue the final leg of their adventures. All we could do was hope they had taken on enough water, food and encouragement to help them reach the finish line, 15-17km away.

Thank you to Greg and TRAQ for putting on the event, and allowing me to be part of it in my own small way. And thank you to the runners who were so friendly and cheerful despite the obvious fatigue you were experiencing after so many hours out in the hot sun. I learned a lot from each of you and know that my experience as a volunteer will improve my abilities as a runner.

Brisbane Running Festival

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My right hand is numb and my fingers no longer move. I’ve been standing out in the cold since 5am and, despite the cold I’m having a blast.

It’s about 7am, and the marathon and half marathon runners are passing me in a steady stream. My hand is so cold because I’ve been holding it up to show the runners which way to go.

I never realised there were so many runners in Brisbane. And I know there are even more coming later in the 10km event and still more who haven’t entered the Brisbane Running Festival.

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I’m volunteering as a course marshal down at Kangaroo Point near the Brisbane Jazz Club not far from the Story Bridge. I am here to support my running club mates from Brisbane Bayside Runners and Walkers.

It’s a brilliant event and wonderful to share this experience with my club mates. I film each of them as they pass through. There are so many of them that the clip ends up being over 3 mins long after I put all the little sections together.

At about 7:15am I look up and see the silhouette bodies of thousands of 10km runners streaming across the Story Bridge. The sight is magical. I feel intimately connected with humanity and intensely proud to call Brisbane home. We must live in a brilliant city to have an event like this. All these thousands of people coming together with a shared goal: to enjoy a running race.

My club mates all run well. We are represented across all the events and throughout the field. We have runners who win their categories and one who came top 3 (maybe he won, I haven’t checked the results yet). We have a lady who just finished her first marathon and a few who finished their first 10km.

But most importantly, we have runners who just got out and gave it a go for the pure joy of participation. It wasn’t all about winning and, to me, that’s how sport should be enjoyed.

I’m glad I gave up a few hours to help with the event. It was time well spent.

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.