On Sunday I did something that I’ve never done before. I did The Bloody Long Walk. So, what IS the Bloody Long Walk, you ask? It’s a fundraiser walk, held in a number of locations around Australia. It’s 35km and yes, that was bloody long.
I’ve never been someone described as sporty or active or outdoorsy. Mind you, I’ve been on plenty of camping holidays in my time, and am not averse to a bike ride or a wander through nice scenery. I think that it was turning fifty, and the example of a few good friends, that really made me think that I could and should take on a physical challenge like walking 35km in one day.
Running holds absolutely no appeal to me, but walking does. I think that each body has a movement that it’s best suited to, and walking is a motion that works well with mine. So at the end of May I started training for the walk. Four or five days a week I would head out to walk for anywhere between one and three hours, depending on the weather and other commitments. I generally listened to podcasts as I walked, and sometimes occasionally walked with friends. I am fortunate to have a few bike/walk paths nearby, so was able to walk alongside water and among trees. It was mentally therapeutic over an emotionally challenging time period.
Clare decided that she would do the walk with me, and my sister-in-law Jeanette agreed to join us. Clare achieved her bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award last year and is undertaking silver this year, and hiking is part of both awards. She had already learned that she has quite good stamina. Clare did minimal walk-specific training – we hoped that her age (fifteen) would also be on her side! Jeanette has just turned sixty, and has completed many hikes in the past, often carrying a pack. Add regular bike commuting and weekly walks, and you end up with a fit person. I had no doubts that Jeanette would be able to complete the walk. I really did think that I was the weakest link in this whole thing.
As I mentioned earlier, the Bloody Long Walk is a fundraising walk. It’s to raise money for further research into mitochondrial disease. Many people don’t know what mitochondrial disease is. In summary, Mitochondria are the power houses of the cell providing the body with over 90% of the energy it needs to sustain life. Mitochondria take in sugars and proteins from the food we eat and produce energy called ATP that our bodies use to function properly. Mitochondrial disease (mito) is a debilitating and potentially fatal disease that reduces the ability of the mitochondria to produce this energy. When the mitochondria are not working properly, cells begin to die until eventually whole organ systems fail and the patient’s life itself is compromised. Mitochondrial disease (‘mito disease’ for short) is due to a fault in one or more of the genes that make up the mitochondria. This means a hiccup will occur in the production of mitochondria from the time of conception. As the foetus grows, some mitochondria can divide and grow as normal whilst others will divide and grow abnormally.
You can find out more at the Bloody Long Walk website and the Mito Foundation website. As far as fundraising is concerned, our team of three raised over $1,500! We were thrilled and humbled by the generosity of our friends and family.
So, back to Sunday. We headed off at 7.30am, taking a route from Fairfield through Kew, Hawthorn and Richmond. At this stage the route swapped between walking paths, suburban streets, and back to walking paths again. We were well provided for at the checkpoints with fruit, water, and the availability of first aid if needed. We could have done with some more portaloos – at one stage we waited in a queue for half an hour! There were actually over 3000 people taking part in the walk, and it looked to me as though three quarters of those were women.
Sewing note – all my activewear comes from Aldi. I didn’t make any of it!
The walk followed the Yarra River into the City, meandering through Southbank and Docklands and then to Port Melbourne. Once we hit the bay we walked along beside it until we reached St Kilda, where the walk ended.
I loved the first ten kilometres of the walk, and I hated every single bit of the last five kilometres. Every step of that walk along the bay I had to just force myself to keep on putting one foot in front of the other. I’d really had enough by that stage, but I was determined to continue. My legs were aching, my hips were sore, my feet just wanted to be out of shoes. I was lucky that I didn’t get any blisters, thanks to judicious taping of hot spots, but everything just hurt. We started at 7.30am and finished at 4.00pm, with actual walking time of around 7 hours. I have never been as happy to sit down and take off my shoes as I was at the end of that 35 kilometres!
But at the same time, it was highly emotional for me crossing that finish line. I’d done something that I’d never done before; something that I knew would be difficult for me to do. Something that was out of my ‘normal’, and was out of other people’s experience of me. And I’d done it with two people who are very close to me – my daughter and my sister-in-law.
I have to say that Clare was amazing. She just kept on walking and did not whinge or complain once! Yes, she was also very happy to finish, and yes, she was also a little bit stiff and sore the next day, but she really was a trouper. She said that the hikes on Duke of Ed had taught her that her body could do much more than she would have thought she could do, and that complaining and whinging didn’t help anything and only brought everyone down. What a fabulous attitude and effort from a fifteen year old! I really do love teenagers.
And Jeanette was fabulous! As I expected, she walked and walked, keeping us entertained with conversation along the way, and sharing some of her experiences from hikes that she’s done in the past (I really want to do the Three Capes Walk in Tasmania at some stage now).
So, will I do it again? At this stage, I suspect not. I have signed up to do a half-marathon (21km) in December, but that is probably as much walking as I’d prefer to do in one session. I will never take part in something like the Oxfam Trailwalker fundraiser, which is 100km. I have a few friends who have done that, and as I crossed the Bloody Long Walk 35km finish line I really thought ‘oh my god imagine having to do another 65km on top of this’. I will never do that to my body. What did I get out of doing this walk? Other than raising money for a good cause, I proved something to myself. I can challenge myself to do something new, and do it. I have more physical capacity than I (or others) have given me credit for. And I can do things that are tough. Yeah, I’m proud of myself.