Last year, I was part of a team that completed the Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker event, walking together for 100km on the outskirts of townships, up and over low mountain ranges, and to Jells Park, within Melbourne suburbia, to raise money for Oxfam Australia’s many wonderful projects.
This year, I was part of the event from a different perspective, as trail marshall at one of the points along the trail. My role, with my fellow volunteer, was to direct the walkers (to ensure they didn’t lose their direction) and to encourage them along. In the process, I saw another side to the event, and how it is so much bigger, and more beneficial, than I had realised.
10pm, Friday 8 April
My shift was 6am until 1.30pm on Saturday 9th, and my destination was just out of Millgrove, around an hour from home. So an early start was needed the next morning. My bag, with food, audio and reading material (in case there was any waiting around), was packed, as well as some lollies to keep those who needed them going (I remembered finding this really beneficial!)
No photos – only to say it was very dark. I was in bed, trying to get some sleep. Those participating had been on the go for at least 12 hours, and generally longer, by this time.
4.30am, Saturday 9 April
Up and getting ready to leave. My dog, Rosie, was less than impressed to be left behind, especially as the rest of our household was away for the weekend. Still, not sure dogs are allowed (partly as it is a national park, partly because not all walkers might embrace being greeted by a dog, no matter how cute, and partly because she still had her own paw injury to recover from. Sorry, Miss Rosie, but you’re in charge of the house.
Missing out, and still wearing a silly collar = one not impressed dog. Oh well, she’s better now!
Approximately 6am, Saturday 9 April
At the Millgrove checkpoint (Checkpoint 7), to sign in and collect identifying bibs. This is the last checkpoint before the end of the trailwalk, so the trail walkers have covered approximately 84 km by this stage. There are a few groups who run part or all of the event, but these have passed through well before the Saturday.
The ones we saw in many ways took the harder road. Much longer on their feet, much longer staying alert and active, and so very impressive that they were still going. As you can see, there are some pretty tired people here, especially those who have walked through the night, but the atmosphere is very positive!
Collecting my orange bib from my checkpoint coordinator
Resting and recovering at Checkpoint 7
From 6.45pm − 1.30pm, Saturday 9 April
With Honor, my marshall buddy, we positioned ourselves, along with our chairs and books, and waited for the walkers to come. We didn’t have long to wait.
The walkers tended to come in waves, possibly motivated by other groups. To get to our point, they had been walking up a hill for over 2 km, and after 85km, that is quite an effort. Some reached out point, which was nearly at the top of that particular rise, with a look of grim determination, some seemed to move up quite quickly and smoothly, and some were slightly swaying from the effort this had taken.
The groups were diverse – some were very equal in ability, in personality and attitude (as far as you could tell), and some were very different. And often it was the slowest member who provided the greatest motivation. Almost without exception, they still maintained positivity, they took (in some cases), brief stops and in others just kept going. As you can see in the photos, some of them really got into the spirit of dressing up (there were many more too – if only I could have captured them all!)
Our role as marshalls was in part to encourage them, but often Honor and I looked at each other, as we felt the encouragement the other way. So much gratitude was expressed for our role (which was actually fairly minor, in the scheme of things). But that is part of the atmosphere of the event – there is so much support between volunteers and organisers, between volunteers and participants, and between the participants themselves. And I think that atmosphere also flows through to the groups who, through Oxfam Australia, receive assistance as a result of the money raised. It is a very friendly, supportive event.
Plus, there is a lot of beauty along the trail. Although we were a little cold, we were marshalling in such a beautiful setting. Just having the time to appreciate this, without feeling that I should be moving on, was a wonderful gift.
1.45pm, Saturday 9 April.
Back at the checkpoint, returning our bibs and signing out. The groups coming through now had tended to take things at a different pace, with overnight rests, taking advantage of massages on offer and so on. Again,the allied health services are all provided by volunteers as well – as are some of the food and drinks on offer.
2.30pm, Saturday 9 April
Given how close I was to the finish line, I thought I’d check it out (last year, we finished in the dark, and I wondered what the atmosphere was like during the day). It had a really party feel, in part due to the weather, but more so, due to all the friends and family collecting around those who had, in many cases, completed the most significant physical event they’d ever done.
These friends and family members were often part of the support team each team has, meeting them at each checkpoint with supplies, helping to patch up any injuries (along with the allied health members), providing food, warmth and encouragement. Again, a key part of the event. And I saw a number of the team which had passed through our marshalling point reach this end – what a sense of accomplishment they must have felt!
Including one of my former boss, Steve, who has managed to corral a team (or two, or three) planners to do this event for a number of years now. Yay team planners (and urban designers, and architects, and engineers, and the full gamut)!
According to the feedback we received after the event, the Melbourne Oxfam Trailwalker event ‘raising more than $2.38 million for Oxfam Australia to help communities around the world fight poverty and injustice’. It finished just after 8am on Sunday 10 April, with more than 690 teams crossing the line’.
As well as the participants, there were more than 800+ volunteers involved too. It was an amazing experience, and one that I am so pleased to have taken part in.
It’s not too late to make a donation and contribute.
Find out more about the great work that Oxfam Australia is involved in, and also how you can donate here