To Stop is to Fail? Maybe Not
In 2014 Julie & 3 of her friends - all busy mums with families decided to take on the Oxfam 100km Trailwalker. The whole experience had it's ups and downs, challenges and triumphs, but ultimately taught them a lot about themselves and the challenges they face every day.
Julie, tell us about your Oxfam 100Km Trailwalker experience.
A few years ago, when I first became a member at the gym my trainer and a group of her friends and clients had just completed a 100KM walk. I remember being in awe of their achievement. 100KM, wow that’s huge. I remember thinking how amazing it must feel to be THAT fit. I never imagined that, a few years later, I would be registering for the Oxfam 100KM Trailwalker with a group of my gym buddies
The Oxfam experience has been a real eye-opener for me. It has been both mentally and physically challenging. The training was long.... it took a big toll on family life. Most weekends were taken up with walking (or feeling guilty about not walking if I wasn’t with the team!). It could have also been costly.... buying gear, deciding it wasn’t quite right, buying more, panic buying last minute things that you don’t actually need just in case! We got great advice from others who had tackled the event before and the best thing I did was listen to that advice and take it on board...
There were many stumbling blocks on the way. Our team of four knew each other really well from the gym, we worked out together pretty much every day. We knew each other inside out.... or so we thought!! Spending long periods of time on the trail in training and also trying to organize the training between four busy mums was challenging and I’d be lying if I said that team relations were harmonious for the entire five months of our training. A bit like the hills we were tacking in training, our relationships went up and down. Again, this taught me a lot about myself and how I react in those kinds of situations... so even the downs (and there weren't THAT many) were personal learning experiences for me.
The event itself was amazing. I’d been unwell with flu for a few weeks prior so I was concerned about my final preparations. But on the day itself, adrenaline kicked in and I was totally pumped to get going! My mind and body felt strong. The idea of not crossing the finish line had not even crossed my mind.
The beginning of the trail was pretty much how I expected it to be.... congested and muddy (yes it was very wet for days running up to the event!). It quickly started to get more challenging and I was surprised at how rocky and steep the track was. After the initial couple of hours there was very little ‘JUST walking’, it was more like climbing and clambering and rock hopping. Not the kind of walking we’d done in training! This continued for the majority of the trail, and it was much more challenging than I had expected. Conditions didn’t help; wet, slippery and muddy. My mind stayed strong but fatigue started to take its toll on my body, particularly at the end of the night time sections. Going was slow... much slower than I had anticipated, due to injury and fatigue in the team. But still, the thought of stopping didn’t enter my mind.
By the end of Stage 5, which was excruciatingly slow, our team leader raised the possibility that we might have to pull out of the event. My first reactions was ‘no way’! We were only about 15km away from the end. Why the hell would we pull out now! Yes, we might be slow... we certainly weren't going to break any records, but if we pull together as a team to support those of us who are fatigued or injured we’d get through.... right!? Others weren't so sure. We chatted it through and the more I listened to the others’ concerns the more I knew that they were right. My body was smashed. My legs were barely capable of taking one step after another. So we took a seat at checkpoint six, kicked off our boots, and made the hard decision to call it a day.
At that point in time, and probably for the next 24 hours, I was 99% sure that I would NEVER attempt a 100KM.... but this event is a bit like childbirth. I’ve already blanked out much of the ‘bad’ stuff. All I can remember is the achievement. OK, so we didn’t complete the 100KM but what we did is still huge. It’s still a huge achievement for me and I’m really proud of that.
Will I do it again? yes, for sure. Will I do it again next year? Probably not. Not because of the challenge of the event itself. It’s more because of the commitment needed to training. I don’t think my family would let me! When I do decide to commit again however, I will certainly use this experience wisely. I will train very differently, I will eat and hydrate differently, there are lots of lessons that I have learned.
I'm hoping that there will be another group of gym buddies signing up to do it next year. I’ll make an awesome support crew.
Read about a very different experience from one of our very own Travel Play Live Oxfam 100km Trailwalker Team members HERE
Have you ever undertaken a similar challenge? What are some of the take away keys you would share with others? Let us know in the comments below.