A beautiful morning greeted us on Friday April 19th. Myself and the rest of my team, Laurette, Simon and Lisa, “The Feetles”, were in high spirits pre-race. This was my first ever Oxfam trail walk. I thought being a podiatrist I would be prepared for the 100km or at least I hoped I was. I had no illusions that walking 100km of trail across various gradients was no easy task. I thought the first 50km would be easy, the last 50km would be hell.
At 8.30 am we were away, leaving Jells Park. We were feeling good, people seemed to like our t-shirts, and after all we didn’t have to work today! We decided to jog the first few kms whilst we had the energy and we couldn’t resist taking the lead for a few seconds a few kms into the event. The weather was good, the legs feeling good, the feet feeling good, maybe this wouldn’t be too hard after all.
At checkpoint 2 at Lysterfield Lake we stopped for lunch. We had only been walking for about 4 hours and a total of 20.5km. There were no team injuries to speak of although it was nice to put the feet into an ice bath.
From Lysterfield lake the trail continued up to Belgrave and then onto Ferntree Gully Picnic Ground. We had now walked a total of 7 hours (less 1 hour for rests) and a total of 35.1km. Dinner and a decent rest was only 10.2 km away at Olinda. Feet still feeling good.
The next section included the famous but daunting Kokoda Memorial Track (also known as the “thousand steps”) up through the stunning ferns and blackwoods of the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Whilst only 10.2 km this section was one of the most difficult for walkers with steep gradients creating havoc. My feet by now were copping a pounding and this section seemed to never end. Walking on flat trails was quite easy but as soon as you add ascents and descents your feet move a lot in your shoes. This creates friction and leads to every walker’s nightmare –blisters!! By now I was hungry and my feet were starting to hurt.
I ended up limping into checkpoint 4 at Olinda. My feet were hot and sore with a freshly formed blister under the left plantar forefoot. The time was 6.20 pm and my feet were already screaming at me to stop. We had only done 45.3 km – WHAT!!! Not even half way!!! This was now becoming a mental battle.
I knew the last 50 km was going to hurt. I just didn’t know how much. The trail headed to Mt Eveleyn and then onto the Warburton trail. Now my joints and muscles were starting to feel it. My left hip and knee especially. The other disappointment was not getting a good reception in the bush on my transistor radio – I was unable to listen to the footy without constant static interruptions. Walking through the night also presented other problems. The temperature dropped (wish I had bought a better jacket / wind breaker) and fatigue started to set in. Luckily my DJ gig that night managed to lift team morale which was also on the slide. I was starting to count down the kms.
We arrived at checkpoint 7 just after 7 am we had now completed 93.3 km. So close. My list of injuries had grown; 2 x blisters, left hip pain, left knee pain, right foot tendonitis and nasty chaffing.
The last section wasn’t fun; we were back into the bush with more challenging gradients. Walking uphill was fine for me but downhill was a killer –especially on the left knee. It took our team just under 3 hours to complete this final section. If this section was at the start it would of only taken 1 hour. We started this walk as fit 30-40 year olds but we were now finishing like 95 year olds! We eventually limped across the line. There wasn’t much elation – we were too tired and hurt- please take us home. The Feetles had done it and remarkably all 4 team members had managed to complete the 100km. It had taken a total of just over 26 hours to complete the Oxfam Trail Walk. It would take my feet and my legs a further 2 weeks to recover.
The wash up
Overall the Oxfam Trail Walk was a very challenging experience. It was for a very worthy cause and our team raised over $4,000 for people who are less fortunate than us and live in poverty. I’m sure if I did it again I would be better prepared and more experienced. My podiatry knowledge certainly helped me but nothing beats experience. I admire all the walkers who manage to complete this event, especially those people who are repeat walkers.
Don’t do this event without seeing one of our Melbourne podiatrists first.
Make sure your feet, legs, muscles, joints are in the best possible shape.
Try and run some of the early flat sections of the trail (the more you run the less you have to walk).
Make sure your shoes fit well and have at least 2 pairs.
Change socks regularly. I used a new pair for every section. 8 pairs in total.
Keep warm – be prepared for the cold night.
Choose a good team – keep team morale up – music is good.
A good support crew is a must. Big thanks to ours – Rob, Connie, Paul and Neil.
Don’t drive home.
For more tips please see our news article on preparing for the Oxfam Trail Walk.