Past C2DW President Lachlan Wilkinson relates his involvement with our event.
It was a sign behind the driver on a bus back in 1996 that started me on this journey. The sign was advertising something called the ‘Canberra Medal Walk’. As a keen walker newly-arrived in Canberra, I needed to find out more. I did, and entered the 30-kilometre walk in 1997.
By this time, I had also joined the ACT Race Walking Club (now ACT Walkers) and learnt how to race walk. I thought I was in pretty good shape and this distance wouldn’t be problem, particularly as I was going to stroll over the event, rather than use the race walking technique. I struck up a conversation with a couple of walkers at the front of the group and we finished together, but those last 10 kilometres were hard! That night, in an experience familiar to many of our walkers, I lay in bed with aching muscles wondering how I could possibly do it again the next day. I made it, but did more distance training before the 1998 walk!
I encouraged a few other race walkers to give it a go and a number became regular participants. To stay in the spirit of the event, none actually used the race walking technique but walkers such as Robin Whyte were still always among the first to finish. Around this time, Robin became a Centurion by walking 100 miles in 24 hours, inspiring several others in the ACT Walkers to also have a go at ultra-distance events.
Shortly after, I walked part of the Two Day Walk with someone called Carol. I commented that she seemed to have an efficient style and good endurance and she should come along to some of the ACT Walkers events. I got a taste of what an understatement that was in August 1999, just after my 40th birthday, when Carol passed me in the last kilometre of our first 50-kilometre race walking event. (For the record, I finished in 5 hours 57 minutes — only two hours off an Olympic qualifying time.) Of course, Carol Baird then went on to complete the Centurion distance 10 or more times and set a number of Australian records! She marked the Two Day Walk course for many years.
I was also giving ultra-distance walking a go, not quite with the success of Carol, but I did manage to walk 100 kilometres in just over 14 hours and complete several 12-hour events. In the last couple of years that the Gosford Coastal 12-hour Classic was held, we had a team of around 10 ACT walkers making the trek, several of whom — Robin, Carol, Val Chesterton, Doug Fitzgerald, Geoff Barker, Val Moran (apologies to anyone I missed) — were also Two Day walkers. We received the strangest looks when we all shuffled in slow motion into a club the night after the event for a meal. Lucky that wasn’t a two-day event!
Harry Berg indicated that he intended to stand down after the 15th Two Day Walk. I was initially reluctant to put my hand up as I was already the secretary of ACT Walkers. However, by this time, I was convinced this fabulous event needed to keep going. I caved in only about an hour before the AGM when it was clear no one else was going to nominate!
While there were plenty of challenges over the six years I served as President, I didn’t regret my decision to stand. I had a great committee, with the Bergs still actively involved. We introduced the marathon and streamlined the event by moving to a three-year cycle.
In a master stroke, I encouraged Diana Marshall to join the committee, conveniently providing me with a successor! There were frustrations — foremost of those was the inability to grow our walker numbers. I have always thought that our event should be far more popular than it is. I look with some envy at events like the Seven Bridges in Sydney that attract many thousands of walkers. It is difficult with small volunteer-run events and walkers who take part in the now Canberra Walking Festival should appreciate the effort put in by committee members.
In 2012, my wife and I decided we would move on from Canberra after 16 years and I stood down as President. In the end, we left just after the 2013 walk, moving to Adelaide where I commenced a job with an environmental consultancy firm, JBS&G Australia (we work on environmental assessments and approvals and Diana can provide my contact details if you need our services!)
My Canberra Two Day Walk Association obligations weren’t quite over as I spent several months mapping out an IVV walk to show some highlights of the city of Adelaide. I’m pretty happy with the route so come and give it a go if you haven’t already. Give me a call and I might be able to walk it with you.
Anyway, I’ll be back this year for the 25th anniversary (and the 19th time I’ve taken part). An advantage of no longer being on the committee is that I can walk with everyone else. It’s been a few years since I last walked an ultra event, so I need to get in a bit of training over the next few weeks to be able to manage the marathon (Saturday) and 30km (Sunday) without excruciating pain. I still think it’s a fabulous event given the ability to see parts of Canberra others never experience and enjoy the company of walkers from around the world. I hope many more Canberrans soon realise what a great event they have on their doorstep.