In the Canberra Weekly [page 18 numbered 19/166]:
Whyte celebrates 50 years of walking
In the Canberra Times:
Robyn Whyte brings up Lake Burley Griffin walking carnival half-century
In the Canberra Weekly [page 18 numbered 19/166]:
Whyte celebrates 50 years of walking
In the Canberra Times:
Robyn Whyte brings up Lake Burley Griffin walking carnival half-century
Canberra Two Day walker Robyn Whyte has been featured in the May 5-11 edition of the City News: 50 years on, still stepping out
For more info about the LBG carnival:
Over 600 walkers from 17 countries and across Australia enjoyed perfect Canberra autumn weather during our weekend of walking. All participants who walked both days were awarded a commemorative silver medal. Ten walkers had participated in all 25 events and were awarded a special 25-year medal.
His Excellency Dr Obaid Alhairi Salem Alketbi, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, and a large contingent of UAE Embassy staff took part in Sunday’s walk around Lake Burley Griffin. Walking groups from Taiwan, Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium attended the Festival as well as individuals from England, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, and the USA.
Earlier this year the Canberra Walking Festival was named by two international walking organisations as the first official walking event of the Cooperation Cup, with only a small number of events to be chosen worldwide each successive year. Bronze medals were presented to 10 walkers from Belgium, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United States. The Cooperation Cup was jointly established by the IML Walking Association (IML) and the International Federation of Popular Sports (Internationaler Volkssportverband or IVV) to promote non-competitive walking. The Canberra Walking Festival has been an accredited IML event since 1977 and has been sanctioned by the IVV since 1999.
IML Vice-President, Dolores Grenier from the USA, enjoyed her first visit to Australia, together with the presidents of our event’s sister walks in Finland and Taiwan: Helene Kyroelaeinen and Cheng Chi (Bronze medalist in the 80M hurdles in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City and the Associated Press Athlete of the Year in 1970).
Originally known as the Canberra Two Day Walk, the Canberra Walking Festival’s 25th international event featured our very first point-to-point walk along the Canberra Centenary Trail. There were also pre- and post-Festival walks to ensure visiting walkers saw the best of the nation’s capital city.
Next year’s Canberra Walking Festival will be held 31 March, 1-2 April 2017. Online registration will open later this year in October.
I first walked the Canberra Two Day Walk (CTDW) in 2003. I had recently returned from three years in the USA, where I had cheered on my husband in his first marathon. I discovered that there were plenty of people who walked marathons in the United States and I felt inspired to give one a go myself, so was looking for a suitable event in Australia. I came across a CTDW brochure for the event at the bowling alley in Tuggeranong, less than two months before the event and was immediately enthused to enter. The 30km distance requirement for my age was a little daunting but I was not deterred. How hard could it be? After all, it was much less than a marathon. Famous last words!
Working full-time with a young child, I had limited opportunity to train, and I went in to my first CTDW very under-prepared, and with relatively new shoes to boot. I don’t think I had walked much further than 20km in the lead-up to the event. At the end of the day I could hardly move, and I had monstrous blisters on both feet. I didn’t know how I would be able to complete another 30km on day two. But I knew that if I didn’t finish the walk I would have endured all the pain and have nothing to show. That finisher’s medal was a powerful incentive for me! So, with bandaged feet and a pair of comfortable old shoes, I struggled through the second day of walking, with plenty of encouragement (and concern) from the other participants. Needless to say, I was not fit for work on the Monday, and needed to take a day’s leave to recover. My second CTDW was not much better, but since then I have managed more easily, and have even completed eight of the nine marathon routes, plus 10 or so other marathons along the way.
Given my trials at the very first CTDW, I decided to immediately join the IML to get the IML Bronze Medal (in addition to the CTDW medal) — I felt that I deserved it! I have since walked three times at our sister IML event in Rotorua, New Zealand, but need to travel further afield if I want to earn subsequent IML awards. I’m hoping to do a bit more travel in the years to come.
I’m also a very enthusiastic IVV walker, having now walked over 7,000km and completed over 400 events. This is not much when compared to some of our international walkers who have completed over 10 times my distance! I have done a number of IVV walks in the USA and have taken on their 50 states and A-Z challenges. So far I have walked in nine states and finished half of the alphabet. I just wish I had known about the IVV when I lived in the USA. Walking is a wonderful way to see a new place when travelling — and the IVV walks will often take you to some of the more interesting places that a tourist wouldn’t normally see (plus many of the main tourist spots too). I have also been fortunate to meet some wonderful IVV walkers when travelling, who have been very generous with their time. It’s much easier when you have a local guide too, rather than having to worry about following written directions! I like to reciprocate when visitors come to Canberra, and have met many interesting people during their travels here.
After a couple years of participating in the CTDW I was recruited onto the committee after making a few “helpful” suggestions about the event and the old website. Over the years I have taken on increasing responsibilities, first with the website, brochure design and newsletter editor, IVV coordinator and then starting up various social media channels and coordinating a regular walk program throughout the year.
This is now my 10th year on the committee and my fourth year as president. I started as a general committee member, became vice-president in 2011 and then president in 2012 when Lachlan Wilkinson inconveniently decided to move to Adelaide! One of my main goals as president has been to streamline some of the manually-intensive aspects of the Festival, and while this has resulted in some short-term pain, I am sure that the long-term gain will be worth the effort.
My favourite distance to walk is 20km and I prefer nice flat or gently undulating routes. Downhills are a real killer for my knees, and I am not a fan of loose, scrambly surfaces. I enjoy walking with others but am equally happy to walk by myself, and can while away the time planning all the things I intend to do after the walk (although usually I just end up having a nice rest!). Since getting a smart phone I have discovered that podcasts are also a good way to pass the time while walking, and I particularly like listening to Conversations with Richard Fidler.
I live very close to the Centenary Trail, so I am spoiled with great walking opportunities. In my ideal world I’d be doing a 10km walk every morning, but I end up spending far too much time sitting in front of a computer. The hot weather was also a big de-motivator for me, so I really need to be more committed to going out first thing before it gets too hot.
Last year I joined Walking for Pleasure, which has been a lot of fun, and have recently merged our Saturday AussieWalks into their program of walks, which now cover every day of the week except Mondays.
In recent years I have also taken up running (shock, horror!) and after completing the “couch to 5k” program I can now run 5km. I don’t get to much running training, but do try to get along to my local parkrun on Saturday mornings when I don’t have an AussieWalk scheduled. I find that parkruns are also good when travelling, because there are lots of events held around Australia (and the world) and once you have registered you use the same barcode at every event — and it is free.
Aside from walking, I have a few obscure hobbies, including geocaching and munzees. These activities have taken a back seat over the last year or so, but they are fun when I do make time for them.
Well, that’s probably more than anyone wanted to know about me, so I’ll end here and just say that I am looking forward to catching up with all our repeat walkers as well as meeting our new walkers at the Canberra Walking Festival in April. See you then!
Dolores will be walking with us for the very first time this year. “I met Kathleen and Harry Berg several times at other IML events,” she explains. “I am happy to be able to take part in the 25th anniversary of the Canberra Two Day Walk.”
As IML Vice-President, Pan Pacific region, Dolores will also be presenting the very first Cooperation Cup medals at our awards ceremony on Sunday. Walkers from Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and the United States will receive the first Cooperation Cup awards here in Canberra.
The Cooperation Cup was jointly established by the IML Walking Association (IML) and the International Federation of Popular Sports (Internationaler Volkssportverband or IVV) earlier this year to promote non-competitive walking. Both international organisations have the aim of encouraging active and worldwide walking.
“It is unfortunate it has taken me this long to make it to your event but I am sure this will not be my last time,” Dolores says. “Australia is a big country with lots to do so my trip of two weeks will not be enough!”
She joined the IVV in 1988 while working at the U.S. Air Force Base in Zwiebrucken, Germany, and raising her son Foster and daughter Petrina. “Walking was an inexpensive activity I could do with my children,” she remembers. “We could get outdoors, see the sights, and meet the people.”
In 1997 she participated in an IML event held in the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina. “This was the one and only IML event that took place in North Carolina,” Dolores recalls. “I ran into a group of British police officers there for the IML walks. I was hooked on the IML walking scene! I’ve never been the same.”
Since then she has walked in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, South Korea, Spain, and Taiwan. “I enjoy the IML walking events as I like to be able to travel and meet the local people and cultures.”
She has walked 50km seven times in the Netherlands “then I smartened up” and walked 40km in her eighth event in that country. “I’m going to retire in March 2017 and plan on doing more than the two or three walks a year I’ve been doing while working full-time.”
A member of the American Volkssport Association (AVA), Dolores also helps organise the IML Freedom Walk in Arlington, Virginia, and has walked in all 14 Freedom Walks held to date. Just like our walk, the Freedom Walk features the sights of a national capital — in this case Washington, D.C.
As a volunteer on the IML Board, she helps out with the IML newsletter and social media. “Hopefully, when I’m retired, I can step it up to assist IML President Marc Muller who is doing so much for the organisation.”
She has completed the AVA’s Centurion Achievement Challenge twice already and is working towards her third award patch. The Centurion program requires a walker to participate in 100 IVV events in a single calendar year.
“Walking is my passion,” states Dolores, “but I run an occasional half- or full-marathon. I’m not breaking any running records but my job requires a certain amount of physical fitness.” She has been employed with the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office for the past 24 years. “It has been a challenging time for law enforcement in the United States over the past few years,” Dolores notes. “I am thankful for my time of service but feel it is time to let the younger law enforcement officers take on the new challenges.”
In her leisure time she likes to garden and read as well as do a little skiing. Dolores is also a grandmother of six and has encouraged her grandchildren to walk with her. “I enjoy time walking stateside AVA events with them. All but the youngest have their IVV walking books,” she says proudly.
Her oldest grandson, Devin aged 14, really likes the Volksbiking IVV-sanctioned events. “In 2014 we completed the C&O Canal route of 185 miles from Cumberland, Maryland, to Georgetown, Washington, DC, in five days,” she smiles. “Great memories.”
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.
Maria and Paul will be walking in Rotorua (19-20 March) and in Canberra for the fifth time this year. Their previous visits were in 1999, 2006, 2010, and 2013.
Paul has one sister and two brothers living in Australia so they enjoy being with family as part of their visit. “But we also like to see a different environment and meet other walkers,” says Maria. “You meet other walkers who you see again at other events and even if you do not speak their language, you can still be friends.”
Maria has some school friends who emigrated to New Zealand “so it is nice to be able to visit there as well, as the walking events are close together we can do it on the same trip.”
The couple live in the Province of North Braband, in the township of Deurne, a municipal area comprising several small towns and approximately 30,000 residents.
They had already been walking in international events throughout Europe before the IML was established in 1986. “Our scope of international walking was extended once we joined the IML,” Paul notes. “Apart from Israel, China, Indonesia, and Lithuania, we have walked everywhere there is an IML walk.” Some of those countries include Canada, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and the United States.
The pair walk regularly in certain locales such as nearby Nijmegen where Maria has walked 42 times and Paul 27 times. When Paul is not walking, he sets up his caravan beside the day four route and offers drinks to the walkers. They have also walked more than 30 times in Belgium, Switzerland, and Luxembourg. In 2014 they received their IML 150 medal award [for completing 450 walks] in Fulda, Germany.
At home, they have been members of the Limburg area of the KNBLO, the national walking association of the Netherlands, since 1961. The Royal Netherlands Walking Association organises the Nijmegen Four Day Walk which will celebrate its 100th event this year on 19-22 July. Walkers may choose from 30, 40 or 50 kilometre routes each day.
They have been members of the Wiehengebirgsverband Osnabruck in Wesser, Germany, for 48 years, and the Fulda Walk Club in Germany for 19 years. The duo even led their own walking group from 1961 to 1993.
Paul and Maria are extremely keen walkers, racking up 1,000 kilometres annually. “In our walking books, we have records for more than 50,000 kilometres so far.”
“Apart from normal walking events, we also do long distance walking. Our longest trek was from Deurne to Lourdes in southern France where we walked about 1,300 kilometres over 40 days with a full backpack,” Paul adds. Long distance walking usually features routes of 160 kilometres or more over a number of days. There are also events like the Kennedy Marches where walkers must complete 80 kilometers within 20 hours.
When they aren’t walking, they enjoy bicycling. “In our younger days we also did a lot of swimming,” Maria recalls. She volunteers with the Red Cross while Paul assists numerous people with completing their tax forms and answering correspondence.