Conquering a 96 km Walking Challenge (Kokoda, Gold Coast)

My wife had agreed to take part in this 96km walk over very rugged terrain at the Gold Coast on the 18/19th July with Skaines Reeves and Jones, a local Accounting firm. I said that I would join the support crew and keep themmotivated, well fed and any other support they required.A few of the original people fell out for various reasons and I was asked to leave the support role and join the team my wife had entered with. Naturally I agreed and over the next few months we did some fairly serious training including walking some of the West Highland Way in Scotland whilst there on holidays. We even did a Mini Kokoda of approx 30 kms a month out from the event.We all felt that we had prepared well for the weekend, however sleep deprivation is as funny thing and none of us had a lot of experience with this. My military service had included several periods where we worked very long hours, but that was years ago and I had become a soft civilian, or at least a comfortable gym manager. I also had some concerns about being in the same team as my wife, however this, apart from a couple of sensitive moments amounted to nothing. On the day the SRJ group had two teams of four people, our team consisted of me, Margaret, a 50 year old (and my wife) Kara a 26 year old Accountant and Nina a 26 year old. The second team of four had all SRJ personnel onboard.Our team (blue) was slightly faster and we soon put a couple of hour’s gap on the second team (green) as the day wore on. By nightfall the green team had lost two members due to injury, but we were still going strong.The night and early hours of the morning were the hardest to walk through and most of our stops were no longer than 25 minutes, with one big 45 minute stop for the evening meal. We were all suffering with various aches and pains and heard that another of the green team had pulled out with injury around midnight. Hallucinations, talking to people when they didn’t speak to you and exhaustion were taking their toll and this led to us (blue team) losing our first person, Margaret after 23 hours continuous walking. As my wife, I was concerned about her health and the state of her body and suggested she stay at checkpoint 10 where we had an early breakfast. Margaret agreed although she has since told me she is going back next year to do the entire 96kms. Our team finished with a respectable time of 31hours and 15 minutes at 2.30pm on the Sunday, having walked basically non stop since 7am Saturday morning.

Apart from the elation at finishing, we were very tired and after being presented with our dog tags by a Kokoda ANZAC veteran, we went back to our Guide Hut which was located nearby, showered, and jumped on a bus to head off back to Brisbane. All of us reported having a great nights sleep that night. Our green team finished with just one member left, a couple of hours later.

The Kokoda Challenge is a 96km event that must be completed in 39 hours. It is conducted in the Gold Coast Hinterland over some hilly terrain. The total distance walked included 5000m climbing through bush tracks, fire breaks and old four wheel drive roads. The 96km represents the distance of the real Kokoda Track and the 39 hours limit is in honour of the 39th Militia who fought
in New Guinea.

Every person I came across carried at least one pole, most carried two. I am of the opinion that with the exception of the Nordic pole carriers the remaining people could have had more assistance if they knew how to use their poles and had them correctly adjusted.

Three people in our team carried Nordic Walking poles. I use 120cm One Way Diamond Carbon Mania Max 7, Margaret used 115cm One Way Hope and Nina uses 110cm One Way Mania 600. All of us believe the poles and the correct use of them helped us enormously during this journey.

I found myself assisting people along the way with the best technique to use and we even adjusted the length on a couple of walkers to give them better support. I honestly believe that we were greatly assisted by using the Nordic Walking poles.

Our gymnasium will be entering a few teams in next years competition, and one of my first suggestions to the teams will be to get a correctly fitted Nordic Walking pole set and get well and truly used to it before attempting this gruelling event.

Tom Law, Manager Spectrum Gym, Lawnton, QLD

1 comment:

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