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Could you walk 100 kilometres?

Teams of four will be tackling a massive 100km challenge this weekend – all to raise money for Oxfam. We go behind the scenes with two teams to find out more about the Oxfam Trailwalker – and how to get ready for an epic 24-hour walk.

The City Girls

The City Girls have been doing Oxfam Trailwalker since it began in New Zealand in 2006. This year will be their ninth year on the starting line. Team member Lesley reveals the secret to their success … 

We started doing Trailwalker as a personal challenge for me (Lesley) in my 60th year – to achieve something I hadn’t done before. I had to find a team of four, and Kerry, Jan, Margaret and I have been together ever since. It is still both a personal and team challenge to complete every year’s event, and to do the course in a better time than before. In 2006 we finished our first attempt in 26 hours, now we complete it in 21-23 hours – all while raising funds for Oxfam.

At the start line …

Our training has been pretty similar each year, and we’ve fine-tuned what we need to do. We put in a lot of time training on hills (hard ones) and off-road bush tracks. As we live in different towns, we try to get together as much as possible to train as a team. Jan and Kerry are from Tirau and Putaruru, and Margaret and I are in Auckland. We are fortunate in Auckland to have the Waitakere Ranges with all its wonderful tracks: Fairy Falls, Slip Track, the Hillary Track and also One Tree Hill which has a lot of gates to climb over – which also feature on the Oxfam trail! Jan and Kerry have numerous courses in the Waikato with great hills (mountains) and wonderful scenic tracks. We often meet at Cooks Beach and walk the off-road tracks there for several hours.

Our training builds up until we are doing 6-7 hour walks, and at least 1-2 hours every day either individually or together. Due to our schedules, the long walks occur in the weekends. We also go down to Rotorua mid-March for the International Walk, which features a 42km walk on Day One, and 30km on Day Two. We always judge ourselves on this weekend, as it is two weeks before Oxfam Trailwalker, as whether we are ready for the 100km.

We have all had our challenges in training, fitting it in around full-time jobs and health issues. Jan had a hip replacement two weeks after finishing the event in 2011, and Margaret overcame a mild stroke before 2013. We have maintained our fitness and prepared well, looking after our feet and simply putting in the time in preceding weeks, and most importantly maintaining our positive attitudes.

The rewards that we have achieved from doing the Oxfam event have been in our growing friendships with each other, good health generally, and achieving our fundraising targets every year. Over the last nine years we’ve raised close to $30,000 for Oxfam’s work in less privileged countries. We have accumulated a vast number of uniforms over the years, as we always like to present ourselves as a team. Our team colours are green, purple and black, so we try to rotate the colours around.

We have an amazing support crew: Lynn, Karen and Trish, all from Putaruru, and Lyle (our massage expert) from Auckland. They all know us inside out and have been there to support us through the moods and sore limbs, and lots of blisters. They supply us with amazing food and drink, and provide us with lots of laughs. Lynn writes a story each time, and gives us an installment to read after we leave each checkpoint.

We always chatter and sort out all kinds of problems while we are on the track, as well as catching up on all of the gossip.

Team colours!

Our advice to teams doing the event for the first time would be:

  • Have a fantastic support crew (4 members minimum)
  • Put in the training hours (working up to 8 hour sessions)
  • Train off road, incorporating hills, steps and rough tracks
  • Stay together on the event –​ don’t leave any of your team behind
  • Help each other – we have all had a time we have been having a bad time, and it’s the rest of the team that gets you through it
  • Stop at checkpoints and have food and drink
  • Don’t eat rich food – keep it simple and bland
  • Again, stay together and train together – this is when you learn about each other, and your individual strengths and weaknesses
  • A campervan is great for your support team to be able to look after you well at each checkpoint
  • Look after your feet, and prepare feet well on the day using  wool and lots of Vaseline
  • Have good shoes and more than one pair, as well as several pairs of socks so you can change them at every checkpoint

We will be doing number ten next year and then will review what happens after that. Oxfam Trailwalker has become such a big part of our lives; it will be hard to break free!

You can support The City Girls at their Oxfam team page here.

Are We There Yet?

Start with two Kiwis, a Canadian and an Irishwoman … it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but as team Are We There Yet? put it, “We’re four gals who work together, and are mad enough, or passionate enough, depending how you look at it to take on this massive challenge of walking 100km.”

Here’s what they have to say about fitting in training, walking in the rain, and why they’re doing it in the first place …

Ruthann, Loren, Cara and LJ are team Are We There Yet?

Why are you doing Trailwalker?

Ruthann: I want to do this, firstly because I love Oxfam. I love the amazing and inspiring work they do, and I love the people who work there. On a personal note, I want to do Oxfam Trailwalker to push myself beyond my own boundaries, to challenge myself in ways I never have, and to do something extraordinary in support of the extraordinary people in the field, facing extraordinary odds every day. I want to prove to myself I can do this, and I want to show my daughter that she can do whatever she sets her mind to as well.  

Loren: I think Oxfam is an incredibly worthwhile cause and I want to participate in fundraising, not just in a work sense, but also on a personal level. The challenge of walking 100km is a significant one, and setting myself a challenge like this while raising money for a great cause is something I am really motivated by. And to do it with the lovely ladies I work with, by my side, would be incredible. 

Cara: I want to do Oxfam Trailwalker to challenge myself, support a great charity who do amazing work, and spend a crazy 25+ hours with my brilliant team!

LJ: I want to do it to not only challenge myself both mentally and physically but mainly because it is for an amazing cause. The short and long term work Oxfam do is simply incredible. They have amazing people who work for them. I would like to give something back. Seeing the work Oxfam has achieved has made my year and I am so proud to be part of that.

What kind of training have you been doing — and how you fit it into your lives?

We’ve been trying to get in a big training walk at the weekends. Luckily the four of us are morning people so we tend to get up relatively early (usually a Saturday morning) and start training.

In terms of fitting it in, well to be honest it has been hard, the coordination of four people, babysitters, work and social commitments has been tougher than expected.

We think though being genuinely mentally committed to doing this, as well as our training and knowing this is for an amazing cause will get us through this. 80% mindset, 20% fitness, 100% commitment!

What has most challenging aspect of training been so far?

Walking in the torrential rain and being so wet that even our underwear was soaked! The fact that you can’t just run for shelter at the first downpour, you just have to keep going and there is no reprieve.

On a positive note though our feet were so wet there wasn’t a chance of a blister! It also made us realise we will need entirely different gear for a wet day!

What rewards have you reaped so far?

People have a genuine interest and have been incredibly supportive. Not just the donations, but the support from people and the offer for help. It’s been quite overwhelming to be honest.

What advice would you give to anyone else thinking of taking part in Oxfam Trailwalker?

Dedication and commitment. When times get tough think of the reason why you’re doing this, not only on a personal level but on a fundraising level.

In terms of donations, think outside the box. Leverage as many platforms as you can and most importantly make sure you are asking the right people!

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