NEWSLETTER JULY 2010
In this edition
Jenny, Queen of Clubs
Markus and Doug: Comrades-in-alms
Big Ben keeps good time
The United State of Achilles
I have enjoyed following the progress of various Achilles members during their preparation for and participation in events over the last few months. Here are some examples, to name but a few: the 6 Foot Track, the Mother’s Day Classic, the SMH Half Marathon, the Oxfam Trailwalker, the Canberra Running Festival, the Comrades Marathon, and the Gold Coast Marathon. I find it very motivating to witness our members participating and doing so well. I encourage everyone who participates in a special event to report back about it so that we can all share in the excitement and satisfaction of your efforts. You will read some fantastic stories later in this newsletter.
Please read all the details relating to the new Sunday parking permits, new Achilles caps and membership renewal.
I look forward to seeing you at Sunday training – the best place to be on a Sunday morning!
Happy walking and running and looking forward to seeing you on the road!
Jenny, the Queen of Clubs
Jenny Abela started playing golf in 2000. Her husband Peter was dying of cancer and she needed an occasional relief from the stress.
10 years after those sad days, Jenny is still playing golf. However, the sport has gone from being an outlet for grief to being an important and positive part of Jenny’s life.
Such a progression might be routine in a well-sighted person. When one realises that Jenny is almost totally blind, the story becomes remarkable.
Jenny was persuaded to take up golf by Vision Australia stalwart and volunteer bus-driver, Brian Turner. Shortly afterwards, Jenny found herself taking lessons from Eddie Emerson, a golfing teacher based at St Michael’s Golf Club. She recalls the faltering start with amusement. For example, when she was first handed a putter, she struck an over-the-shoulder pose that might have been used by Greg Norman to blast a ball down the fairway.
Ten years later, Jenny has a travel diary that records her many golfing trips all over Australia and as far afield as Japan. The two Japan visits were particularly exciting,as Jenny was thecaptain of the Vision Australia New South Wales Team. Jenny is still taking lessons from Eddie, whom Jenny describes as a “marvellous man.”
She also has a shelf full of trophies. One of them records her victory in the 2010 Adelaide Stapleford competition. I am not sure whether she still has her “favourite” trophy. It was a bottle of fine Scotch whisky that was awarded to her at the Jack Newton Foundation Golf Tournament after hitting the longest drive by a woman. Jenny explained that she was the only woman golfer to actually land her drive on the fairway, a prerequisite for winning the prize.
When modestly discussing her golfing successes with Achilles Heel, Jenny was ready for the obvious question: “How does a vision-impaired person play golf?” While sighted golfers have a caddie to assist with advice on club selection and the lay of the land, the blind golfer’s caddie is also a guide. The guide will perform the additional duties of positioning the ball and positioning the golfer. The guide’s advice on topography has to be a lot more detailed and the teamwork has to be at the highest level.
Nonetheless, even the best preparation can go wrong. On one occasion, Jenny gave a hefty swing with her driver at the start of a hole. Both Jenny and guide, long-time friend Kerry Allen, were surprised when the expected “thwack!’ was replaced by a quiet “click”. They were then embarrassed and amused to find that, instead of being placed on the tee, the ball was still in Jenny’s pocket. (Kerry was mentioned in a recent Achilles Heel newsletter after expertly coaxing the Vision Australia bus to and from the Orange Running Festival).
The thrill of competition and the many light-hearted social moments have convinced Jenny that golf is a sport that could and should be enjoyed by vision-impaired people. The trophies on the shelf are nice to have, but the biggest prize has been the friendships collected in the ten years that she has played.
We are delighted that she thinks the same way about her association with Achilles.
Jenny sinks a put at the Japan Open in 2009
[Note: Achilles Heel intends to publish a series of profiles of Club members. We would like your assistance in writing about or identifying people whose achievements will inspire others.]
Markus and Doug: Comrades-in-alms
Raising money for charity and worthwhile causes can be tough going. The going is indeed tough when it involves running the world-famous Comrades Marathon. The race is over a distance of 89 kilometres and links Pietermaritzburg and Durban. Each year, the direction of the race alternates and in 2010, it was the “down run” to Durban. “Down” is a misleading description. There are many hills, particularly in the second half of the race. Besides, the long downhill sections are notorious for the damage they do a runner’s quads and knees. To be recognised as a “finisher”, runners have to complete the race in less than 12 hours.
Achilles club members Doug Ritchie and Markus Schar ran the 2010 Comrades Marathon. Although they were not planning to run together, they were united in a commitment to raise funds for two charities.
Doug ran to raise funds for Ikhwezi Lokusa Rehabilitation and Development Society. Doug first established a relationship with Ikhwezi in 1979, when he started his “gap” year working as a Teacher Aid and House Parent at the school. Since then, the school has been transformed into a Rehabilitation centre for young adults with physical and mental disabilities. Ikhewezi Lokusa is in an impoverished part of South Africa previously known as Transkei.
It was Doug’s first Comrades. Despite his long months of training, he knew that he should leave nothing to chance:
My alarm went off at a very unreasonable 3.30am and immediately I felt that mixed sense of dread and excitement. The day that I had been planning for at least 12 months had arrived.
After a quick breakfast it was time to put all the planning behind me, don my running belt and load up with all the energy gels, salt tablets, electrolyte drinks, pain killers, water and elastoplasts that would be required for the day ahead. Talk about feeling loaded down with extra supplies, I virtually waddled to the start line at 5am in order to get a good spot for the 5.30am start (not one to be too pushy I settled in behind 17,000 other nervous runners).
Pre race rituals saw the singing of the South African national followed by a traditional Zulu miner’s song “Shosholoza” by the 17,000 runners, spine tingling stuff. The starting cannon fired and with the temperature hitting a heady 4 degrees it was on for young and old! The journey to Durban had begun. After stopping off at the side of the road to take an early toilet break I looked back towards the start line and had to laugh to myself as I was officially in last place, with a police escort to boot. Fame at last! It surely couldn’t get any worse than this.”
Not for the first time in his life, Doug managed to shake off the pursuing police cars and doggedly set off for Durban. Here is his description of the finish:
With 2km’s to go I saw the floodlights of the Kingsmead Stadium and the finish line. Bynowall I was focussed on was feeling the green grass of the stadium track underneath my feet and the final 500 metres before crossing the line. On entering the stadium the noise of 10,000 odd spectators was a stirring incentive to finish strongly. Crossing the line was the culmination of 6 months of early morning training runs withmany moments of self doubt and dealing with injuries. A wave of relief, joy and satisfaction took over. I had finished.
The finish line!
The finish line 2 minutes later …
Celebrations continued deep into the night!
[Doug’s race report is worth reading in full. It also includes more detail on the charity that benefited from his great effort. Click Here to read.]
Doug completed his journey in 11 hours 35 minutes and 58 seconds. We heard from him the day after the race. His post-run soreness was being eased with Castle beers. And he was preparing to enjoy the FIFA World Cup while in South Africa. At least one Achilles member has reported hearing a vuvuzela that sounded alarmingly like a bagpipe.
Doug was laid-back at the post-race press conference
Doug has identified his next challenge and is already in training.
Markus began to raise funds for the Fred Hollows Foundation in the lead up to the 2008 Marathon des Sables, the 6-day, 254-kilometre race in the southern Moroccan desert. At the 2010 Comrades Marathon, Markus ran with blind South African runner, Francois Jacobs. The fact that Markus and Francois had never run together added to the challenge. Whereas Markus is a veteran of ultra-marathons, this was to be the first time that Francois had run more than 50 kilometres. However, spurred on by spectators and competitors, Francois drew upon previously unknown reserves. He and Markus ran into a packed stadium in Durban with 13 minutes to spare. Their finishing time was 11 hours 46 minutes 32 seconds.
This is a section from Markus’s race report. (You know it is a special race when the report includes the words, “we had to work hard the first few hours…”)
“It took about 10 km before the masses started to stretch out a bit and we had some space around us to run. Normally in a race like this, I would fail to notice anything but the 10 metre stretch of bitumen in front of me. This time, apart of focusing on Francois, I had time to enjoy the scenery, supporters and fellow runners for most of the race, as the speed was almost 1 1/2 min per km slower than my usual race speed.
As we started at the very end of the roughly 17’000 runners, I wanted to make sure that we made up the lost 10 min from the start and get somehow into line with my race plan, We had to work hard the first few hours to overtake 100’s of other runners. Not an easy task for a single runner and a nightmare for us two as the road got narrower once outside of Pietermaritzburg and the masses around us never loosed up wide enough to have more than 3 – 5 meters of free space ahead of us.
It took me a while to realise that weaving left and right all the time to overtake people was not a nice feeling for Francois and I decided to settle down to a slower pace as soon as I was sure that we were on track with our time. After about 2 hours of running, the sun finally made her appearance on the horizon and we started taking off all the extra t-shirts and plastic bags we had on us to cover against the freezing cold. These extra clothing were quickly taken by waiting children along the road. With the sun out, we suddenly could see more of the country side and the view over the valley and ahead of us was incredible – rolling hills after hills on both sides and a mass of people, looking more likea monstrous snake, moving slowly forward towards the Ocean and Durban.”
Please read more of Markus’s gripping account of the race on his web site. There, you will also find more information about his running and fund-raising exploits.
[Doug and Markus were eleven minutes apart in a race of eleven hours. However, each was unaware of it at the time.]
Francois (L) and Markus (R) finish the 2010 Comrades’
Big Ben keeps good time.
Regular readers might recall that blind Achilles member Ben Phillips joined Achilles in order to become fit enough to be selected for the Australian Blind Cricket Team. [He achieved this goal and has just returned back from the team’s tour of the West Indies. We hope to publish some of his exploits in a coming edition of Achilles Heel.]
From a series of short runs, Ben graduated to the Homebush 10K in October 2009. He doubled his 10K experience as part of the Achilles contingent at the Orange Running Festival in March 2010.
These achievements left Ben determined to run the Sydney Morning Half Marathon in May. He was aware that this would require quite a boost to his fitness. His Achilles teammates were happy to oblige. Centennial Park became his training ground, and Markus Schar his trainer, assisted by Ellis Janks and Martin Ruane . 16-kilometers four times a week laid the platform for a marked increase in fitness.
During this training regime, Ben remarked in an email, “The hardest bit has been getting up so damn early in the morning when it is so bitterly cold, then trying desperately to snap out of my sleepy trance when I hear that dreaded knock at the door. It has also been tough running around the same park all the time. We've been running the 4km loop of Centennial Park, and it seems to take forever to complete 1 lap. I'm sure all the rain we've had makes that bloody park grow bigger every day! Then when you've finally finished the lap, you do it again, and again, and again.”
On the day of the race, Ben was guided by Markus, with the assistance of Ellis Janks and Doug Ritchie, who helped clear a path for Ben and Markus. Martin provided additional support towards the end of the race. A happy troupe of Achilles team mates crossed the line in the remarkable time of 2 hours 11 minutes.
Ben summed up his feelings after the race:
The Half Marathon itself was a fantastic experience. It was so enjoyable to run around Sydney's most famous landmarks, and along city streets that are usually busy with traffic. The hard training, though only 3 months of it, prepared me exceptionally well for the event. I had the A Team of guides supporting me, with Markus, Ellis, and Doug running along side me every step of the way. Surprisingly, the first 10.5km lap was easy, and I was able to enjoy the whole experience thoroughly. A few kms into the second lap I started to get tired and find things a bit tougher. It wasn't until the last 2 or 3 kms that I really started to do it tough, and barely had enough in the tank to get me home over the last km. It took something extra special to push myself beyond what I thought my body could handle. It was truly overwhelming to complete the race, and in a much better time than I had expected. I have learned a lot from the race, and know the next time will be even better. If only you could just bottle the feeling of triumph when you've crossed the finish line after all that hard work, because it would be great to feel that good every day of your life. It's such an incredible feeling of joy and disbelief.
Without the help of my guides, I would never have known the pure bliss of conquering a half marathon. It's to my guides that I owe my gratitude and admiration. Markus is a training machine, anyone who wants to tackle a serious race should subjectthemselves to his intense training regime.
The Dynamic Duo, Ben (4632) and Markus (2794) and other super-heroes after the 2010 Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon. (The 3 dashing gents on the right are Doug, Martin and Ellis.)
Nick’s off to the Bush
The Oxfam TRAILWALKER originated in Hong Kong in 1981 as a military training exercise for the Queen’s Gurkha Signals Regiment. In 1986, Oxfam Hong Kong was invited to co-organise the event and then in 1997, completely took it over. Over time, Oxfam TRAILWALKER became one of the largest fundraising sports events in Hong Kong and now also has massive success annually in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, and Belgium.
The 2010 Melbourne Trailwalker over 700 teams of 2-4 athletes. The aim: cover 100 kilometres in The Australian bush in less than 48 hours. The course: Jells Park in Wheelers Hill and to Wesburn Park in the Yarra Valley.
Achilles veteran Nick Gleeson was a member of the Tiger 100 Team led by Senator John Faulkner*. This is Nick’s report of the event:
An amazing 34 hours
This year’s 100km Oxfam100 Melbourne walk, which took place over the weekend of 16th – 18th April, involved more than 700 teams – a tremendous number of people.
When I first met Senator John Faulkner (the Minister for Defence) last year, I knew from the beginning I wanted to be part of his Balmain Tigers Trailwalker Team 100 in the 2010 walk.
John was warm, showed amazing awareness of vision loss and instinctively knew what to do when guiding someone who is blind. I soon found out that the other team members, Tim Cummingsand Max Bryant, were fantastic young guys who were committed to making this challenge something very special.
We started off at 10am on Friday morning and everyone seemed bubbly. However, Friday night came and went and no sleep was had at all as we walked along fire trails and up and down some extraordinary hills.
Sleep deprivation can be quite horrific and coping with it is so important. Realising his three team mates were starting to feel the strain, at 3am on Friday night John started singing songs from the 1960s to lift our spirits. Throughout the walk, the senator was particularly humble and did not tell other participants who he was, even though many people knew his face.
Our superb Support Team, which was headed up by Alexandra, was also amazing, meeting us at each checkpoint so we could eat, drink and repair our blistered feet. Without their wonderful assistance we simply would not have made it.
I loved the feel of the Melbourne bush, its smells and the various textures of the trees I felt. I also appreciated the descriptions my team mates gave me of what they could see - this made it all come alive. Hearing bellbirds, kookaburras, cows and even the odd horse neighing took my mind off some of the pain I was experiencing after 34 hours on my feet.
I would like to thank Senator John Faulkner for giving me this opportunity to be part of his team and for always stepping forward, especially when the terrain was difficult. John, Max and Tim will always have a special place in my heart as they were simply amazing.
*Senator Faulkner has completed in 6 Oxfam Trailwalker events. His teams have raised over $170,000 for the anti-poverty work of Oxfam. In 2010, Senator Faulkner has willingly given a lot of time to training with Nick and other Achilles members. He has been a good friend of the Club and we send him our best wishes in the next stages of his parliamentary career.
The Minister of Defence is not contemplating de feet.
Nick and the team cross the line after 34 hours on the trail.
The United State of Achilles
En route to the Boston Marathon, Achilles member Brian O’Dea and his wife Mary spent a few days in New York. A highlight of the visit was a call at the headquarters of Achilles International and a congenial hour or so with founder of Achilles, Dick Traum*. The Friday afternoon call into the Achilles office coincided with the last-minute activity of organising a team of athletes volunteers who were competing in the Boston Marathon on the following Monday. Despite the frenetic goings-on, Dick took the time to hear of the progress of Achilles in Sydney and to give Brian some insights into the projects being undertaken by Achilles in the USA.
Dick also presented Achilles Australia with the book, “Go Achilles”, which celebrates the 25-year history of Achilles, from a small New York-based club to the international phenomenon that it is today. The sub-title of the book is rightly, “A 25 Year Celebration of the Power of the Human Spirit.” Dick also gave us a copy of selected press articles 1983 – 2010. [This contains a 1994 article that covers the foundation of our own Achilles Running Club and which mentions esteemed President Ellis Janks]. The books are available for members to read; simply contact Achilles with a request [firstname.lastname@example.org].
When Dick learned that Brian was also heading to Boston, he invited Brian and Mary to an Achilles Dinner that was to be held at the historic Union Oyster House in Boston on the eve of the Marathon. This was a heart-warming affair with about 100 athletes, volunteers and friends of Achilles. Just prior to the dinner starting, a young man and a few friends wandered into the reserved room, unaware that the space had been set aside for Achilles. When this was quietly explained to the young man, he was so impressed that he insisted on paying the bill for the evening. It appears that the “Power of the Human Spirit” has a long time to run yet.
Brian and Mary sat at a table with a group of young men that had lost limbs in the most horrific circumstances. The following day, they would be competing in the Boston Marathon as part of the Achilles Freedom Team. Their lively good humour was representative of good-hearted Achilles athletes the world over.
To obtain a good appreciation of the inspiring world-wide spread of the Achilles movement, please explore the inks on the Achilles International website.
[*At the age of 24, Dick Traum lost his leg when hit by a car at a gas station in New Jersey. 10 years later, the unfit amputee joined a gym, where he was told that the absence of a leg as not sufficient to be excused from the mandatory 10-minute run around the gym. One year later, Dick completed the New York City Marathon, becoming the first amputee to run such a distance. The birth of the Achilles Track Club was to follow.]
Brian (R) and new Achilles friends in Boston
Brian completed the Boston Marathon in 3 hours 56 minutes. He described one of the highlights of the race: The half-way mark is outside Wellesley College. Over the years, I had read a lot about the women of Wellesley, and I deliberately positioned myself on the right-hand side of the road in order to run as close to them as possible. I reckon you could hear the screaming and yelling a full kilometre from the College. There must have been a thousand at least. They were whistling, cheering, yelling and holding placards with messages such as “Kiss me because I’m French,” (or Canadian, or English, Jewish, Catholic, First Year, Senior, etc.). My favourite sign read, “Kiss Me and I promise you a personal best.”
While many runners took advantage of the offers, I felt it unkind to launch my sweaty 64-year-old frame at these lovelies, so I had to make do with the more decorous but less satisfying High-5s.
We have just been issued with new Sunday parking permits. The old (yellow) ones can be used until the end of July. New ones (white) will be used after this date. Please ask for a new permit when you come to training.
We are soon going to have Achilles caps – to be ready in time for the City2Surf. Unfortunately, we could not get yellow caps, so we have white lightweight running caps with our Club name prominently displayed on the front and our website address on the back.
Membership renewals were due on July 1st. Please do renew your membership and give us your details (as requested by email) for the update of our database. Do note that we do not give out the personal details of our members to any third party. Details are kept strictly within the Achilles database and used only for Achilles business. Also, we do encourage people to join Achilles as members. The bigger our membership, the more weight we carry and the more effectively we can attract attention in the media and acquire Club sponsors. Applying for grants is also easier when we have a greater membership base.
Anyone who joined the Club this year (i.e. after we resumed training in February) is financial until June 2011.
If you want to participate in an event and you need a guide or other assistance, please let us know. We are keen for our members to be on the lookout for new events.
If you wish to be removed from or added to the current roster, please contact Rozanne at Rozanne@bigpond.net.au
The current roster is set out below:
July 25– Marilyn Gould, Ted Magen, Markus Schar, Ellis Janks Volunteer Required
Aug 1 – Brian O’Dea, Ian Cohen, Doug Ritchie, Karen Parker Volunteer Required
Aug 8 - NO TRAINING - SUN HERALD SYDNEY CITY TO SURF
Aug 15 - Mark Houlihan, Stephen Lenn , Martin Ruane, Nikki Caminer ,Volunteer Required
Aug 22 - Colin Bradford, Peter Dabble, Diane Mcewin, Tori Ames Volunteer Required
Aug 29 –Brian O’Dea, Ted Magen, Markus Schar, Ellis Janks Volunteer Required
Sept 4 - SYDNEY STRIDERS 10K - North Head
Sept 5 - Marilyn Gould, Ian Cohen, Doug Ritchie, Karen Parker Volunteer Required
Sept 12 - Mark Houlihan, Stephen Lenn, Martin Ruane, Nikki Caminer Volunteer Required
Sept 19 – NO TRAINING - BLACKMORES RUNNING FESTIVAL
Sept 26– Colin Bradford, Peter Dabble, Diane Mcewin, Tori Ames Volunteer Required
Oct 2 - SYDNEY STRIDERS 10K - – Sydney Olympic Park
Oct 3 – Brian O’Dea, Ted Magen, Markus Schar, Ellis Janks Volunteer Required
Oct 10 – Marilyn Gould, Ian Cohen, Doug Ritchie, Karen Parker Volunteer Required
Oct 17 - Mark Houlihan, Stephen Lenn, Martin Ruane, Nikki Caminer Volunteer Required
Oct 24 - Colin Bradford, Peter Dabble, Diane Mcewin, Tori Ames Volunteer Required