On Saturday April 1st look out for a sea of yellow as Achilles members and volunteers head to local parkrun Australia events throughout Sydney.
Parkruns are fun-filled, well-organised 5K races in many of Sydney's Parks (also Australia & world wide). We'll be joining in the fun at Galston, Nepean, Panania, St Peters and Willoughby.
If you want to find out more about Achilles and how you can join (as a member with a disability or as a volunteer guide) then come introduce yourself to any of our friendly members on Saturday 1 April at any of the above parkruns. Or of course you can email us at email@example.com
On Sunday 23rd October, past and present members and friends of Achilles gathered to celebrate the Club’s 20th Anniversary.
Many of the guest took part in a commemorative walk from the Art Gallery of New South Wales to Customs House at Circular Quay, adding yet more colour and vibrancy to the Botanical Gardens as the walkers made their way through the park on a bright, sunny morning.
A generous grant from the Lord Mayor of Sydney, the Honourable Clover Moore, had given the Club access to the Barnet Long Room at Customs House. It was a fine venue for the gathering of the 70 or so attendees.
Among the guests were many former Committee members, who had done much to build the Club in its early days.
One such guest was Richard Shakenovsky, a founder-member and the Club’s first President.
Peter and Marilyn Ralston represented Achilles Canberra, and Amanda Kwong and Julie Boyd flew the flag for the recently-formed Achilles Melbourne.
Blind Sport Victoria President Maurice Gleeson attended, along with colleagues Patricia Douglas and Robin Kelaart.
Australian and Oceania Champion Paratriathlete and Achilles member Jonathan Goerlach was able to attend despite his busy competitive schedule Jonathan had recently been elected to the International Triathletes’ Union Committee. Suzanne Colbert AM, Patron of the Achilles Club was present, along with her husband John Little.
After an acknowledgement to country, proceedings opened with a video message from the founder of Achilles International, Dick Traum. The message contained warm greetings and congratulations on the Club’s milestone. Dick also recalled the occasional visits to New York and Boston by members of Achilles Australia.
Club President, Ellis Janks, took the stage to welcome the guests. In his opening remarks, Ellis recalled the early days of Achilles. Membership was small, but there was a determination to grow. The Club’s activities were communicated in paper newsletters, or on now-defunct cassette-tapes. All were delivered in what is now referred to dismissively as “snail mail”. Today, there is a dizzying array of electronic media, with the likelihood that all will be different again in 10 years’ time.
Ellis compared such changes with the constancy of the relationship between the Club’s members with disabilities and its volunteers. Such interactions were mutually beneficial, allowing the guided and the guide to grow from the opportunities created. Beyond the health benefits, were the societal benefits of the breaking down of barriers and creation of new experiences.
Richard’s idea to form Achilles in Australia had resulted in an initial gathering, at which about 15 guides escorted Nick and Heather Gleeson around Centennial Park. That was on a Sunday morning in June 1986. It was the first of the weekly training sessions. There have been over 800 since.
After describing the growth of the Club and welcoming the creation of the Melbourne and Canberra clubs, Ellis thanked past and present Committee members. He also thanked his family for all the support they had given him during the 20 years of Achilles.
Club Patron, Suzanne Colbert, congratulated Achilles on the work it was doing in breaking down barriers in such a supportive way. She praised the Club for its successes and wished it well for the future.
At this point, Ellis returned to the stage and called on Richard Shakenovsky to present Life Memberships to Charlie McConnell, Nicholas Gleeson and Michael Levy. The trio was surprised and the audience delighted. The Life Memberships were awarded in recognition of their long and active involvement with the Club and for their many contributions to its success. Although caught unawares, Charlie, Nick and Michael recounted anecdotes of the early days and the progress made in the last twenty years.
A roving microphone, expertly managed by Majella and Catherine, allowed a number of members with disabilities and volunteers to talk about their experiences with Achilles.
The funny, charming and occasionally moving accounts were followed by a boisterously good-humoured raffle of the many prizes donated to the Club for the occasion.
Having sprung a surprise on the Club’s new Life Members, Ellis was himself surprised when Club Vice President Martin Ruane presented Ellis with an album of photographs and written greetings from many of the Achilles members.
And so ended the celebration of the Achilles Running Club’s 20th Birthday. Check out all the photos here
At our 20th Anniversary last month we gave out our first Achilles Honorary Lifetime Membership Awards.
The recipients (pictured left to right) were members Nick Gleeson and Charlie McConnell who were two of our first members with disability to join Achilles Sydney. They have both contributed enormously to the club over the years as well as representing Achilles at a vast range of events and challenges. They inspire our new members and our volunteers with their boundless enthusiasm and can-do attitudes.
Also recognised was volunteer of over a decade, Michael Levy. Michael is a behind the scenes star regularly driving members to training, going for training walks, swims, bike rides and runs outside of Sunday training. And of course is a regular smiling face at training. He is a fantastic guide and very valued by all of our members and volunteers.
Well done Nick, Charlie and Michael. The club wouldn't be the same without you #GoAchilles.
We are super excited to launch our new Achilles shirts and singlets for members and volunteers.
We have 3 styles available - singlet (male/female), t-shirt and long-sleeve shirts. Each style has a GUIDE option which allows our volunteers to be easily recognised at events and when training. Check out some of our members and volunteers modelling some of the new shirts below.
Description of shirts
Material: Bright yellow, lightweight polyester sports material
Front: Achilles International Australia logo across the chest.
Back: Achilles International Australia logo across the upper back, #GoAchilles! underneath, logos for TFE Hotels and Apres Velo Live the Dream sponsor logos.
Guide tops have GUIDE in extra large print underneath the Achilles logo. All text is in Achilles purple and the overall style aligns with the wider Achilles International shirt designs.
Thank you to our shirt sponsors Apres Velos and TFE Hotels for assisting us in producing the shirts.
Membership for 2017
Membership for 2017 will be $30, this includes your awesome new Achilles t-shirt or singlet. Additional shirts can be purchased for $20.
Follow this link to process your membership for 2017. New and existing members should complete the form and update their contact details if they have changed in the last 12 months.
Should you need assistance to complete your membership form please email firstname.lastname@example.org or speak to a volunteer at training.
Date: Sunday 11th December 2016
Venue: The Domain - (over the road from the steps of the Art Gallery of NSW)
Time: 9-45 am (after Sunday training)
(in the case of the weather being inclement on the day, a venue or date change may be made)
Nomination for positions on Club committee are open and must be submitted by Thursday 1st December 2016.
Achilles committee member nominations:
The Committee is responsible for the running of Achilles International Australia – Sydney (Achilles Sydney). Members of the Committee are representatives of Achilles Sydney and the wider Achilles International organisation. As such members of the Committee are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that is representative of the organisation’s beliefs and values whenever they are deemed to be representing Achilles Sydney. In addition to the legislated fiduciary duties and responsibilities expected of a committee member of an Incorporated Association under the Incorporated Associations Act 2009 and any other relevant legislation, given the nature of the organisation, the role of an Achilles Sydney committee member is expected to be a hands-on role.
Key responsibilities for committee members may include:
All financial members of the Club and interested parties are welcome to attend.
We will also be having our end of year party on that day Sunday 11th December, below is the agenda for the day.
Please bring along something to eat and/or drink. We will pool all the food (and hope that we do not have 50 kg of fruit cake and nothing else). Also, if you have a folding chair or 2, a picnic blanket or/and a folding table, please bring these along.
For those who wish to come to the picnic and not training, the agenda for the day is :
8.00 - 9.15 training
9.15 - 9.45 gather at the picnic meeting place across the road from the Art Gallery/Achilles Club House and have a drink and snack or 2 and get settled
9.45 - 10.00 AGM
10.00 - 11.00 (or whenever) chat, feast and make merry.
On Sunday 10 July 2016, four teams from Achilles Sydney awoke bright and early to take part in the Sydney Harbour 5km & 10km event hosted by Real Insurance and Pont3 Events.
The teams were: Team Ben P guided by Ellis and Chris, Team Bill guided by Michael, Team Charlie guided by Libby and Team Stephen guided by Jen and Wayne. All teams took part in the 10km event. Despite the very chilly start to the morning, the sun soon rose from behind the Opera House and helped warm us up – as did the 10km of running!
For those not familiar with the event, it starts in The Rocks area of Sydney, near Circular Quay. The course is known for being both super flat (and hence fast!) and for taking in some of Sydney’s best known sights – going under the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge with the Sydney Opera House as a backdrop. The course also took in the newly opened Barangaroo recreational park along with the popular Darling Harbour. As Charlie put it “it’s a running tour of Sydney!”
Our vision impaired members each chose to run the course for different reasons; both Bill and Ben have run it previously and wanted to get back out there and enjoy it again. Charlie claims his fitness is low (some of our volunteers would disagree!) so a 10km flat course enticed him to participate. Stephen was searching for a 10km PB after setting a new record marathon time at Boston earlier this year.
But it’s not just our vision impaired members who got a lot out of this event. For guide Jen, it was a 10km PB, following a sprint finish with Team Stephen. “It was the first time I’d guided Stephen and I knew he was renowned for his fast finish. I just held on to the tether for dear life and floored it with him! It was great fun to push ourselves to the max side-by-side”. Stephen agreed, noting the reliance on his guides to keep him on pace. As I’m sure many of the runners out there know, it can be so easy to slow into a comfortable pace without realising. So, as a guide you’re not just guiding, you’re pacer, water boy/girl, coach and cheer squad, doing whatever you need to in order to get your runner over that finish line safely (more on this to below).
For Libby, who was guiding Charlie, it was all about the camaraderie “Running with Charlie was such a hoot! We had such fun. Chatting and laughing the entire course, obviously! We made a few new friends (and possibly new Achilles members). Charlie kept me honest and pep talked through the entire event.” For Charlie, the day was about “getting out with others and jogging” and enjoying a good cup of post-race coffee and sharing stories of the run.
Michael, who guided Bill, said it was a great course, highlighting the beauty of the Sydney foreshore. But the best bit for him was “being able to see all participants both at the start and at the end”. And we agree. We love getting all of our team together at the start line to pump each other up as we get all our race bibs etc sorted. It’s then great to cheer each other across the finish line and share a sweaty congratulatory hug and take a post-run group photo! Wayne, on his first time guiding, agrees that the best part of the day was the members, whom he describes as “an amazing and inspirational group of people!”
But it wasn’t all plain sailing, there were a few tough obstacles for us to steer around on the day. The course is narrow in places with some hairpin bends and quite a few kerbs and bumps to navigate. As well as the hundreds of other runners to make our way through. One of the trickier things about guiding in a busy race is that when passing other runners you need to make way for two people rather than one.
If you are a sighted runner, you can easily take for granted your ability to adjust your stride by the smallest margin to ensure you don’t collide with someone (or something) out on the course. Our vision impaired members don’t have that luxury. It’s up to their guides to foresee where they will need more room and try to warn others as best they can. Hence, you’ll often hear us calling “Blind runner coming through”. If you’ve got your music blaring or are lost in “the zone”, we’ll give you a gentle nudge if you haven’t heard us verbally warning you. Whilst we’d love to be able to weave through the crowds like nimble running ninjas, that’s just not realistic when we’re guiding and tethered to our vision impaired runners!
Charlie summed up the race-day atmosphere: “I did like the well organised event and the wonderful community spirit I experienced on the day.” That spirit was evident out on the course (and before and after) as we were cheered along with exclamations of “Go Achilles!” and people spurring us on as we passed others or were passed ourselves. This acceptance and encouragement from the community make a huge difference to our members, who aren’t always able to see the people cheering and waving or see the looks of awe and acknowledgement as we pass by. So whilst our members (and sometimes our guides) aren’t always best placed to offer a thank you in return (we are running hard out a lot of the time!), we are super grateful for all of the enthusiasm and support we receive.
We’re very lucky to be respected and supported by the greater running community and event organisers, such as Pont3 Events, who assist us with free (and easy) registration of our guides.
We also have a huge “Thank you” to give to Real Insurance https://www.realinsurance.com.au/ who covered the entry costs for our members with disabilities. Sponsoring a team to participate in an event is a fantastic way to help our club grow and develop. If you or your company would like to look into sponsoring Achilles, please email email@example.com
A final “Well done” to all our teams who ran on the day! We, at Achilles, are so very proud of you all.
There are lots of ways to keep up-to-date with what Achilles:
Like our Facebook page: facebook.com/achillessydney
Follow us on Instagram: https://instagram.com/achilles_sydney/
Donate to our great cause: https://heroix.everydayhero.com.au/charities/823/donate
Not just runners our members are often keen to try new things. In March Andrew took part in his first ocean swim – the 1km swim at Balmoral. Keep reading to find out how Andrew got on…
What made you decide to enter an ocean swim?
I've been doing long distance running for a few years and have done several marathons and half marathons, I wanted to take up a new challenge. It was also much more enjoyable swimming over the Sydney summer than doing long runs.
What was the highlight of the swim?
It would have to be the amazing feeling of accomplishment I had crossing the finish line after getting out of the water - having never done an ocean swim before. I had no idea what to expect and was a bit nervous. But in the end it went really well, thanks to the awesome support from my guide Stu, in getting me through safely.
What was the biggest challenge?
Probably keeping up and staying with Stu, my guide. There were so many swimmers around that it was sometimes hard to spot him! We did lose each other a few times, but he'd always call out to me and I'd swim over.
Having successfully completed your first swim are there more on the horizon?
Definitely, it's now the end of the season but I am planning to keep up my pool swimming and will be back next summer.
Your next running event is the Canberra marathon, how's the training going?
It's going fairly well, Canberra is a week away and I'm feeling good. I've finished all my long runs and am currently in the taper - it's been great to have more rest and let my body recover. I think the swimming training has really benefited my running as well, I do feel stronger as a result. Looking forward to carb-ing up this week!
We wish Andrew the best of luck for Canberra. Best of luck if you’re also running and if you see any of our yellow shirts out on the course please cheer us on #goachilles
Every December, the Variety Club seeks to raise $250,000 for disadvantaged children by holding Santa Runs in many cities in Australia. The Variety Club clearly wants all who register to have fun. Its website says: “The Variety Santa Fun Run is the jolliest fun run of the year and your chance to join thousands of other Santas to spread the spirit of Christmas to Aussie kids in need. You can run, walk, roll or skip it, dance to entertainment along the way, make a splash on social media, and post a Santa selfie!”
Just to make sure that the message is not lost, Variety dresses every competitor in a 5-piece Santa Suit. On Sunday 6th December 3 vision-impaired Achilles members and their guides completed the Sydney Santa Run by frolicking from Circular Quay to Pyrmont and back. Several thousand laughing Santas certainly gave the city an early-morning lift.
Zhila Hasanloo was guided by Michael Levy. It has been a year of “firsts” for Zhila: “My first season with Achilles, my first 5K race and the first time I have run wearing a beard!” It was also the first time that Zhila had been guided by Michael in a community event.
Stephen Green ran with usual guide Enrique Suana. Not surprisingly, the pair edged to the front of the starting pack. Their efforts were rewarded with a brief glimpse on the Channel 7 News later in the day. Stephen reported the course as being “good for vision-impaired runners, full of friendly people obviously having fun and supported by cheering, supportive crowds.”
Andrew Van Der Saag and guide Jen Hague are accomplished runners but had fun with Jen acting as unofficial photographers for the run, taking pictures along most of the course.
Achilles is grateful to the Variety Club in making our runners very welcome.
From 1839 to 1869 a prison on Cockatoo Island had held convicts who had reoffended in their new Australian home. In those early years, a few desperate people had tried to swim from Cockatoo Island to Balmain.
One of the few convicts to complete the swim was Fred Ward, who in 1863, swam the 500 metres to Balmain. His unfortunate companion, Fred Britten, died in the attempt. Fred Ward was later to become infamous as bushranger Thunderbolt.
On a bleak November morning 152 years later, nearly 300 swimmers massed alongside the Dawn Fraser pool, almost on the spot where Ward’s wife, Mary Bugg, had waited with the getaway horse.
The swimmers had registered for the 1.1K race, which was to the island and back, or for the 2.4 K swim that included a lap around the island.
Recovering from recent hip-replacement surgery, Achilles member Charlie McConnell, who is totally blind, had opted for the shorter race. He was to be guided by fellow Achilles members, Claire Northrop and Michael Levy.
This is Charlie’s report on the race:
“What does a person who enjoyed running do after having had 2 hip replacements?
“Swimming was my answer. I have not yet grown to love it. Sometimes it is just like hitting your head on a wall; it feels wonderful when you stop.
“On Sunday 22nd November I entered the Dawny Swim at Balmain. It was a very cloudy morning, and I was told that the colour of the water matched the sky. I had entered the 1.1km swim out to Cockatoo Island and back. As we waited, nobody mentioned the “S”-word. During the summer, we had encountered a few sharks when swimming in the ocean and had put aside rumours of recent sightings in the harbour.
“We lined up on the pier and the countdown began. I heard people jumping into the water. It did not seem a long way down. So, when the countdown reached “4” I leapt off the pier. I surfaced to hear the shouted word “Go!
“Off I swam. After about 30 meters I felt someone pulling on my trunks. I stopped. It was my guide, Michael. He told me that I was swimming well but, unfortunately in the wrong direction. Michael steered me into the right direction and away I went again.
“That S-word popped into my head, and I reasoned that the Achilles dry-land rules would apply equally in the water. When running, Achilles guides have been trained to always put themselves in harm’s way, rather than putting the vison-impaired member in any danger. I had not had the chance to discuss this with Michael and Claire but, thankfully, they were not put to the test.
“As we swam on, I was poked by Michael on one side and prodded by Claire on the other. So, poking and prodding we reached the island and turned to swim back. With the harbour now seemingly full of jelly fish to swim over, it was certainly a swim with a difference.
“Suddenly, all the prodding and poking stopped. I was being grabbed by my arms. I looked up and asked, ‘What is wrong now?!’ The answer was, ‘You have finished’.
“I could not believe it! I had achieved my fastest pace over any distance. My wonderful guides had also made the race very enjoyable.
“I am now looking forward to Christmas and the New Year. Early in the year, I plan to swim longer distances and I know my guides will be there for me again.”
The Blackmores Sydney Running Festival, which took place on 20th September, has become an iconic event in the Australian running calendar. The organisers generously let our guides run free-of-charge and this year Achilles entered 3 teams in the 9km Blackmores Bridge Run.
Our mission is to enable people from all walks of life, including those with physical impairments, to enjoy the health giving benefits of walking and running in a supportive, social and encouraging environment.