Training for a long walk on the wild side

The Bald and the Beautiful walking team, from left, John Goodrick, Stephanie Kock, Belinda Parkes and Emma Lowe. Photo by Danielle Nohra

The Bald and the Beautiful walking team, from left, John Goodrich, Stephanie Koch, Belinda Parkes and Emma Lowe. Photo by Danielle Nohra

WALKING after work until midnight in Canberra’s winter can be torturous, but for four public servants it has to be done.

The group, three women and one man, are training for the Sydney Oxfam Trailwalker Australia, which is a physical and mental challenge that raises money to help fight poverty around the world.

Starting together and finishing together they must walk a 100-kilometre bushwalk over 48 hours, which one of the group members, Belinda Parkes, 42, believes they can do in under 32 hours. And that’s without stopping!

The walk starts at Brooklyn on the Hawkesbury and finishes at Mosman on the north shore. Fewer than 50 per cent of teams have all members finish

“Some teams walk half of it and then sleep and then finish it but that’s not something we’ve even considered,” she says.

For the event the group are named “The Bald and the Beautiful” because, Belinda says: “Quite literally, John is bald, and we’re all beautiful”.

The group started with Belinda and Emma Lowe but because of injuries, two people dropped out.

“It’s a pretty big mental battle, so if you do have an injury, after a few hours of walking it’ll come undone,” Belinda says.

Luckily, John Goodrich and Stephanie Koch stepped into their places and made the eligible number again, four.

“The hardest part has been the commitment, especially in Canberra’s winter,” Belinda says.

And, being a mother of two young boys, Belinda understands the struggle to commit weekends and some weeknights to train.

“I want to show them that I’m committed,” she says. “They tease me if it’s raining and say ‘I have to go’, so I threaten to take them with me.”

After Belinda’s dad completed the walk 15 years ago, she was driven to do it herself.

“He couldn’t stop raving about the opportunity of doing it as part of a team,” she says.

This will be Belinda and Emma’s second time completing the Oxfam Trailwalker, but their first with people who they aren’t close with.

They all met through the Federal Departments of Agriculture and Environment and have grown closer in the lead up for the walk, which is described as being the toughest track compared to Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

“In our walking we all pick each other up when we’re quite low and keep the banter between each other,” Belinda says.

“One of the big challenges I find is combining exercise with eating food because you need to have substantial meals to keep going.

“You think I’m not going to pack chips because they’re not healthy, but you get to the point when you need ‘feel-good food’.”

This is where the support group comes in, whose job is to come in every three to four hours and bring things such as food or dry clothes.

So far, The Bald and the Beautiful have raised more than $2000 and will continue to raise awareness and funds until the walk begins on August 25.

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