While I was searching for an event to train for (I love locking in an event that is a bit daunting for me as it encourages me to get out of my comfort zone and stick at my training) I came across OXFAM Trailwalker. This is an event that involves teams hiking 100km (yes I did say 100km) across beautiful, but difficult, trails in order to raise money and awareness for OXFAM causes.
These are just some of the things OXFAM supports in less fortunate communities. If you want to know more about OXFAM and what they do, head to their website.
After checking out their website I was totally inspired and wanted to get involved. Unfortunately the Perth event was only a month or so away at the time I was looking, so I decided that I probably didn’t have the miles under my belt to participate in this year’s event. Now, my sister had just written about her experience volunteering at an Ironman event with the Scouts Club that her sons were involved in and I remember thinking that it was such a great thing to do. I often feel so bad for not donating to people collecting for different causes in the shopping centres or over the phone, but sometimes it is difficult enough looking after our own family and we can’t always afford to give money to all these things. While looking at OXFAM Perth, I decided to volunteer my time instead.
I registered on their website and within 24hours I had received a follow up call and an email asking for further background details and a request for what shifts and work would be suitable. It was as simple as that, I was allocated a role and a shift that suited and given all the information and contact details that I would require. My role was an Operations Assistant Support Role, which was basically just a jack of all trades, help where needed position. Some positions did require some basic training and full details were provided regarding this. All I needed to do was turn up at the required shift, which lucky for me, was at the finish line from 8pm to 2am.
I didn’t really know what to expect, or what would be expected of me. When I checked in for my shift, all the volunteers were very friendly and we were given a quick briefing of what needed to be done. The old adage, ‘many hands makes light work’, is definitely true and I was a little surprised by how many people volunteer at these events. Having participated in various events throughout my childhood and onwards, I guess I have been aware of the behind the scenes work that goes on but never really appreciated how much of it is completed by volunteers. It really is the volunteers that can make or break an event. Its not just the physios, paramedics, SES, massage, and podiatrists volunteering their skills, it’s the drivers and checkpoint staff, those doing data entry, checking toilets are stocked and clean, providing tea and coffee to other staff and volunteers, and doing the myriad of other details that make it all come together.
The volunteers are also the heart and soul of the event, cheering on the participants at each checkpoint, creating the party atmosphere as they come up the final stretch, celebrating in their victory of staying the distance and hanging in there when they wanted to quit, and shedding a tear when the participants do, as you can literally feel their exhaustion and the emotion that is just so close to the surface.
I think that I really did get the best shift, I was entering the team numbers at the final checkpoint and printing out certificates for all the participants. I thought I would struggle to stay awake past midnight (I’m not usually a night owl) but time passed quickly. I was able to see so many teams complete their journey and it was inspiring.
Is it any wonder that after walking this distance that they succumb to blisters like these! This man was quite proud of his blister lol.
Even after hearing many participants say they will never do this again and that every part of their body was aching, I was still totally inspired and will be putting this event on one of my hitlists at some point in time. Maybe next year? Who wants to join me?