By Simon Watharow
Achilles Sydney graciously sponsored a large contingent of Achilles Melbourne ten runners with vision impairment and seven sighted guides to participate in the Blackmores Sydney Running Festival Sunday 17th September 2017. The amazing and generous offer was scoffed down like rump steak in front of a guide dog!
The day finally came to tackle the flight to Sydney and despite nervous doubts due to weather cancellations two days in a row we would not be denied. The team met at the airport with dogs and luggage in tow. The inboard announcement on the Qantas flight-welcoming Achilles on-board was met with a rowdy roar.
Race Day came and the carious matchings met around Sydney at railways stations and around the Harbour Bridge starting point. The 21km entrants were the first away, the Team Adam (guides: Tim and Emmanuel) completely smashed out a great time of 1hr and 30minutes, and Team Kevin (guides: Ellis and Ollie) did an amazing run too, his first half marathon in just over 2 hours.
Simon took off after that for his epic full marathon which lasted 5hrs and 9mins and never did the finish line at the Opera House look so grand.
The teams Maddy (guides Monica and Anne), Brooke (guides Theresa and Julie), Maysa (guides Tammy and Amy), Francois (guides: Markus and Zoe) and Sophie (guides Jacinta and Shawna) enjoyed the 10km race that led them over the Sydney Harbour Bridge with views al around Sydney and with perfect weather - what’s not to love? The last event 3.5km had Hayley (guides Lara and Colin) and Christine (guides Amanda and Edward) doing their first major event, with a speedy Christine-goal smashed into the steps of the opera house - great job!
Sydney really can put on the show, providing the most spectacular harbour in the world with an impressive list of iconic sights and sounds to enjoy while running.
The day was finally done in time to race back and catch our flight back to Melbourne. We would like to acknowledge and thank the amazing support from Achilles Sydney for sponsoring our athletes and Pont 3 for sponsoring our guides. Last, but not least (we're not just saying this!) , another huge thanks also to Deb Christie and Simone Albiston for generously coaching Kevin, Simon, Francois and Maysa to reach their goals. A regimented training program produced some of the finest results at Sydney despite some athletes carrying injuries - we cannot thank you enough!
(Pictured above: left to right - Tammy, Sophie, Maysa and Jacinta pose with their medals in front of the Sydney Harbour bridge)
This month's Achilles Melbourne Volunteer of the Month for August is Tammy Dinh! Tammy was nominated because...
"She has been with Achilles Melbourne since the inception of our fantastic club. She is forever willing to put her hand up to help out wherever she can and with her beautiful nature, she generally brightens up everyone’s Sunday morning."
Like our members profess, Tammy is always there to assist with the coordination of Sunday morning training, and also ensures that our stories are shared across the social media world. Tammy recently exemplified what it means to go above and beyond with her volunteering, by assisting with Trivia night, organising our recent training day with Nokkon, and is taking this further by travelling with one of our athletes, Francois, to the New York marathon as part of his guiding team.
Congratulations and thank you, Tammy!
(Pictured below: Tammy takes a finish line photo with Athlete who is blind, Chris and fellow guide, Wil at Run Melbourne 2017)
By Tim Emeny
It is 3am and I am wide awake with positive energy. Today is Run Melbourne day and I will be guiding Adam in the half marathon event. We have already run as a team more than 100 times and have a great understanding of each other. In a few hours we will be on the start line.
Adam and I travel to the event together and we put our bags into storage and meet up with Shay who will be bulldozing for us today. This will be new for me as in all previous events Adam and I have competed together we have never had the assistance of someone helping to clear a path for us. After we get through the welcome greeting and obligatory pump up by the MC, we make our way to the start line. We have left our move to the start line later than we should have and we are now having to negotiate our way to near the front of 5000 people. Adam hangs onto my shoulder as I relentlessly push our way forward through the crowd of runners. Most allow us to pass but occasionally someone protests, I push on regardless. It is essential we get near the front for safety reasons and we have a priority group "A" start entitling us to be near the front. We come across some of our training partners and they assist us in moving further forward.
We get to within 20 people of the front and hold this position. I am calm but focused, I have concerns about how narrow the starting area is. With just a small group in front of us it is going to be a vary fast hazardous start. I tell Adam about the start conditions so he has a full understanding about what we are going to do and be faced with when the start gun goes off.
The countdown to the start begins and then we are away. Adam starts with his hand on my shoulder to keep us narrow and to enable me to make quick changes to both direction and speed without verbal information. Within 20 meters we are already running at around 15kph and people are bumping into me regularly, Shay and I do whatever we can to keep the space in front of Adam clear. This is the most stressful part of the race for all of us. The roadway remains narrow but I push the speed up faster to get into clearer space. We need to do this to get Adam onto the tether, running on my shoulder drains a lot of energy from both Adam and myself.
The pack of runners starts to thin and we take the opportunity to swap to the tether which means Adam now takes control of our speed, being on the tether is better for energy conservation but we are now much wider and therefore require more space. The first corner is approaching a tight 90 degree RH bend, I tell Adam and count him into the corner whilst looking for hazards and trying to stop people from closing in on our space, we are still getting occasionally bumped. After the corner the road opens up and I move us to the right hand side of the road, it is the longer track but has far less congestion. Adam and I can now go to a more relaxed longer stride, we can only do this when it is clear as it exposes us to more risk of being tripped, but it means we are more energy efficient and can go faster. Instantly our speed starts to rise and I inform Adam he is going too fast and we ease back slightly, we are running at 4min 10sec per kilometre pace. Shay is still running in front of us trying to keep a clear path for us.
We progress for a few kilometres through easy sweeping bends and good road surfaces then it gets tricky again. Heading out of docklands there are multiple tram lines, uneven surfaces as well as road crossings with ramps that we have to navigate. I am constantly issuing instructions and providing information to Adam these obstacles effect our efficiency and speed. As we near the Yarra river we are still in heavy congestion, then the path narrows and we enter a series of twists, turns and ramps, it is a very busy section for us forcing us to slow down and waste energy. At this point Adam is constantly on and off my shoulder as we navigate through the challenges presented to us. We want to go faster but safety necessitates that we hold pace. There are huge crowds cheering us on creating a great atmosphere, we regularly hear "Go Achilles" which is fantastic.
Finally we get onto the wide open roads around the shrine area. Here for the first time we are clear and can run to our potential. I am grateful to be able to mentally relax a little more and I am sure Adam feels the same relief. As we stride out we start to pass a lot of people who caught us in the technical sections. The pace becomes too much for Shay who has completed a power of work clearing the way for us, he slowly drops back behind us, his job done.
We continue to run at our maximum sustainable pace for the next few kilometres, this part of the course is hilly and I feel my body heat levels building up so I know Adam will be getting hot as well. Whenever I can without stopping I grab a cup of water from the drink stations and tip the water over Adam's head to cool him down. We continue to stream past people and spend longer times on the long tether meaning we can use our arms more effectively.
With 5km to go we are both starting to tire a little and we encounter another technical section that slows us down, ramps, gutters, bollards, barriers and of course people. I think these technical sections are just as mentally draining they are physically draining.
We are clear again and there are large sections of crowd cheering us on encouraging us to go faster. Finally we are heading down the last hill towards the finishing chute as we go to turn into the chute there is a full step up gutter with no ramp and we are forced to come back to a walk to safely cross over, Adam vents his frustration at being forced back to a walk momentarily but we have no choice. Then it is a sprint down the finishing chute with the amazing crowd cheering. We cross over the finish line in a time of 1 hour 31 minutes and 51 seconds, this puts us in the top 4.6% of competitors. A personal best time for Adam and an amazing result.
Crossing the finish line is always a huge mix of emotions, elation and pride at what we have achieved, fatigue as I mentally relax, relief that I have been able to get my friend to the finish safely without falling and disappointment that the challenge has finished. After catching our breath we both start to think about what exciting challenge is next, then Adam suggests next year we do all three of the run Melbourne events on the same day, the half marathon the 10km and the 6km. I think he is trying to kill me, lol!
We are extremely excited to announce that we are officially a charity partner for this year’s Blackmores Sydney Running Festival. That means that you can choose to fundraise for Achilles Sydney and if you raise over $500 then you get to RACE FOR FREE in any of the events.
With the 3.5k family run, 10k bridge run, half marathon and marathon there’s a distance for everyone. On Sunday 17 September come join the fun.
So whether you choose to run and fundraise as a team or an individual, get involved and make your running count. Get in touch with us if you want more information #GoAchilles #Blackmores #SydneyRunningFestival
By Tim Emeny
The slogan goes 'We Run This City', well Achilles Melbourne certainly did as we brought our sea of yellow team tops to the event! The greatest city in the world is not known for the greatest weather in the world at this time of the year. The forecast was looking ominous in the lead up to the big day, would it be a repeat of a very wet and cold Run for the Kids? For the Achilles Melbourne team, none of that mattered as we were on our way with our biggest team yet! But lucky for us, the forecast changed to superb running weather - fine, sunny and calm. It could not have been a finer Melbourne Winter day!
The Run Melbourne event saw a staggered start with the half marathon teams away first at 7am with three Achilles teams taking on this mighty challenge. Next away, at a much nicer time of 9:15am was our largest group of athletes, with five Achilles teams taking on the 10km course. Last but certainly not least were the two 6km Achilles teams, who started at the very social time of 10:45am.
The courses were quite challenging not only for distance, they were also quite technical as they wound their way through the southern end of the beautiful city of Melbourne, repeatedly crossing over the Yarra river and passing through some of Melbourne’s beautiful parks.
There were fantastic results for all our teams in all the distances. A real highlight was the large and enthusiastic crowd cheering us on all the way with many callouts “Go Achilles”. It was a wonderful, exciting, successful day on all levels. With the help of our regular training, perfect weather and great crowd support, there were beaming smiles at the finish line, personal bests and successful debutants to new distances.
I think it is very safe to say we will be back next year, with talk of some members looking to attempt to complete all three events on the one day next year. Great events like this have us thinking: "What challenge can we take on next?"
Go Achilles Melbourne!
Achilles Melbourne's July winner is....Geoff Wiffen! Hailing from Geelong, Geoff has been a fantastic support and was nominated because:
'he has been amazing giving up so much of his time to run with me, train other guides, drive us around and encourages me to push myself. So I think it would be a great way to thank him for all he has done"
Geoff has been instrumental in ensuring that guide running has a broader reach than just metropolitan areas. As a parkrun director, spreading the passion of running comes naturally, with the aim of building a wider community of walkers and runners. After meeting the team in Melbourne, Geoff has gone beyond a once-a-week fixture to run numerous guide training sessions with local athlete with vision impairment, Stella. With people like Geoff, the world of running truly becomes a team sport.
Pictured: Geoff standing with Stella and wife, Narelle, at Geelong's Balyang Sanctuary parkrun.
We are excited to announce the inaugural winner of Achilles Melbourne volunteer of the month! Nominated not once, but twice, our June winner is newly crowned marathon man, TIM EMENY! The reason for Tim's nomination? Read on!
"Tim helped / semi-forced me to join a local running club soon after I moved to a new area and not only found and trained other guides, he also organises transport for me. This has not only helped me start to really enjoy running, but it has also enabled me to meet new people and settle into the area. He has also offered to help me learn my way around the local shops and introduced me to the local fresh food market after the regular Sunday training"
Congratulations Tim, thank you for always going above and beyond! You hold the true philosophy of volunteering with Achilles and set such a great example for everyone around you.
Pictured: Tim Emeny holding his medal after finishing the Gold Coast marathon this weekend.
By Amanda Kwong
Boasting a flat course, tantalising for personal bests, Sunday the 2nd of July saw the 39th running of the Gold Coast Airport Marathon. Nearly 27000 registered entrants flocked to the sunny Gold Coast, which included Adam Koops, blind Achilles Melbourne athlete, stepping up to the challenge.
Adam’s dedication to training and fitness collided with the world of running when Achilles Melbourne held its inaugural training session in March 2016. In less than a year, Adam has completed marathons at the Melbourne Running Festival, Run for the Young (Lilydale), and Wangaratta Running Festival. The Gold Coast marathon was Adam’s 4th marathon attempt – with a 3 hour 30 minute PB to beat. Guided by the winner of 2016’s Gold Coast marathon, Aidan Hobbs, Adam swept aside his old personal best; coming in at a very impressive 3 hours, 20 minutes and 59 seconds!
Adam recounts his marathon experience. “I had some great support from Tim Emeny (Achilles Melbourne guide) who cruised with us up until the 35k mark, and I’ve found a new friend in my guide, Aidan Hobbs. I hit a wall at around the 35k mark, but as we turned the last bend, I found my second wind. What I loved best about this course was the location and the atmosphere. There were so many supportive, friendly people and music playing the entire way. The weather couldn’t have been any better – sorry to the others freezing down in Melbourne! I’d encourage anyone to give this event a go. It’s a fantastic course!”
And they were not alone, as Enrique Suana, Achilles Sydney guide, who was gunning for his own individual marathon personal best, joined them during the early section of the course.
From everyone at Achilles Australia, we congratulate Adam on his 4th marathon and new personal best. Adam is currently on a journey to tackle the holy grail of all marathons: the TCS New York Marathon in November 2017. You can support Adam or his fellow Achilles athlete, Francois Jacobs, following the links below.
Support Adam here: https://give.everydayhero.com/au/blindrunner-saygday
Support Francois here: https://give.everydayhero.com/au/francois-runs-new-york
Pictured below: Enrique captures a signature selfie with Adam behind, flanked by his guide, Aidan and support runner, Tim on the course of the Gold Coast marathon. Road lines and 50km speed limit in background with legs of other marathon runners surrounding the group.
The Achilles Sydney Committee has been working hard to finalise some exciting new partnerships which we'll be announcing over the coming weeks.
The first of these partnerships is with local Sydney physio, Fix Physio. Mike Blackwell, Owner and Principal Physiotherapist of Fix Physio, heard about Achilles through two of his patients. Here's what he had to say about getting involved:
"Fix Physio is committed on a daily basis to helping our patients overcome physical injuries to achieve the healthiest and happiest versions of themselves. As a small business, Fix Physio is committed to both local and international non profit organisations in any way that we can. When a couple of our regular patients introduced us to a charity that they are heavily involved with- the Sydney branch of Achilles, we couldn't wait to get involved."
Fix Physio will be supporting Achilles in its aim of creating a place where people with disabilities can enjoy the social, recreational and health benefits of an active lifestyle. Fix Physio will be providing massage and physio services to Achilles members and volunteers at a range of local and national running events as well as sharing insights and knowledge on staying injury free whilst being active. They also have a collection tin at their practice so remember to donate if you're a client.
We look forward to a great partnership together improving the fitness and wellbeing of people with disabilities and the wider community.
For more info on Fix Physio check out their website: http://www.fixphysio.com.au/
By Peggy Soo (Achilles Melbourne Athlete with Vision Impairment)
We stomp stomp stomped our way to the MCG! Brooke, Maddy, Christine and I, along with guides Jeff, Deb, Adrienne and Sarah all braved the cold and stomped around the MCG for the 2017 edition of the Stadium Stomp. We climbed all the stairs without even stopping to watch a sports game!
Brooke and Sarah started early and completed the whole course of 7,300 steps. This consisted of both level 1 and 4, with level 4 being the steepest part of the MCG (don't look down if you are afraid of heights!!). After a pre-race ABC radio interview from Brooke and TV appearances from Sarah/Brooke on 7 news and Maddy on ABC news, Maddy, Christine and I tackled the short course with our guides which consisted of level 1 with 1800 steps. Both courses included a victory lap on the grounds of the G.
We stomped our way with a man in a gorilla suit, Wonder Woman and some firemen. We earned our medals in the end, feeling very much accomplished. A few of us had a much needed refueling breakfast/lunch at our favourite cafe, In A Rush.
Thank you to all the guides and Achilles for making this possible, including guides who took us up and down hills and stairs prior to this event. Thank you Achilles for making this possible for us to attend. If you are contemplating this event for next year, I would highly recommend it. It is very supportive, has a wonderful atmosphere without the need for timing chips!
(Picture above: Victory selfie with [front left to rear back right]: Adrienne and Peggy; Christine and Deb; Maddy and Jeff; standing on MCG grass, level 1 stands with empty seats and stompers in background right, black finishing banner and other stompers in background.)
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.