By Peggy Soo
Achilles members, both guides and VIPs, took a trip to Great Ocean Road on the weekend of the 18th/19th of May. Over 40 Achilles members participated in a number of events ranging from half marathon to 14km and 6km events. For some Achilleans, travelling to an event of this nature was an adventure within itself, using a variety of modes of transport: from VLine, guides and VIP’s travelling in car groups to the Achilles bus (thank you William and drivers). We arrived Friday evening with enthusiasm and excitement.
After the briefing and photos on Saturday morning, we headed into Apollo Bay township to participate in the 6km and 14km events. We had many cheers and supporters starting off at the wonderful Apollo Bay along some beautiful roads country Victoria has to offer...even running alongside some horses, if they were keen! The run was lovely and sunny which was certainly unusual for the middle of May.
Sunday morning brought on half marathon events along the picturesque Great Ocean Road. Once again many teams participated in this were very strong through some great distances. The teams were cheered by Achillians dotted along the road – even at the local bus stop. This motivated our athletes knowing that there were supporters along the way.
This weekend wasn’t all about running. It was very much about socialising with all our VIP’s and guides where we even cooked and ate together prepared by our wonderful sighted guide-come-chef, Simone.
I want to thank each person who made this trip possible. This took hours of preparation to get over 40 people in one place with accommodation, paired with guides and participated in all events. Thank you to our drivers for coordinating how to get to and from places with such ease. Big thank you to Simon, Tammy, Rhiannon, Simone, Maddy, Amanda, Theresa and William for the hours of organising and preparation into this. This is certainly a ‘bucket list’ event for many. We couldn’t be there without you.
By Sophie Thomas
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to take part in the Great Ocean Road Running Festival with Achilles Running Group. The running community of Victoria and beyond came together to pit their wits against the iconic windy road that gives such amazing views and the occasional queasy stomach (car-sickness anyone?).
The beautiful and normally quiet towns of Lorne, Skenes Creek and Apollo Bay hosted more than 8200 runners, and of course all of their family and friends who came along as support crew!
This event is for everyone! There’s a race for all running abilities, each giving their own challenges to overcome. Whether it’s long and slow inclines; steep hills, crazy angled camber, getting up at 4.30am, being shuttle-bussed to the start line, starting at 1pm in the full afternoon sun, a finish line 60km after the start line (those ultra-runners are nuts), it all adds up to an amazing sense of achievement when you cross that finish line.
I entered the Garmin 14km Paradise Run, and I must admit, my preparation was not as thorough as it could have been, which probably explained the major butterflies in my stomach in the lead up to the race (I couldn’t blame it all on the windy drive down). Talking to my Achilles friends, I found that most people have this, and it’s usually due to excitement and anticipation. I was paired with guide Stephanie, and we were joined by Deb, who was running her own race but decided to help out and ‘bulldoze’ for us.
Our race started later in the day, which was different for me – I couldn’t work out when I should eat and what I should eat. In the end I opted for eggs and yoghurt for breakfast (not in the same bowl… ew) and an apple just before the run.
Along with five other Achilles teams (VIPs Chris, Peggy, Eamon, Maddy and Penny) we set off from the Apollo Bay Pub, and then after about 300 metres our route veered right and we were heading inland. Wait, we’re not actually running on the Great Ocean Road? Huh! In fact, any feelings of being cheated quickly dissipated. We ran through beautiful peaceful cow pasture areas and up into the fresh cool forest of Paradise. It was equally as scenic as the beach-side routes the other runs took, and being the tree-lover I am it was pure happiness to be running on the road under the trees and alongside a sparkling creek.
Side-bar: I must admit that, looking up across the route in front of us and seeing thousands of people snaking along through the fields, I had a momentary thought “aren’t humans stupid?” What other animal does this? Gathers in huge numbers and runs along together in the same direction just for fun?! We are a strange race!
The teams spread out along the race and we cheered Eamon and Chris as they sailed past on the way back. Penny and I kept passing each other, with plenty of competitive banter and laughs each time. My goal was to finish in under 2 hours, and I managed 1 hr 45 minutes…plus I ran most of the way, with only a couple of walking breaks needed towards the end. I’m so pleased with myself, and it’s motivated me to improve my running and aim for more!
Achilles actually had 42 people (combined VIPs and guides) entered in races over the weekend, so there was always someone to cheer on even if your race was done.
Let me tell you, if you want to see emotion, go hang out at the finish line of a marathon. All the FEELS! I saw women being greeted by their proud husbands and smiling children, who then grabbed hands and ran across the finish line with them, extraordinary men in their 70s and older being supported by their daughters, young teenagers being filmed by their extremely vocal friends, and so many running group members all looking out for their comrades. Supporters were running back and forth coaching their friends and family down that last 100 metres, and not to forget our very own vision impaired pals who all came in strong, flanked by their amazing guides every step of the way.
The support out there was immense. I swear, if you think the closing scene of Love Actually is heart-warming, you need to see this for yourself. Whether you’re a runner or not, you can’t deny that running a marathon is a huge achievement and deserves all the admiration, love and celebration that comes from those that crowd the finish tunnel.
So if you’ve ever thought about participating in such an event, I strongly urge you to try it out. Achilles makes it possible! From registering to accommodation and transport, they work hard so it’s easy for you. It’s highly unlikely I would be able to attend events like this without Achilles. I feel so lucky to be part of such a wonderful group of people and am so grateful for all the support I receive.
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.