by Miwa Tominaga
On 28 October 2022, members of Achilles Melbourne travelled to Bendigo for a weekend of guide training at parkruns, trail running, First Nations’ Welcome to Country, ecology education and community building. Six athletes with a vision impairment and 7 sighted guides travelled to Bendigo.
Saturday 29th started bright and early with participants breaking off into two groups to provide guide training at both Bendigo Botanic and Kennington Reservoir parkruns.
Bendigo Botanic parkrun (event #71) had 83 people run and walk the event. We were lucky enough to have around 15 people attend guide training at 7:30am where Achilles guide, Jacinta, ran through the basics of guiding an athlete with a vision impairment. After the event briefing where we were warmly welcomed, the 10 members of Achilles in attendance (5 VIPs and 5 guides) teamed up with local parkrunners to further their training and give them the opportunity to try guiding.
While all of this was going our three other members (1 VIP and 2 guides) ventured to Kennington Reservoir Parkrun (event #322) where they had 128 people run and walked. Our members had the opportunity to talk to those in attendance about guiding and answer any questions they had.
After parkrun, people were given the opportunity to spend the rest of the day exploring their surroundings using various transport options included tram, bus, taxi, bicycle and walking from our convenient accommodation the Julie-Ann inn. People enjoyed attending the vintage talking tram, local pubs / restaurants, art gallery, museums, underground mine tours and other Bendigo tourist attractions before meeting up for a group dinner.
On Sunday 30th we headed out to the Bendigo box ironbark forests to meet up with the crew from Trail Bus with special guests Deanna, an ecologist guide, and Trent who led us in a Welcome to C ountry and traditional smoking ceremony and explained why these ceremonies are conducted, as well as their importance. Trent had just travelled 6 hours from flood affected towns in Echuca, Kerang and Swan Hill.
Deanna, a Bendigo-based ecologist, led everyone through a 1.2km nature hike sharing insightful information on local ecology, history, plants and wildlife. For example, Box Ironbark, caterpillars, pardalotes, chocolate lily, native orchids. She was able to point out important flora and fauna for those in attendance and would encourage people to touch and smell the plants when safe to do so.
The Trail Bus team continued the morning with a 6km and 12 km trail run / hike, taking on parts of the Goldfields Track. This was completed by 16 people and 3 guide dogs. The trail run consisted of lots of hills, rocky ground, muddy areas and water crossings. People were given the opportunity to go at the pace that suited them and the environment around them.
Once all the trail fun was over we took the opportunity to have a post run lunch with live entertainment at the Bridge Hotel Bendigo before people headed off home to Melbourne.
A big thank you goes out to all those who made this weekend a success including Claudia for organising the weekend, Bendigo Botanic and Kennington Reservoir parkruns for being so welcoming, Trail Bus, Deanna, Trent and Guide Dogs Victoria for the Connected Together grant.
By Simon Bernard
Build Up to New York
When Simon W put a request out for a guide for the New York Marathon, I didn’t hesitate knowing that, during the build up to the event, I was training for the Melbourne Marathon
Simon W arranged guides (special mentions to Kate, Bronson, Joo and Mark) to assist him in his marathon training, with him and I keeping in contact to confirm plans for the journey to New York
Immediately on our arrival in New York in a hotel that was literally taken over by Achilles with a sea of yellow shirts.
In the hotel it was clear to me that Achilles is a bigger organisation than I had realised. Achilles International is an organisation that helps athletes with physical and mental disabilities that covers a broad spectrum from many countries from around the world. Achilles International also supports War Veterans and I met a few athletes who had served in the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan
Chapters participating in the race included chapters from the USA, Germany, Mongolia, Brazil and Great Britain and of course Australia.
On the Friday before the race, Achilles hosted an evening at the Hard Rock Café in Time Square. Outside of the restaurant was a flashing billboard that showed the Achilles International Logo and the hashtag #GoAchilles. This is a prime area of New York so to see this was awesome.
At the dinner on Friday, the Achilles International team gave out some awards to some deserving athletes/volunteers. It was announced that for the New York marathon event, $USD300,000 had been raised
The day began with a 5am departure to a bus which would take us the starting area. The starting area for Achilles was a private area with a huge tent where chairs, food and drinks were provided away from the rest of the athletes competing in the race.
Our wave was called and we were lead to the start line. The 500 metre walk to the start line was lined with people cheering and shouting “Go Achilles”. The national anthem, a canon went off and the classic song of ‘New York New York’ proceeded us before we began the race
A sea of Achilles ran through the streets of New York as Simon and I got into the race. The streets were full of crowds and the noise at times was deafening. At 24k’s, Rick - a guide from Achilles New York joined us to give Simon a local’s perspective of where we were running. A game changer for me was Rick had on his guide shirt written “Go Simon”. Immediately the crowds were shouting Simon’s name and it definitely gave me a boost in the times in the race that I struggled.
As Rick left us at 34ks, Simon and I attacked the final part of the race which was full of crowds to finish in just over 6 hours on a very warm day
At the finish line we were greeted by the Achilles International president who gave us a big hug before we made our way to the recovery where we were lucky enough to get free ride back to the hotel
As guide it was by far the most rewarding race I’ve ever participated in. The opportunity to meet Achilles guides/athletes from all over the world was awesome and to see Simon W achieve his goal was a great moment for me. Simon’s family had flown in from Melbourne, Sydney and London and it was special to meet them and also sharing his achievement with them.
With events back on in Melbourne after an almost 2-year hiatus, our members recount their return to the MCG Stadium Stomp, held on the 13th of February. We hear from full course stomper, Claudia and half course stomper, Francois about their experiences.
Report by Claudia Stevenson
Full course - somewhere between 7300 and 7600 steps
Despite my calves still tingling nearly a week later I’m delighted to have able to complete Stadium Stomp again. Last year, (or was it the year before?) I had planned to do Stadium Stomp tourism, completing all Stadium Stomps in Australia but then came the Lurgey and that was put on hold.
So this year. I’m back signed up… I’ve done the hard one, all the rest are easier!
What do I like about Stadium Stomp?
I love how it’s an untimed course and how polite and friendly everyone is on course. Because of the stadium seating there’s plenty of places where people can pass without feeling pressured. I have a love hate relationship with that tall stand where the seating goes up to row LL (I even saw a MM this year). I hate when you get up to U or Z or AA and your legs are screaming at you but I love that feeling of accomplishment every time you make it up there!
The full course is not for the faint hearted. It is steep and hard but the music is great and camaraderie on the course is wonderful. Start with the half course and work up your courage to do the full!
Thanks to Sophie for all her organising and of course to my wing woman and guide, Marg for doing all these crazy things with me!
....and some perspective from Francois J:
Half course (approx 3900 steps)
Some people just go out and keep fit as a life routine, irrespective of whether they have upcoming events or not. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people. If I don't have an event to train for I tend to go into a very low maintenance mode at best. Memories of a fantastic time with our Past President Amanda on the steps of the MCG in 2017 and the need to get out of my own decline motivated me to enter for Stadium Stomp 2021. With easy access to the staircase of our six-storey apartment block and event day fast approaching I started stairs training in June last year and I was on track to enjoy the full course of 7300 stairs. Two event reschedules later I had lost my mojo and went back to my favourite relaxed weekly runs with Achilles. I kept telling myself I'll start again next month, and before I knew it it was February and too late to get fit for the full course. The incredible Sophie Thomas stepped in and helped me downgrade to the half course (only 3900 steps), and I felt much less nervous about it.
I was not going to be late, so I walked down to my tram stop ahead of time so I could meet my guide Simon at the G. Thank you to the random pedestrian who alerted me to the fact that there would be no trams on the day due to roadworks, and thank you to the Uber driver who still got me there on time. Note to self: Do your homework!
Event day started out cool and breezy but soon became a lot warmer. We bumped into Claudia and Marg at the start, all pumped for the full course, and their enthusiasm was really infectious, but would that be enough to get me over the line?
Achilles guides are so incrediblly adaptable, and Simon Bernard especially so. I soon realised the usual hand-held tether was not going to work for me on this one, as there are a lot of quick turns, and of course ups and downs. So I took his elbow and after a while I got used to the turns as they were consistent. So I said to Simon he can drop the verbal cues as his elbow gave me all the information I needed. It may sound counter-intuitive, but I found that going slightly faster in this type of situation was much better for my balance than taking it slow, and once we found that sweet spot I again remembered why I love the event so much.
There were significantly fewer participants than I remember from the previous time, understandably, but some great tunes over the loudspeakers really helped and going up and down, out into the sun and back into the shade really makes one feel like it's YOUR MCG!
Halfway through the vent my calves got a little tired, but miraculously it never got worse and I was amazed when we got down to the final lap around on the grass that I could actually jog it! I really felt it in my calves for the next two days, so I know that down-grading was the right decision for me but next time...
Huge thanks to Sophie and others at Achilles to make this possible, congrats to the other teams who also flew the Achilles flag and a special mention to Simon who made it all look so easy.
By Amanda Kwong
Shift. Pivot. Be nimble. Isolate.
Before 2020, these words would be synonymous to gearing our bodies towards being better runners, being agile, growing strong. Now, they hold an obvious alternate meaning related to all the challenges that 2020 and COVID-19 threw at Achilles Melbourne. Nearing the end of our 5th year in operation, Achilles Melbourne was set to rule another year that kicked off with some strong performances from runner-turned-human-fish, Maddy in the Pier to Pub, Andrew C asserting his presence on the athletics track, and Chris C raising a healthy packet of funds running the Two Bays trail running festival. The only thing we thought that COVID-19 was set to ruin was the shipment of our club shirts from China, at which point I remember distinctly imploring our members for patience and sympathy for the plight of those dealing with the virus overseas. Little did we know...
Though, at this time of year, we still focus on the positives. And heck, there were so many that I don't know where to begin.
This year, I saw Achilles Melbourne's online presence grow substantially. While using our online social media and forums was previously about celebrating what members had achieved, and what was to come in future weeks, we instead used this to connect and motivate. With the first lockdown, online challenge after online challenge was thrown at our members who took these up with gusto. A special thank-you to anyone who coordinated a challenge, Amy for rustling up support to get challenge setters involved, Rhi for keeping the online heart-beat fresh and positive, and to all those who participated and egged each other on. We also managed to design our very own Steigen sock with the help of Chris C to keep the merchandise interests of the club in its full Lycra(TM) glory.
Strength Wednesdays moved to an online format, which was a welcome change to traipsing out into the cold, dark nights of Melbourne winter to our much loved Multicultural Hub. With the new format, we were able to include more participants, who otherwise may have struggled to travel to the city for our key cross training weekly fixture. A big thank-you to Sarah A and Deb C for keeping our members strong, and outgoing super coach, Catherine N. It might be worth mentioning here that our top three winners for the Tan Handicap (Claudia S, Peggy S, Maddy S) are all strength attendees. Perhaps we have a secret ingredient for a winning performance?
We also must not forget that some running events actually did take place with the Pride Run and Run Warrandyte a resounding success (a hat tip to coordinator, Heather M). Whether we will be able to coordinate events with our flair of efficiency will remain a mystery into 2021. Perhaps if they involve an online challenge or two... We also acknowledge some incredible running efforts this year. A few particular recent efforts stand out: Jenny B's maiden half marathon in under 2 hours, with only a friend on a bike, two Achilles guides (cheers, Bronson and Wes!), and a shining yellow beacon of Monica W as a cheer squad on a downpour-threatening easing lockdown day. Further, anyone who witnessed our members bossing the battle ropes at our combined nokkon-Achilles International Day of People with Disability event should know to tread carefully around our exceptionally strong members. That, and Claudia S's stunning Tan Handicap win for 2020, where months of keeping fit and active through lockdown truly paid off. Mastermind handicap setter, Adrienne K, did well with scant data available to hold our handicap this year.
And through our lockdown months, our volunteers shone bright. There are many who kept offering to guide, and those who stayed home to keep others safe - both are thanked in equal measure. We highlighted the contributions from our volunteers of the month for 2021: Sarah A, Julie B, Michelle W, Emily H, Sophie T, Amy B, Maddy S, Monica W. We also had a changing of the guard (the committee) with special thanks to outgoing members, Heather M, Peggy S, Amir A, and Nicky H, and welcomed in their place: Simon B, Max C, Joe G, and Sophie T. Those who kept the administrative cogs of Achilles ever ticking, we also thank ongoing committee, Maddy S, Ness S, Amy B, Karen B, Simon W, Rhiannon R.
But of course, the biggest thanks goes to you, our members. Your enthusiasm through lockdown, the Achilles Cup, reaching out to one another, wielding a credit card our way to buy a pair of socks or two, staying home to keep each other safe, and always willing to do what was necessary to comply with the constantly moving feast of government restrictions and hygiene measures. Yes, this year was always going to be tough, but when you've got members of the best running club in Melbourne* (*biased opinion), it makes implementing necessary changes and measures incredibly easy.
Nimble. Ever-shifting. Ready to connect. We'll be here with you again in 2021, in whatever shape it takes. #GoAchilles
- AmyJULY - Sophie T
Congratulations to Sophie T! Sophie has been nominated for a number of reasons: we are incredibly thankful for her online presence through COVID19, assisting with online challenges and remaining engaged with others over the last few months. Sophie always has positive words of encouragement to share, and has also been a necessary voice to represent the views of our members with disability. During non-COVID times, Sophie has assisted with Sunday coordinating and always manages to pitch in with whatever help she can offer for our community fundraising activities, including sizzling the odd sausage (oh, those were the days!).
Pictured is Sophie completing the event of her dreams (the Rocky Run - related to Rocky, the movie) in Philadelphia. She stands at the finish line with a Rocky-like double fist pump in the air and a medal slung around her neck, like the true champion she is!
Congratulations, Sophie, and thank you for everything that you do.
AUGUST - Amy
If you haven't met Amy yet, Amy is one of our Achilles Melbourne committee members. While she has only been in the role for less than a year, Amy truly understands and embodies the values of Achilles Melbourne.
Amy B is our August Volunteer of the Month as she has taken initiative to kick off some of our most popular virtual challenges in lockdown. She's been responsible for scheduling other challenges and has hosted some challenges herself. She is a committee member who provides essential insights on behalf of all members, but particularly for our members with disability.
You can normally find Amy at Sunday training either coordinating, or running along the banks of the Yarra river. Currently, you can find her online on our Facebook member's forum.
Thank-you, Amy for keeping us motivated during lockdowns, and for bringing your pragmatic and hard-working attitude to the Achilles Melbourne family.
SEPTEMBER - MADDY
Maddy was nominated for coordinating Sunday training during "normal" times and our Achilles strength group in a leadership role. Maddy also takes care of all merchandise orders, and is a committee member in an essential role for Achilles as a club. While in lockdown, Maddy has also taken part in Pawgust with her guide dog Zelda, walking many kms in their local area together to raise funds for Guide Dogs Vic.
Maddy is Achilles Melbourne's co-Treasurer, an unsung hero of Achilles; she fields endless enquiries and hasn't lost pace even through COVID. Maddy has also broken barriers by swimming really long distances (Pier to Pub), riding really long distances (Round the Bay) and running really, really far (always up for a good ol' 10k event...but just ask her how far she's willing to go in the future!).
Thank you Maddy for everything that you do!
OCTOBER - Monica
We've awarded Monica as our Volunteer of the Month because, apart from being willing to dress up in FULL Achilles get up to cheer on Jenny B for her first half marathon (while we're here, let's not steal Jenny's thunder either and note that she smashed her first ever 21k run with Wes and Bronson in under 2 hours!! ...now back to Monica so we don't steal her thunder too...), Monica has also been continuing to guide through lockdown, provide some great contributions to our iso challenges, and is always happy to jump in at the last minute during Sunday training sessions when we occasionally fall short of guides. Not only this, but she's also been instrumental in the success of previous fundraising efforts, giving encouraging nudges to small businesses to donate food and goods for the benefit of Achilles.
During normal times, you can find Monica guiding at parkruns on Saturdays, guiding at Achilles on Sundays, or doing Tai Chi in places you'd least suspect. She's not hard to find though - just look out for the running beacon of yellow and give her an air high-five when you next see her running along the yarra!
Congratulations, Monica, and thank-you for everything you do.
Congratulations to Emily H Achilles Melbourne's volunteer of the month for June 2020!
Emily has been guiding with Achilles for just over a year. Since she's joined Achilles, she's been a regular attendee, never says no to an athletics track session to our track enthusiasts, and happy to slot in wherever she is needed. Emily is an active member online and is always happy to offer to run with others, travel to them, going above and beyond where needed - and always with a smile! Emily is always ready to contribute to her partners' runs in a positive way and manages to balance a great run chat with safe and accurate guide cues.
Emily can be found at Sunday training (when it happens), or currently around the running trails of Melbourne with super duo Francois and/or Kevin.
Thank you for everything you do, Emily!
Congratulations to Michelle Wong Achilles Melbourne's volunteer of the month for May.
Michelle started guiding with us in 2019. While she hasn't been with us for that long, we recognise her hard work and effort with guiding and being so approachable. Michelle: no matter how small it seems, your efforts haven't gone unnoticed and you've been a great friend to all.
Michelle was set to run with Peggy in the Great Ocean Road Running Festival in May earlier this year. However, some kind of global pandemic happened to get in the way of the duo's hopes to conquer this run. While it wasn't to be this year, we look forward to Michelle's future guiding feats as she continues to embody the spirit of Achilles Melbourne.
Thank you, Michelle!
Congratulations to Julie Baker, Achilles Melbourne's volunteer of the month for April (better late than never!)
Julie has been a solid guide with Achilles since 2018. She is generous with her time and commonly reaches out to runners in the Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. She recently celebrated her 50th parkrun, and yes, is a parkrun enthusiast. She guides regularly at Gardiner's Creek parkrun (pictured here with VIP Wendy and running partner in crime, Sonia R), and also at Achilles Sunday training. Julie also helped guide a runner who was visiting from the US in 2019 and gave him a bit of a running tour of Melbourne before guiding him through the iconic Run for the Kids.
Thank you, Julie, for all that you do and helping our runners to stay fit, active, and engaged in parkrun!
March has been an incredibly testing time for everyone. We want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has reached out to a fellow Achilles member, offered shopping support, had a good old fashioned phone call, or helped with staying active.
This month's Achilles Melbourne Volunteer of the Month goes to Sarah Allport - supercoach. She has been instrumental in keeping morale high in the Achilles Strength, and wider Achilles Melbourne group. She's provided some practical advice, as well as led some online workout sessions. In normal times, Sarah has been one of our three stalwart coacheteers alongside Deb Christie and Catherine Noone. She's coached a few of our members into long distance runs, and helped shaped our Wednesday Achilles Strength sessions. She also helps with Sunday Coordinating, and the unsung hero of carting Achilles equipment and shirts around Melbourne.
You can find Sarah at Sunday Achilles sessions and leading Wednesday strength sessions (when they're back up and running in real life!) as well as online via our Facebook groups during virtual workouts.
Thank you Sarah, for all that you have done for Achilles Melbourne.
By Peggy Soo
On 1st March some of our Achilles teams went to leafy Warrandyte to run amongst the trees, trails and squawking birds for the Run Warrandyte Running Festival.
We had a number of enthusiastic teams running from 15km to 5km. The course was a mix of trail and road run. This really tested the guiding skills of our guides due to the unpredictable nature of the course of rocks under our feet (lots of high knees and lifting feet).
Along the run it was greet to hear the sounds of birds, running waterfalls and feeling the trees and leaves brush past. We were cheered on by lovely volunteers who gave directions, water and cheered us along the way. Such a different atmosphere to our city streets.
We were also joined by South African blind runner, Carl, who took in the smells and sounds of beautiful Warrandyte. You can check out his experience through the lens of his GoPro, commentary, and Rhiannon's guiding here.
I would like to express my thanks and gratitude to everyone who helped make this event possible. Of course our amazing guides did a wonderful job with a very challenging course. Thank you to Deb for organising logistics on the day and being our support crew and thank you to Heather for all the ‘behind the scenes’ work you have put into this with pairings, registrations and helping us with car pooling.
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.