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.
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.