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.
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.