Through the eyes and feet of Francois Jacobs and Michelle Joison, we experience two different Melbourne Achilles teams as they climbed up the Eureka tower last Sunday 17th of November.
By Francois Jacobs
Through firsthand experience in the ups and downs of job seeking I know how physical activity can keep up the motivation and overall wellbeing. So I have been a regular participant in the weekly circuit training provided by Blind Sports and Recreation Victoria at the Hawthorn Aquatics and Leisure Centre. There I met the personal trainer Bob and the amazing crew of BSRV volunteers and soon also began personal training with him. When I heard about the Eureka Stair Climb it sounded like just the motivation I needed to set a personal goal for myself. When I learnt that Bob had done it before and enjoyed it immensely it became a done deal. He knew this super fit crazy fitness fanatic called Adrian who would do things like sign up for a 210km cycle event on the spot, so Adrian was recruited on the spot to be my Eureka guide.
From beginning October we started incorporating twice a week workouts on the Stair Master which I soon started calling the “Stair Monster”. It was gruelling and it never got any easier, but over time I realised that it made me a much better runner up Anderson Street on Sundays with Achilles.
On Saturday night I felt convinced that I’m not ready, typical for the pre-race nerves that comes with inexperience but hey, I thought, there’s many others just like myself so let’s just do it.
The weather on Sunday morning was perfect and the company even better. Fellow Achilleans Kevin and Karen would start in the same wave as me with my two member crew, and before I knew it we were off. We passed a few climbers, and a few others passed us, but it was such a friendly affair, and everybody just encouraged everybody else all the way up.
The view at the top… I don’t know much about that, but what I do know is that I very much felt like I was on top of the world when we reached the sky deck in under 20 minutes. What surprised me most was on Monday morning when I realised that I wasn’t even sore at all. Personal trainer Bob was obviously good at his job!
Thanks to all our supporters, some with donations to the Fred Hollows Foundation, some stopping by to say hi at the Stair Monster and some with messages of encouragement on Facebook. You all made us feel like we’re doing something worthwhile.
By Michelle Joison
"Today I challenged myself to walk up 88 flights of stairs guiding Haylee, who has about 5% vision, while representing Achilles and of course, supporting the Fred Hollows Foundation.
As we arrived at the event, we were greeted by dozens of hot, sweaty climbers who had just completed the climb. Most of them had smiles of accomplishment, which was reassuring, but some looked exhausted, which made us a little nervous. I was starting to get a grasp of how hard this event could be. I was guiding Haylee, who has completed this event twice before, so in a way she was guiding me as it was my first time.
We started our ascent and the stair well was fairly empty - at one stage I had to check that we were in the correct stair well! Pretty soon we heard voices and realised all was well. Each flight of 16 - 20 stairs took us up to another floor, and every 3 flights or so we would stop so Haylee could catch her breath, compose herself and take off again. We met plenty of other climbers along the way, and greeted most of them with words of encouragement or jokes, mostly along the lines of ‘there’s no turning back!‘ or ‘it’s all uphill from here!’
Time passed quickly, and before we knew it we were at the 44th floor, the half way point, where we felt like we had overcome a big mental hurdle. Every climber had their own story: some felt they hadn’t trained enough, some cruised through almost effortlessly and others questioned why they were putting themselves through this. Haylee had no doubt that she could complete the climb for the third time, and she paced herself well - climbing steadily, then resting and drinking when needed. I was happy to support her at whatever pace suited her. Haylee gained so much confidence from the climb that she was able to let go of the hand rail for the last 10 floors or so.
Others on the climb found Haylee was their inspiration. ‘If she can do it, so can I!’ One climber was close to giving up before the half way mark, and we were so happy to meet her at the finish line with the biggest smile, saying that we were what kept her going.
On the 88th floor, we were greeted by dozens of climbers cheering, cameras flashing and volunteers placing medals around our necks. The much anticipated view at the top was a great reward and a perfect chance to allow the heart rate to slow down and leg muscles to relax while admiring the stunning views across Melbourne.
The athletes with vision impairment have once again given me so much inspiration and reminded me that we can all gain so much from these experiences by tuning into and sharpening all our senses, not just our vision."
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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.