Kokoda Trail Memorial Walk

Where my feet have carried me:
Kokoda Trail Memorial Walk

by Heidi Smith (Heidi Swallow on facebook)

12669455_10153366939591485_7977847005792383679_nHello Moon Joggers! My name is Heidi and I am from Melbourne, Australia. I am 33 years old and I am currently a stay at home mum to an extremely active toddler who just turned 2 years old! Before I went on maternity leave, I was a Primary School Teacher/Early Years Educator and I do intend on getting back into the classroom very soon! I love working with children as much as I love a good workout! I have spent most of my life living in and around the inner suburbs of Melbourne but I have also travelled to Sydney, Newcastle and outside of Australia to Asia. USA is definitely on my bucket list of countries to visit (and I really want to do a Disney race and earn that awesome Disney race medal bling!). I also want to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge which I hope to accomplish by the end of 2016.

Therefore, it would probably shock most of you to learn that growing up I was never a runner or athlete or considered myself as either. In fact I was probably considered the opposite. Although intelligent, academic and creative, I was always the overweight child who “tried” but always came last over the finish line; red-faced, huffing and puffing but I finished and my feet carried me!!! Although I “tried”, I never won a race or came close to the finishers and I hated running because I was so competitive but always lost! Thirty years on, I am still not good at running and I still finish last BUT through weight loss and the support of fellow Moon Joggers I am beginning to like extended walks, power walking and turtle pace jogging and no doubt I will run one day. My running is accurately depicted by those humour fitness shirts one can usually buy from Tee Spring- I know most of you have seen them, the fitness Tees that read, “I run slower than a heard of turtles stomping through peanut butter, but I run!” I have only now realized the truth behind this humour- my pace doesn’t matter just that I get out there and do it!

So what’s changed? The answer is attitude and mindset. As a young girl, I participated in seven years of competitive “Athletics” (until the age of 18 years) where the field events (Shot Put, Discus, and Javelin) were my forte but I still tried to do the jumping, running and hurdling events anyway. I also played cricket, outdoor hockey, and netball. As I grew older and work and University commitments took up my time, I gained more weight and became depressed. I realized that exercise wasn’t just a tool to lose weight; it was a tool to improve physical and emotional health. I may not be good at running or a power walker but I feel happy and a lot more relaxed when I tried! Most of my friends aren’t into competitive races (and some can get quite costly too) so I searched Google for “virtual races” and came across Moon Joggers and other virtual races across the globe. I thought it would be a great idea to get involved as it would keep me active and motivated and improve my fitness. I have completed 9 virtual races so far.

When I go for a virtual run, I take my daughter with me and we complete the kilometres/miles together. Sometimes I walk or run with her in her pram or I walk or lightly jog/power walk with her on my back (it’s getting harder as she gets older but it is also getting easier as I lose weight too!) Sometimes my daughter will walk it with me just like a turtle stomping in peanut butter! At the physical events, she is always there at the finish line and it makes me so proud! Sometimes I don’t know if the tears I cry at the finish line are from physical exhaustion, finishing something I never dreamed I could have achieved or seeing how proud my daughter is of me and she is only 2 but it’s probably a combination! Never under estimate the positive impact of a strong role model! You know you are doing the right thing when your 2 year old tries to walk around your house in your running shoes (literally) while wearing your race medal bling. I could not be prouder!

In the last 15 months, I have lost 40kgs (or approximately 88 pounds) and re-discovered my passion for fitness. I am still very determined and very competitive but I now think of myself as an inspiration and role model to my daughter and perhaps those around me who felt they were never good runners either or too overweight to participate like I once did? I pride my success on not where I finish but my efforts to finish every race I start, the best way I can. It has taken me a long time to get my mindset in the game but the emphasis is now placed on my enjoyment in participating and that I give 100% and I always finish what I start. With that in mind, I reflect on where my feet have carried me in the last four months both in virtual races and races held at specific locations. So here is a brief list and description of the races my feet have carried me through so far:

* The Color Run- 5km untimed paint race. Participants are coloured in paint during the race. You can participate in this event worldwide.
*Eureka Sky Deck- Australia’s biggest vertical race- boosting 88 floors, 1642 steps.
*Operation Black Hawk- 7km with Military style Obstacles. Think mud, think trenches, walls & tunnels, think… did we mention more mud… all wearing genuine army gear!
*The 1000 steps Kokoda Memorial Track- The Kokoda Trail Memorial Walk (1000 steps) has been created to help Australian’s appreciate the courage and sense of fortitude displayed by the men who fought on the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea in 1942.

12832326_10153444725661485_4728223680661906585_nThe Kokoda Memorial Trail is not a virtual race but was on my bucket list of things I wanted to conquer before I die or I am too old to do it! If you are ever in Melbourne it is definitely something you should do. Although it is suitable for all fitness levels- you will find it challenging and it is a great cardio workout! The Kokoda Trail is located within the Dandenong Ranges National Park, Mt Dandenong, approximately 40 kilometers from Melbourne CBD. The (actual) Kokoda Trail (in Papa New Guinea) is of a similar width to this path in the Dandenongs but was surrounded to the left and right by dark, impenetrable and hostile jungle. Concealed from view lurked an enemy invisible even at 10 metres-this really puts things in perspective!

I challenged myself to complete the Kokoda Trail Memorial (1000 steps) a couple of days ago. I not only completed it, I did it twice! The first time (when I had fresh legs of course!), I carried my daughter on my shoulders! I am now regretting my decision to punish my body with a second lap (my thighs and calves are burning-literally) but I am beaming with accomplishment! I found the hike to the stairs itself was more difficult than the stairs but perhaps I’m just a stair master now? Lol The track was unpredictable and in spots dangerous. The height and width of the stairs kept changing, the higher I climbed up the mountain, it started raining through the trees and the steps were extremely muddy, wet and slippery!

12096164_1569634416685494_4131027060843393981_nAlso, the number of steps changed- could be a block of 5-10 steps followed by 5 to 10 metres of rugged terrain followed by a block of 40-50 steps. I almost fell over a few times. There were people actually running not only down the stairs but also UP! I however, was happy to go at my own pace and get the job done! A fantastic challenge and workout! I also did a couple of walking tracks located within the same park and for the few hours I was there, I hiked and climbed 18.79 kilometres (approximately 11 miles) and burnt over 1400 calories!!!

In conclusion, when I think about where my feet have carried me, I am reminded of my lifelong struggle with losing weight, increasing my fitness and trying to be accepted by the very people who have bullied me. This motivates me to succeed and better myself. I get an adrenaline rush from competitive physical and virtual races and although it has taken me many years, I have learnt the important key factor is that it does not matter how long it takes my feet to carry me to the destination but rather that my feet get me to my destination-eventually! So while I may be a turtle for now (we all know the story of the tortoise and the hare and how that ended), I am still lapping everyone sitting on the couch and I am mighty happy and proud to be a turtle! I am proud of my accomplishments so far and know there will be many more to come. Never give up! Just keep swimming…walking… running or whatever method you prefer and when you think about where your feet have carried you, think about the courageous journey you have encountered during your life so far and the best is yet to come!


**All walkers and runners are invited to join Moon Joggers! If  you have not signed up for MERCURY RISING  (one of the paid registration options) do so now and you’ll be able to save 25% on our virtual races in 2016! (Use code RUN2MERCURY to save 20% on MERCURY RISING)




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