Running against poverty.
Would you like to run 100km with us? That was the question I was asked 10 months ago by the Valley Vets. At first, the idea did not excite me very much but later on I found the proposal quite challenging.
The event is called the Oxfam Trailwalker and I am told that it is one of the toughest team challenges in the world. It is an endurance event in which teams of four attempt to complete a 100km trail within 48 hours through bushland. In addition they must also raise at least $1,000 to help to support the work of Oxfam Community Aid Abroad.
Oxfam Community Aid Abroad is part of the Oxfam International network. Through a network of autonomous Oxfam agencies throughout the world, Oxfam Community Aid
Abroad shares educational and campaign resources and co-operates in development projects and disaster relief. They work in more than 30 countries across East and South Asia, Africa, the Pacific, Central America and Indigenous Australia, in partnership with local communities to overcome poverty and injustice.
Oxfam Community Aid Abroad's vision is for a fair world in which people control their own lives, their basic rights are achieved and the environment is sustained.
Right now, Oxfam is providing substantial support to areas affected by the Tsunami and as there has been such an overwhelming response to the Tsunami appeal, the money raised for Oxfam Trailwalker will continue to be directed to support ongoing program activities including the long term development programs operating in affected areas such as India, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Additionally, it is important that they retain existing development programs in 30 countries around the world and those other hotspots such as Sudan and the Solomon Islands continue to receive the funding they require.
To participate in the event would not only provide me with a valuable and unique experience but make a genuine difference to the world. That sounded good to me and as Oxfam trailwalker patron, author and marathon runner Bryce Courtenay says," Every step you take along the Trail is a step towards a better life for poor communities the world over".
For more information on Oxfam visit

I started training for it 6 months ago. Building up mileage slowly, from 50km to 120km per week. The long runs got longer as well, from 20km to 50km, usually on Sunday morning. Sometimes, I would join the rest of the team for a long run on the actual trail, practising eating and drinking on the run.
The going got tough toward the end as I started to get injuries which interfered with my training. I started to question if I would be able to cover the distance. On one occasion, I had to pull out of a training run after only 45km, I was completely exhausted and I injured one of my knees in the process. My spirit was at an all time low. My team mates were experienced, having participated already twice in the event. They wanted to break their record and maybe win the race and here I was wondering if I could make it to the finish, eventually! The pressure was on me and I was stressing big time.

The Valley Vets team.
Rob Wendel (captain), Robyn Broberg, Didier Martin and Gary Hammett.
Race day.
We turned up at Jells Park in Wheelers Hill on Friday 1st of April with 417 other teams of 4 for the journey to Mt Donna Buang. The promise of a 30 degrees day did not seem to alter the enthusiasm of everyone.
At 8am on the dot the gun went and so did we. The plan was to take it easy and I stayed behind my three buddies as Gary set the pace. Two friends of ours, David Armstrong and Rod Mothersole, had decided to run with us in some of the legs. Being the weakest link of the team I needed all the help I could get so I asked David to carry my fuel belt. There are check points along the course where each team has to record their passage. Our support crew (wives and partners) were waiting for us at every 10km
or so. Sue (my own support crew) would have a chair ready for me with food, change of clothes, shoes and drinks available. She also would fill up my drinking bottles for me. The first few stops did not take more than 5 minutes but they started to get longer as the race went on.
Rob Wendel, our team captain, started to suffer from cramps after only 25km in the race. Some massages and stretching seemed to help a little but he could not shake them off completely. He battled on. Two years ago, cramps forced him out of the event after 60km putting the team out as well. No doubt that an identical thought was playing on his mind.
After 35km we reached the bottom of Mount Dandenong where 880 steps were waiting for us. We climbed them in silence, focusing on the task while sweat poured off our bodies. Gary was
grumpy, an unusual condition for the man, somehow, things were not going well for him. By then, we were in 8th position fighting with a couple of other teams. Despite high heat and cloudless skies we were ahead on our schedule time by 15 minutes. Our spirits were good…I think.
We reached the Warburton trail by 3.30pm, 40km to the finish line and facing a long and boring 30km flat stretch. I was feeling good by then, my self-confidence was back and I knew that I would make it to the finish. I moved to the front of the group, setting the pace. We overtook another team and found ourself in 6th spot, 70 minutes behind the leaders.
70km into the run Gary started to cramp badly and started to complain of chest pain. Eventually he had to stop running, screaming with pain, and we all started to walk. He was not able to eat or drink but kept soldering on. We still had 25km to go, Gary was vomiting but still determined to keep going. Two teams overtook us putting us back in 8th position. At the 85km mark I suffered an asthma attack and struggled to get to our support crew to get my Ventolin inhaler. By the time we reached the bottom of Mt Donna Buang I was right again but facing the last leg, a gruelling 9km straight up the mountain in total darkness. Gary was better and setting the pace at the front with me right behind, all of us wearing lamps. We caught up and
passed one team on the first half. Gary kept on talking to himself, a good sign, all was normal again. He kept farting as well with me right behind with my mouth open and everything. We caught up to another team yet again but our captain called for a drink stop, we had to let them go, a
bitter disappointment for Gary and I.
What about Robyn? I hear you asking, you never mention him. Well, I never mention him because there is nothing to say, the man is a machine, he never complains or bickers, just goes along minding his business. He will occasionally drop names like "when I did the Comrade marathon…" but that's it, he just keeps going with his Duracell batteries inside him.
With less than 4 km to the finish we had caught up again with the preceding team with nothing stopping us to pass them, well that's what I thought but our esteemed captain had other ideas. With the finish so close he had to look his best for the photo, so he called his support crew and requested a clean and fresh shirt to change in. Never mind,

Our team captain, Rob Wendel, one of the big boys at EDS, has been using his influence with the company for the last 3 years to get them to sponsor our team which supplied our superb uniforms. Rob's management skills and attention to detail (even without his PA??) provided us with the information we needed to prepare ourselves.
Our support crew did a superb job as well, providing us with smiling faces and encouragements all the time. We definitly could not have done it without you, well done to all of you.

So, Am I happy with our performance ? You'd better believe it but there is still some unfinished business as we all know that we can do better than that.
Next year will be the one… so see you there.

Before I go I would like to say thank you so much to all of you

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generous people out there for your donations. Because of you I have exceeded my target of $700 and I feel a huge sense of accomplishment.
For those of you who have meant to donate but didn't get around to it, don't worry the donation line is open until the 31st of May. If you don't want to put your credit card on-line please contact me and I will issue you with a cash receipt.
To donate online go to Simply fill in the donation form including the drop boxes.
Team name: Valley Vets
Team number: 005

we will catch them next year. We still managed to pass another team just meters from the finish line, one of their members was not feeling good at all and his team members were holding him up while we sneaked pass.
We got over the line at 11.16pm exhausted but relieved. Robyn turned out to be human after all as he got very unwell for a couple of hours after the finish, he still managed to mention the Comrade though.
After 15hours and 16 minutes of running and walking we had finally reach the end, in 6th place overall and first in our age category (over 40). We also had broken the course record for the valley Vets by 25 minutes.
Out of the 418 teams 57% finished as complete teams of 4, the last one crossing the finishing line in 47 hours and 34 minutes, just before the time limit of 48 hours. I am also told that the Fundraising is breaking records with more than half a million already raised.
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05/04/05. Australia.Melbourne.
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