Note from the Editor: In my mind this is the Ultra story of the year. I may be biased as I know the club that helped Val to complete her Odysey, but it’s nice and a big well done to Val and the ACT Walking Club. Good luck in your recovery Val and I hope to meet you soon.
Val’s 1000 mile journey inspires a community
(By Lachlan Wilkinson)
In this year’s Canberra International Walking Weekend, 65 year old Val Moran walked her first marathon. On 7 October 2007, Val set out to walk 42 marathons in a row. Val’s aim was to walk 1000 miles in 1000 hours to recreate a walk undertaken by a relative, Emma Sharp, in Yorkshire in 1864. At the same time, Val planned to use the walk to raise money for SIDS and Kids – an organisation that provides support for families that lose young children up to the age of six, and also funds education and research into Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Val’s walk started well and she reeled off marathon after marathon with seeming ease. But a niggly hip problem worsened and by 280 miles, Val was in severe pain. A visit to a doctor and x-ray confirmed the problem – a double stress fracture in the hip. The instructions from the specialist – stay off your feet for three months! However, Val was not to be beaten that easily. The specialist confirmed that it would be OK for Val to be pushed the rest of the way in a wheelchair and, with the support of her family, friends and the community, that’s what has happened. Since that day, countless volunteers have come down to Lake Burley Griffin to push Val for a lap of the 2.5km course around Lennox Gardens. Members of SIDS and Kids, the walking community, local sporting teams and heroes, politicians and aspiring politicians (there was an election campaign on), media identities and numerous others have taken part. All have been touched by Val’s commitment to finishing the task and her dedication to raising awareness of SIDS and Kids. Throughout it all, Val, while very disappointed at not being able to continue on foot after all her hard training, has remained cheerful and enjoyed conversations with her many pushers. There was only one anxious moment when a member of the diplomatic community cut a corner just a bit too tightly and almost tipped Val into the lake!
Many of our walkers have been down to help, most notably committee member and Canberra International Walking Weekend Sign Superintendent, Pat Fisher. Pat has covered most of the distance with Val and become somewhat of a local celebrity with his famous tanned legs and prodigious eating ability. While I wouldn’t get quite as excited, this is what Karen, the CEO of ACT SIDS and Kids, had to say on their website:
“Today needs to make special mention of a very special someone who has become a bit of a permanent fixture lakeside….Pat Fisher. Pat is one of the worlds “good guys” and we all love him to death…he has a great walking action with arms swinging. However, his best features are his fabulous legs .. golden brown from the sun and perfectly toned…Val insists that Pat walk ahead of her for at least a couple of minutes a day so that she can soak them up!!!”
Below, Pat gives his own reflections on being part of the 1000 Mile Walk:
“I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the 1000 mile walk, which is being undertaken by Val Moran to raise awareness of and money for SIDS and Kids. There are six days to go a mere 100 miles remain to be covered. This event caught my imagination from the outset. As someone who has done a bit of ultra walking I struggled to get my head around what Val was about to attempt – a marathon a day for 42 consecutive days! It was with great anticipation that I went to Lennox Gardens at 6am on Sunday 7 October to see Val set off on her epic journey. I have continued to attend every day to walk with and support Val along the way. It has been a truly rewarding experience and I have got in some good training covering over 500 miles myself.
Above all the event has been a fun event with lots of laughs and camaraderie, which always helps the miles pass by. It has been a real bonus to get to know Val better, she is a remarkable person, and to get to her know her family and friends all of whom have been very involved in the event. Each of her three children has a great sense of humour, which ensures we have a great time at event headquarters. We’ve also got some fairly good cake makers in the Canberra Walking Club and we have regularly partaken in various culinary delights.
Once Val went into the chair at day 15 the nature of the event changed but the goal was still the same. Val was now dependent on her family, friends and the community to complete the distance. The response has been overwhelming with a constant stream of people reporting to help out. The walk has truly captured the imagination of the community and it is not unusual to hear Val on several radio stations and on the local TV news on a regular basis. On one day Val did a live cross to the local FM station calling for people to come down and help out. By the time we had completed that lap someone was at the start line ready to take Val for a lap, and a bit later a crew of firemen turned up to help out! Val has been cheered on by a variety of people including walkers, runners and cyclists using the shared recreation path and also users of the lake including the Captain of the Southern Cross Cruiser which takes people on tours of Lake Burley Griffin, who always tells his passengers about Val’s walk and gets them to give three cheers, very moving indeed.
I eagerly await the climax of this unique event this Saturday 17 November. I know emotions will run very high as this incredible journey comes to an end. I will have heaps of great memories of stories told and people met on Val’s journey. I might then be able to catch up on a bit of sleep”.
Pat Fisher (11 November 2007)
Further information on Val’s walk is at www.1000milewalk.com.au
Photos to be added later.