March 23, 2007

The last bit of decent writing I did

Now that I'm editting, I don't get as much time to write, and it's actually quite nice to have a break. But I managed to bash this out for yesterday's Life section in the paper, and although I thought it was cheesy, it brought Sarah my divinely talented and patient colleague to tears.

Kimberley Rothwell goes from zero to 100 in three months - taking on the Oxfam Trailwalker challenge in which she and three teammates will walk 100km in 36 hours this April. The girl who didn't even own a decent pair of trainers reveals how she's doing it.
AS I PLOD along another walkway on a weeknight, pop another blister that has sprouted on my heel, inhale another meal of pasta, I ask myself what is the point of walking 100 kilometres?
I thought it would be easy _ it's just walking after all, and anyone can do that. Walk 100km in one go and raise some money for a good cause. If others can do it, so can I. But it's a grind, this training. It's grinding away at my feet, my knees, my spare time. It's not like the 40-hour famine in which you watch movies and eat barley sugars and groan when food ads come on the telly, then eat an entire cheesecake the next day. It's step after step after step for hours on end.
The Oxfam Trailwalker has been going for 25 years and involves teams of four walking the entire 100km course in less than 36 hours. The course is set north of Taupo, taking in Huka Falls and Craters of the Moon geothermal area. It's gentle country, not like tramping in the Tararuas or climbing up the Red Rocks track. At least, that's what I'm banking on. We also have to raise $5000 for Oxfam, primarily through people sponsoring us on the walk and donations.
When I think I can't do it anymore, when getting up at 6am on a Saturday to do another walk just seems too much, when it's raining and there's something good on the telly, I think about Cambodia.
In Cambodia, people sit atop piles of bricks on the backs of trucks for many kilometres over dusty rutted roads. Barefoot teenage boys walk along those roads carrying huge lumps of ice in their hands.
The stories of people who walked hundreds of kilometres to the Thai border to escape the Khmer Rouge are mind-boggling. They didn't have comfy walking shoes or water bottles or scroggin. They just endured.
It's ironic that it should be those images spurring me on as I stuff another protein bar in my face because some of the $5000 could end up in Cambodia.
But it doesn't stop my feet hurting.
Before I started all this, I hated tramping. I hated sandwiches and scroggin and the thought of eating chocolate for anything but pleasure was unknown to me. I just wanted to raise a lot of money for Oxfam, the 100km came second. But it's quickly taking over my life.
I have become an expert on which brand of tape and plaster will go on what shaped blister, and Nike shareholders can all pay off their mortgages on what I've spent in sports socks.
My diet has changed considerably since I've started training. I used to be the girl who ate half of what everyone else had. I considered deep-fried foods a complete food group. Now I eat everything, including the pattern on the plate. I almost swallowed my fork the other day. Nuts, bananas and water have become close friends.
A Vogel's sandwich with leaves and tomato and mayonnaise after a good three hours in the hot sun up hill and over dale tastes really, really good. I don't feel guilty about all the barbecue sausages I've been scoffing. I'm an athlete now, you see.
The next challenge is the weather. As summer ends abruptly with rain lashing the windows and wind toppling small children, I expect my training will turn into trudging.
I expect mud will replace sunburn. My sandwiches will get soggy in my pack. My iPod might get wet. I will spend more time thinking about the needle-like rain in my eyes and my waterlogged feet than anything else.
But then I will think about those people sitting on the trucks, just enduring what they have to endure. And I'll keep walking.


rhiannon said...

I agree- that's beautifully written and very moving.
I love the image of you eating the pattern off your plate. The way you write is wonderful. You're a clever thing.

melissa said...

lovely work, Kimberley. Thank you for sharing.

Craig said...

You have a great sense of wit combined with a great sense of humility. Very funny, very moving. I need to sponsor....

Kate said...

Thanks - very funny and such a great cause. How do I make a donation?

aka Special K said...

If you want to make a donation, there's a button up the top of the special K main page with a banner. It goes to our team's page. Muchos gracias ... K

Helen said...

That's wonderful writing!

(The popping blister bit grossed me out a bit, though - heee!)

x Helen