From sharing to my reflection on joining Oxfam Trailwalker

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Kanie Siu – Fundraising and Communications Director

It’s hard to believe that half a year has passed since our last Oxfam Trailwalker (OTW). Now we’re in the full swing of preparing for the 33rd edition of this 100 kilometre hike. It’s pretty exciting seeing all the entries come in as we approach the deadline for open team applications on 21 May.

In late April and early May, I joined a few friends from the Big Hearts teams (无敌小宇宙大家庭) who had participated in last year’s Oxfam Trailwalker, to do a sharing session about the event in Beijing and Guangzhou. This is the first time that Oxfam has conducted a sharing session of this kind in Mainland China, one which is aimed at introducing the event as well as Oxfam to companies and the general public through the media.

The sharing made me recall the experience that I had last year when I joined the event as a participant. I have been involved in the event since joining Oxfam Hong Kong in 1998. I could understand the joy that was shown on the walkers’ faces when I delivered the certificates to them at the finishing point, but not their passion and enthusiasm, until I participated in the event myself last year.

I became determined to join the event once, at least once in my life, a few years ago. This only became a reality last year. I joined the event through Westhikers, a hiking group which has been participating in OTW for many years. Mr Yiu, the founder, and Karen, the coordinator of the group, are die-hard fans of the event. They have helped lots of newbies and assisted them with their training for the event.

Members of Westhikers, a group with lots of experience participating in Oxfam Trailwalker, pause for break during one of our grueling training sessions. As you can see from my smile (front row, second from right) I had a lot of fun, despite the physical challenge.

Members of Westhikers, a group with lots of experience participating in Oxfam Trailwalker, pause for break during one of our grueling training sessions. As you can see from my smile (front row, second from right) I had a lot of fun, despite the physical challenge.

Mr Yiu (third from left) and other helped us a great deal in

Mr Yiu (third from left) and Karen (not pictured), from Westhikers, helped a great deal in our training.

The first formal training session organised by the hiking group was a walk from Tai Po Road in Kam Shan Country Park to Shing Mun Reservoir in Tsuen Wan. This segment of the MacLehose Trail is classified as the lowest in difficulty. However, I found it difficult to walk for a whole day and climb up the hills. My legs were sore after the walk and the pain lasted for a week, even though I did a lot of stretching.

Because of the pain, I went to see my physiotherapist. I had started seeing him a year earlier because of neck pain. He is also a Chinese doctor and was a Trailwalker himself years ago.

He gave me several pieces of advice. He said I was very weak. Based on my abilities at that point in time, it was unlikely that I would be able to complete the Trailwalker event, no matter how hard I trained. He said my muscles were not strong enough, especially in my thighs. He said I did not have enough qi or xue – in Chinese medicine, these are the functional entities – and that I had to strengthen myself all these areas in addition to training on the trails.

I asked myself once again if I really wanted to realise this dream. My answer was yes. After that, I thought about what I should do.

I started to implement my plan step by step.

To strengthen my muscles, I joined a fitness centre. I talked to a personal trainer about my goal. She helped me build up the strength in my muscles, especially in my thighs. I met her twice a week after work. Apart from the exercises she designed for me, I ran on the treadmill. My body would be in a lot of pain after every training session as my muscles were just not accustomed to the exercises. Still, I stuck to my regular training sessions every week.

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Since my Chinese doctor told me I needed to get stronger, I joined a gym and worked out with a trainer twice a week in addition to our trail sessions.

Since my Chinese doctor told me I needed to get stronger, I joined a gym and worked out with a trainer twice a week in addition to our trail sessions.

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Every trail training session left me in pain, but I was able to get stick with it thanks to encouragement from my teammates, support from my doctor, acupuncturist and masseuse. And, of course, some Panadol.

Every trail session left me in pain, but I was able to get through it thanks to my doctor, acupuncturist and masseuse. And, of course, some Panadol.

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To improve my qi and xue, I also saw my Chinese doctor once a fortnight. I had to drink Chinese medicine twice a day. Though not bitter, the medicine was not tasty either. He measured my xue and qi and adjusted the Chinese herb ingredients for me every time I saw him.

To familiarise myself with the trail, I joined my teammates to train every weekend. We started off early in the morning and walked until late in the evening. Once, we walked through the night until the next morning. Another time, to complete a distance of 50 km, we walked until midnight. As you could imagine, my legs and feet became incredibly sore. I had to receive physiotherapy as well as acupuncture treatment. I also had massage treatments almost every time after a walk to relieve my pain.

Sometimes, we trained late into the night, but all of those late sessions were worth it when we made it to the finish line on the big day.

Sometimes, we trained late into the night. All of those late sessions were worth it when we made it to the finish line on the big day.

In the meantime, I hurt my feet and a ligament in my right leg. I took Panadol every time I trained on the trails.

Our team had a discussion and agreed to train together as many times as possible, especially from July to November. Westhikers organised 16 training sessions in that period. We completed 13 sessions together. We walked about 400 km each during those few months. We set a target to finish the trail in 39 hours. We developed our strategy to complete the walk, planned our rest times at each checkpoint, and prepared the right amount of water and food with support from Westhikers. In short, we developed a common goal and were committed to completing the trail.

Before the big day, I prepared myself mentally by telling myself all of the things that were most important. I had put in the work to improve in every aspect in order to achieve my goal and to fulfill my dream of completing Oxfam Trailwalker. I had the commitment of my teammates to complete the trail. Whether I could make it or not was now up to the invisible hand.

On 15 November, the big day came. The weather was good, though it was very cool in the night. In the end, we completed the whole trail and finished it in 36 hours 24 minutes. Not only did our team of four complete the trail together, we did it with a time that was beyond our expectations.

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I was so exhausted, but at the same time so excited and energised when my teammates and I passed the finish line...

I was so exhausted, but also so excited and energised when my teammates and I passed the finish line.

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... especially when my sons came and planted big kisses on my cheeks.

… especially when my sons came and planted big kisses on my cheeks.

[/one_half_last]This was really an amazing experience for me. I never thought I would be able to make it. I believe I could not have completed the event without support from many people. They were my teammates, Westhikers, my Chinese doctor and physiotherapist, my coach and my masseuse.

So, when Zhong Huiyu, a member of the Big Hearts teams, shared his philosophy about Oxfam Trailwalker in the Guangzhou session, I fully agreed with him that it is your team and the team’s supporters who help you develop your capacity to accomplish OTW. This is similar to the spirit of Oxfam: We enable poor people to equip themselves to improve their livelihoods when we work in poor communities.

Once you understand these values and this philosophy, you will start to love the event more. After you have the experience and the ability, you will share whatever you know with your teammates and friends who join the event, in order to help them finish the 100 km walk.

Your desire to help others is similar to that of Oxfam’s development workers. We help poor people help themselves. And the passion and enthusiasm never ends.

KanieKanie Siu is fundraising and communications director at Oxfam.

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