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  • Writer's pictureMark J. Keenan

Where's Wally?

trudging and skipping

In 1987, English illustrator Martin Handford, released a book entitled Where’s Wally? The idea of the book was uncomplicated - it consisted of illustrated pictures, each one crowded with people and, on each drawing, a character, known as Wally, who the reader needed to find. To make it easier to find him, Wally wore distinctive glasses, a red and white striped jumper and a woolly hat. The book, and the industry that followed, has been an incredible success.

Of course, we all know that finding Wally is not quite as simple as it looks. And maybe that’s the story link I’m looking for right there.

The second event of the PTS Summer Series is called Wallygrunta and it’s held in a national park called Walyunga. The short course is a tad over 9 kilometres, the long just under 14 clicks. On paper, it doesn’t sound too difficult. At the event, some people dress like Wally; red and white striped beanies and shirts, long socks, black rimmed glasses. Others dress like

Wenda, Wally’s girlfriend; adding a blue skirt to the ensemble. Then everyone runs through boggy sand, climbs rocky hills, slips and slides down rutted trails, until they reach the end where, smiling and covered in red dust, they remark to each other ‘well that was harder than I expected.’

It was a great day for trail running at Wallygrunta this year. The sky was clear and the moderate temperatures were welcome, especially after the heat of Stay Puft. There was also a cool breeze on offer at the top of the hills. Perfect….once you got there!

Of course that part, climbing the hills, is the fun bit. Right? Well, it sure looked like fun for some people. The short course lead group who passed me on one of the climbs must have been enjoying themselves; they were literally skipping up the hill.

Seriously though, the ascents were a lot tougher for me this year. Despite an opportunity to warm my legs up along river, following the new long course starting route, the uphills proved a real challenge. Very little running was involved on the way up and there was certainly no skipping. The best I could manage, on most of the climbs, was trudging.

Fortunately, it turns out that trudging is enough.

counting Wally's

As I laboured up the hills, puffing and panting, lamenting my loss of fitness late last year due to injury, I wondered what others were thinking about. How do other people keep themselves going, step by step, towards the top? Do they count their steps? Perhaps they count Wallys? Do they repeat a mantra? Or think about choc milk? I did all of these.

Afterwards, I was told by some that it’s the camaraderie of their fellow runners that drives them on. When their mind is telling them to stop, it’s the people around them that keep them going. For others, it’s the reward of the incredible views on offer, at the next crest or bend, which brings them to the finish. One thing I know, is no matter what it is that gets you there, when you pass under the finish line gantry, you feel a sense of personal accomplishment which lasts for weeks. A feeling which permeates into other aspects of your life.

Wallygrunta is not as easy as it looks. It has some tough climbs and steep downhills. It also has wonderful views. And while I don’t think wearing a red and white striped shirt and beanie, and funny spectacles, really helps with the running, it sure makes it a whole lot of fun.


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