Taking place on the weekend of May, WildEndurance is a team event which takes participants through some of the most magnificent, natural locations in Sydney’s Blue Mountains Heritage Area. In teams of between two and seven, participants walk and/or run either 100 or 50km.
WildEndurance is one of the core fundraising events for the Wilderness Society, with close to a million dollars raised over its eight year history. The Wilderness Society is considered to be one of the oldest and largest non-governmental, environmental organisation in Australia.
Over the past three decades, the Wilderness Society has enjoyed a number of prominent wins for the protection of Australia’s natural places. Most notably, the organisation led the campaign to prevent the construction of the world’s largest natural gas processing hub at James Price Point in the Kimberley, one of the most pristine coastlines in the world. The Wilderness Society is also seen as the catalyst for the establishment of the Australian Greens Political party.
This year’s WildEndurance event is incredibly poignant, as part of the funds raised will be donated to Science for Wildlife (for the training of koala detection dogs and GPS tracking devices), an organisation that focusing on the conservation of koalas in the upper Blue Mountains. Koalas were spotted in the Upper Blue Mountains only two years ago, for the first time in seventy years.
Currently, 10% of threatened and endangered native species in New South Wales can be found in the Blue Mountains. Therefore, the conservation of koalas in the area is also expected to have flow on effects on the conservation of a number of other native flora and fauna endemic to the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.
The 36 hour time limit, challenging terrain and weather all combine to make WildEndurance a truly unique endurance event. A number of professional athletes have used WildEndurance to prepare for international long distance trail and endurance events. However, despite the tough conditions, overwhelmingly, the participants are your everyday, ordinary mums and dads, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives. Some participate to cross it off their bucket-list, some for the opportunity to escape the urban rat race, some who seek to push their physical and mental limits while others see WildEndurance as a great way to support the protection of some of Australia’s most pristine environments.
WildEndurance is also a great way to motivate people to reconnect with nature as the event organisers actively promote participants preparing for the event by hiking outdoors. Regardless of the motivation, participants are connected by the shared sense of accomplishment when they cross the finish line and stand on the podium.
As a participant in last year’s 50km event, I understand just how tough the event can be on your mind and your body. The ascents were tough on my legs, and it was really cold and windy on the table-flats. However, it was such a surreal experience, walking with such a diverse group of individuals, who were looking forward to a fun and challenging weekend. A large part of the journey of WildEndurance last year was having my team mate and close friend, Mik Scheper to share the experience with. We took the opportunity to do some bush walks in Blackheath and the Coogee to Bondi coast walk while preparing. We helped each other stay focused during WildEndurance where some sections were particularly challenging and tested us mentally.
The views were breathtaking and descending down the Giants stairway past the iconic ‘Three Sisters‘ at night felt like we were travelling back in time. Frankly, I would not have been surprised if we had seen dinosaurs. After 15 hours of walking, my team mate and I finished, it was past midnight, we were both extremely exhausted, and there was a sense of euphoria in the thought that we had completed something extraordinary.
This year, I am working on the delivery of WildEndurance, getting a different perspective on how the event is coordinated and delivered. Somedays, i feel participating in the event seems a lot easier than the logistics work. I will be present at the event (working at event headquarters) come the first weekend in May, but i feel like a part of me will look enviously at all the participants ready to tackle WildEndurance.