If You've Ever Done Coastrek, This Post Is For You...
By Di Westaway | CEO and Founder of Wild Women On Top
Almost ten years ago, on a patch of green near Sydney’s iconic Palm Beach, about 40 bedraggled-looking women stood – or maybe sat – at the finish line of the first ever Sydney Coastrek. They were sweaty and exhausted, and some of them were fuming.
You see, what was meant to be a 100km team challenge from La Perouse to Palm Beach turned out to be 126km thanks to our failed attempt at mapping, and after walking all day and all night, those 26km are a pretty big deal. There was also no Luv Stops, no signage, no food, no first aid, no massages, no support crew and no cheering vollies. These women just had 126km of hard-core hiking wearing backpacks brimming with food, water, blister bandaids and head torches.
The Sydney Coastrek finish line in 2009.
You can expect quite a different scene at the finish of Sydney Coastrek 2018 – our 10th event in Sydney. Thousands of hikers will gather at Bondi after walking 30 or 60km from Manly or Kirribilli, amongst food trucks, market stalls, Instagram signs, live music and a ‘WE DID IT’ stage. But the reason we’ll all be there remains the same. To transform lives.
The 30km Sydney Coastrek start in 2017.
Ten years ago, I had a dream. I wanted to help Aussie mums like me prioritise their health and fitness by hiking together for a purpose.
At the time, I was running women’s Trek Training groups around Sydney Harbour, but I couldn’t work out how to connect with women beyond my local suburb. I also wanted to motivate my clients to keep training over the Christmas holidays when my coaches took a break.
So, I created an adventure designed to keep us all fit over the silly season. I called the adventure Coastrek, a 50-100km team trekking challenge along the stunning coast of Sydney for fun, fitness, friends and fundraising.
I didn’t set out to run events but rather to inspire and empower women to lead adventurous lives they love. But after that notorious first year, Coastrek went gangbusters.
In 2010 we created a formal partnership with The Fred Hollows Foundation and in 2011, radio presenter Adam Spencer put us on the map by not only trekking the 50km but also promoting us on ABC Radio 702 Breakfast.
Team 70Shoe: David Moffatt, Di Westaway, Cheryl Bart and Adam Spencer in 2011.
Julie McCrossin then came on board as an Ambassador and by 2013 we’d ditched the 100km event because we wanted to inspire more women to get fit hiking, and you told us you preferred the shorter distance. We ran simultaneous 55km events from Palm Beach and Coogee, meeting up in Balmoral for the finish for the next couple of years.
Julie McCrossin and her Sydney Coastrek team.
In 2015 we spread our wings to Melbourne and created an awesome ‘girls weekend’ event on the Mornington Peninsula, offering a 30km or 60km event for the first time. You ladies loved that, too. In 2017, we took the challenge of a Sunshine Coastrek in Noosa, which brought smiles to a whole lot more faces.
Melbourne Coastrek was launched in 2015.
In 2018, we will celebrate the tenth Sydney Coastrek, having inspired over 25,000 people, mostly women, to hike 30-126km while raising more than $20 million for The Fred Hollows Foundation.
Many of these women have gone on to energise and even transform their lives, making walking a daily habit and using extreme adventure to motivate themselves to stay healthy and happy.
Women such as 79-year-old Margaret Sheridan, who, after doing Coastrek, has taken on iconic treks in Nepal, Patagonia and Bhutan. And Liz Walden, a seeker of extreme wilderness challenges, who regularly leaps outside her comfort zone and lives her dreams. And high achievers such as Chris Bourke who went on to climb Mt Everest a few years after doing Coastrek.
We’ve had blind trekkers such as Ben Phillips, women recovering from life-threatening cancer such as Julie McCrossin, women who’ve lost huge amounts of weight including the self-proclaimed ‘Fat-Girl Can’, women with depression and anxiety and tens of thousands of daughters, mums and grandmas, as well as male champions such as Senator John Faulkner and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, all trek to restore sight.
And the 2018 Coastrekkers will have the privilege of walking alongside our incredible new Patron, Jennifer Byrne, and our 2018 ambassadors including Sarah Wilson, Angela Mollard, Sarah Berry, Julie McCrossin, Jean Kitson, Kumi Taguchi, Jacinta Tynan, and Caroline Overington.
The Storytellers: Tracey Spicer, Angela Mollard, Tory Maguire and Jennifer Byrne with Di Westaway and Gabi Hollows in 2017.
So to each and every one of the 25,000 Coastrekkers who have taken the challenge over the past 10 years, I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. Together we’ve made real and lasting difference, not just to the health and happiness of tens of thousands of Aussie women, but also to the lives of the hundreds of thousands of people who have had their sight restored as a direct result of our fundraising efforts.
For every person who has their sight restored, five others directly benefit. This means that in the past 10 years, because of Coastrek, millions of lives have been changed globally.
In 2018, 4000 trekkers will walk from Manly or Kirribilli to Bondi in our biggest event ever.
I feel grateful and humbled to have played a part in this journey.
Chief Adventure Chick (CEO) and Founder of Wild Women On Top