Kathleen Berg

Run down Under has been my sanity saver over the last three years as well as giving me lots of enjoyment and purpose over the last five years.

History- and it’s a bit of a long story, but it tells how Run Down Under became my sanity saver, especially after my problems began in 2019. Your creation has been a great help to me, getting me out and about, keeping active and giving some meaning to my life. So, a big thank you!

My (now late) husband and I have always been keen walkers, though not with any particular goals until around 1990 when we were introduced to the International Marching League (IML) (imlwalking.org) where we heard about a group of multiday walks where there was serious bling to be earned for completing multiday walks (minimum 2 days of 20 km each.) The motto of this group is “Nos iungat ambulare” or “May walking bringing us together”; the idea being growing international understanding while keeping fit. The idea of international understanding especially appealed to my husband who had been interned as a child by the Japanese during WW2.

We participated in a couple of IML events in 1990 and my husband fell in love with the concept. At this time our government was encouraging people to exercise.  (Life. Be in it.) My husband thought Canberra is a great place for a walk and put together a proposal for a Two Day Walk in Canberra. We received government sponsorship for the first three years and so the Canberra Two Day Walk held its first event in1992. We gained membership of the IML in 1998, and in 1998 our organization also gained membership of the Inernationaler Volkssport Verband (IVV), (ivv.org), also known as the International Federation of Popular Sports. The IVV encourages people to exercise regularly with progressive awards for the number of events and the distance walked (more bling!)  The Canberra event is still going, after more than 30 years. The walk is now run by Rotary and renamed the Aussie Peace Walk. In 2013, in recognition of our efforts, Harry and I were awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for our contribution to recreational sport.

And so we continued walking, with IML events, IVV events and other long distance walks: 11 Cities walk in NL, Circuit of Mt Fuji, Camino de Santiago from le Puy to Santiago, Hadrian’s Wall path and more. We have seen many interesting places and made many friends around the world over the years. We continued to walk daily, especially after my surgery for breast cancer in 2015.

Enter Run Down Under. Around the end of 2017, Diana Marshall (AussieWalk club member) who completed Run down Under a while ago and is now on another map and who is seriously into bling, told me about Run Down Under. I dithered about it for a bit, and then realized that at the rate we were walking I could complete Run down Under on or before my eightieth birthday. I needed to average around 7.2 km per day from when I joined in 2018 until my finish date of 10 July 2023. I was in!

I joined up in February 2018, only me, though at this stage most of Harry’s and my walks were together. I kept an eye on progress with a spread sheet, and of course the Run Down under page, and got excited as I could see I was on track for my desired completion date.

However, sadly, in early 2019, my husband’s health began to decline and in late 2019 we were told he had an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease. The next three years were difficult, coping with his failing health, downsizing and moving to a retirement village, COVID and more. Harry continued walking every day, until his last admission to hospital though the distances decreased and at the end he was only managing 600m for his daily walks and I was now doing a lot of the walking on my own. He died in February 2022, just after our 55th wedding anniversary.

From Harry’s diagnosis in 2019, Run Down under became my salvation. Keeping my totals on track and the encouragement from Run Down under as I passed various milestones gave me the inspiration to get out, even as my life was falling apart. Thank you Run Down Under.

Finishing With Covid over, my walking friends encouraged me to join them on overseas walks again, and I began to plan my finish. This was going to be during the Diekirch IML walk on 4 June, and I would start my next map in London.

However, on 20 April the unthinkable happened when my second son (whom I was going to meet up with in Europe in July) succumbed to his mental demons. And my trip needed to be cancelled.

This time I did find it very hard to get out walking, but after David’s funeral, my two surviving children encouraged me not to lose sight of the goal that has kept me going through the hard years and so we (on 10 June) have now come up with a new plan to finish and to celebrate the finish.

I ‘m back to walking and I’ll finish this map on 10 July, my 80th birthday. My surviving kids and their families will come to Canberra and join me and David’s family for a walk in Canberra around central basin of Lake Burley Griffin- where the Canberra Two Day Walk began in 1992. I’m sure there will be tears and smiles that day.

So, again, Travis, I thank you for Run the World, and I’m looking forward to getting my finisher’s medal, and displaying my collection of Run Down under medals.

You’ll certainly hear from me when I finish!