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Finding my way on the Bibbulmun Track

Emily Pinkus, WA

6 March 2012

Emily in the Showgrounds.
Emily in the Showgrounds.

On the 13th October 2008 Simon and I set out from Kalamunda to walk the Bibbulmun Track end-to-end. We were no athletes when we started, but two months and 963 kilometres later we arrived in Albany fitter, healthier, happier—and sweatier.

The first week was tough, physically and mentally. I spent many hours counting my steps. One count for every four steps—count to 500, then 500 more.
“Are we there yet? Can we stop? Why are these hills so steep?”

On it went, passing time in lots of 2000 steps, pushing my body on. I felt like a fraud every time we met people going the other way. “How far are you going?” they asked. “All the way,” we replied. I imagined them laughing at the mad prospect of this puffed, red faced woman making it to Albany.

But I got a little fitter and the counting gave way to voices in my head. Every time I went up a hill imaginary trainers or past sporting coaches yelled at me. “Push it out Emily!” That’s it, lift from the chest! Harder, faster, keep going, that’s it!”

As the weeks passed the voices faded and I was left with just the sound of my breath. I moved more freely, I saw more around me, and I really got to know this body of mine that I had ignored for so long. I spent hours figuring out which muscles did what and I learned what people meant when they spoke of core strength. I began to look forward to each hill as a chance to push myself a bit more. Instead of collapsing in a heap at the end of a day’s walk I started going for cool down jogs and stretching.

Simon now leads tours on the Bibbulmun Track.
Simon now leads tours on the Bibbulmun Track.

The greatest day of the trip was one that included a long hard day’s walk. After a rest and a snack we walked down to check out a beach and when we got there we started to play. The sort of play that kids are great at because their bodies and minds haven’t been restricted by rules, work and office chairs. We leapt over streams, we cart-wheeled, climbed and ran. I was fit and I loved it!

Not everyone gets to take two months away from their daily commitments and I feel blessed that I could. I realise now though that the main thing that had held me back from health and fitness wasn’t time or money, or any of the things I had used as excuses. It was fear. Worrying about what other people thought had led me to restrict my activity to only those things that I knew I could do. Worrying about failure ensured I would never succeed. And that’s the lesson I’ll keep with me for a lifetime—not to let fear stop me from living an active healthy life.

Thanks to the Bibbulmun Track for showing me the way.

Ed: Emily and Simon now run Inspiration Outdoors which offers guided walks in Western Australia including walks on the Bibbulmun Track.  Visit www.inspirationoutdoors.com.au