At 142 km, it’s longer than the Kokoda Track and further than the distance to Everest Base Camp – and it’s about to host 35 people on a mission to improve outcomes for Canberra’s young men.
Journeying across the nation’s capital, the Menslink Great Walk challenge will assemble CEOs, community leaders and senior executives to take on Canberra’s Centenary Trail to raise awareness and much-needed funds for Menslink.
Kicking off from Parliament House on the morning of Tuesday 1 November, the epic five-day adventure will demand participants cover up to 30 km per day along the trail, crashing at sponsored Abode Hotels each night and completing the loop on Saturday 5 November.
And while they’ll pass sprawling vistas, iconic landmarks and hidden gems, it’s not exactly a walk in the park.
This year Region group editor Genevieve Jacobs, who walked the inaugural event last year, will be joined by co-CEO and fitness rookie Michael McGoogan.
While sponsor Southside Physio will support walkers with self-guided training programs in the lead-up and daily physio and recovery support on the walk, Michael has adopted a regime of healthy eating, daily five to 10 km walks, weekend hikes and personal training sessions at Anytime Fitness Kingston.
Describing himself as “grossly unfit” prior to undertaking Great Walk preparation, he reckons it’s easier to stick to a health kick long enough to turn it into a habit when you’re motivated by a cause you believe in.
“I’m excited to be doing this walk for Menslink – it’s a wonderful charity that does critical work in the community,” he says.
“Every kid kept on the rails is one less in the system, so it’s breaking the cycle and that work is invaluable to the community.
“But on a personal level, an additional benefit of taking on the 142 km walk and the requisite preparation is that I have used it as an opportunity for a post-COVID health reset. I hope to leverage that as a kick-off point for ongoing positive lifestyle changes.”
As 1 November looms, Michael says he’s feeling ready.
“Being surrounded by so many wonderful Canberra CEOs who have done it before, I’m sure it’ll be a wonderful success network to bring it all together,” he says.
“As long as I can overcome the ‘all the gear and no idea’ I think I’ll be fine … I’m pretty optimistic that the training regime is going to be successful, so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Anytime Fitness multi club owner Tim Kanellopoulos says the team is gunning for Michael’s success.
“We’re very excited to be supporting the push to raise awareness of the importance of seeking help when suffering from a mental illness,” he says.
“Michael’s personal trainer, Jacob Lomas, has the expertise and knowledge to help Michael push through the pain he will be enduring to finish the 142 km Menslink Great Walk challenge.”
Having designed a full body exercise regime for Michael focusing on building endurance and leg strength, Jacob says people coming at intense challenges from a sedentary lifestyle must tailor their approach if they want it to stick.
“It’s about looking at a person’s lifestyle and goals, seeing what they can do movement wise and assessing their mentality towards training,” he says.
“From there you can determine what effort levels will be required to achieve their goals.
“Michael has that ‘go hard’ attitude. He enjoys doing the training, getting that push and knowing he’s supporting his main goal.”
Each walker has committed to raising $10,000 for the event resulting in at least $350,000 for the charity – an effort Menslink acting CEO Penny Burns says is sorely needed.
“The generosity of our walkers to leverage their own networks for the benefit of Menslink is so powerful and so appreciated,” she says.
“Every contribution will go directly to Menslink programs that support young men and their families in the Canberra community through our counselling, volunteer mentoring and school programs.”
Statistics on men’s mental health are sobering. Australian Bureau of Statistics national data showed the number of deaths by suicide was more than double the road toll last year, with 75 per cent of instances being male.
Penny says it costs Menslink an average of $1500 to provide direct counselling and mentoring support to a young man for a year.
“Simply put, the more we raise, the more young men we can help with our programs,” she says.
“The private sector provides two thirds of our funding and of that, half comes from their support through these kinds of events.
“Last year we had over 1600 individual donations for our walkers. When you think about it, that’s 1600 ACT families and those from surrounding regions that have gotten behind Menslink. That’s compelling stuff.”
Anytime Fitness gyms have qualified personal trainers to assist all people in meeting their fitness and wellbeing goals.
Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.
If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467.