Not the type to do things by halves, Woden woman Cath Wallis threw herself into her work as a lawyer and mother. But about seven years after having her third child, she had an unpleasant epiphany.
“I suddenly realised I was so focussed on work and family that I’d lost a sense of who I was,” she says.
“I didn’t have any hobbies. All I did was work and look after my family, and it hit me: I had turned into quite a boring person.”
It wasn’t for a lack of interests. She was a nature lover and an avid traveller, and there was one hobby that combined the two without breaking the bank and with the added bonus of being good for her health – long-distance walking.
The longest distance she had walked before then was the classic 5 km walk but wasting no time, she signed up for an ultra 100 km marathon. It would be the first step into a renaissance.
Today as an ambassador of the epic charity walking event Coastrek, Cath works (and walks) to spread two important messages.
“I think there was a message growing up that women can have it all. There are a bunch of us that have had successful careers and raised our children, but the reality for many is that if you do those two things, you often have no time to look after yourself,” she says.
“For myself, and lots of women like me, we lose our sense of what we want to do, and what we want to be, other than an employee or a mum. Both are important things, but to be a well-rounded person you have to have enjoyment for yourself. ”
Her other message is about body neutrality.
“I certainly don’t look like an athlete or an ultra marathoner. But when we fixate on what we look like, we start to think ‘I can’t do that until I am skinny enough, or muscly enough’. You can really get in your own way with that kind of thinking,” she says.
“It’s not about competition. Taking a body neutral stance empowers you to celebrate what you can do and build from there.
“You might want to climb to the top of a mountain but your goal might also be to go halfway and enjoy the view from there. Or perhaps you would like to walk around the base, or perhaps you would like to sit at the bottom and paint a picture of it. None of those things are wrong, none of them are less important.”
That’s the vibe Cath advocates as people start preparing for Coastrek. In teams of four, walkers sign up for either a 20 km or 30 km walk starting and finishing at Lennox Gardens and taking in beautiful parts of Canberra including Lake Burley Griffin. Each team pledges to raise $2000 for the Heart Foundation.
The 30 km trek heads off in the morning and can take up to 10 hours. The 20 km walk, also known as the “Twilight 20”, starts at 12:30 pm and can take up to six hours.
Cath says both events tick a lot of boxes for a lot of people.
“Walking is something that’s accessible to most people, and it’s something that enriches our lives that’s not work or family,” she says.
“It’s great to have a goal to work towards to motivate you to build on your abilities, with options for 20 and 30 km. You’re also raising money that will help tackle heart disease – a leading cause of death for women in Australia. And because it’s done in teams, you’re automatically signing up for an event with a friend – both for training and out there on the day.
“And of course, you cannot overstate the benefits physically and mentally of just walking and talking. When you get out there as a group of four people and you’re walking and talking, the kilometres pass quickly. Before you know it you’ve had a beautiful day out and haven’t realised how much work you’ve done.”
Need help forming a team? Contact Cath Wallis via Instagram