For This 60km Team, Walking For Mental Health Had A Moving Meaning

27 Sep 2019

By The Wild Women On Top Coastrek Team

When Team Fleurieu's Fleurs signed up for Coastrek, they had their sights set on hitting the $2,000 fundraising target. But they certainly didn't expect they'd be among the event's top fundraisers.

The team of Sydney-based women raised an incredible $18,200, using a fundraising event to help other teams reach their goals.

Susie, Fiona, Gai and Christine all felt the significance of walking 60km for Beyond Blue. But for Susie, the event on the Fleurieu Peninsula was particularly significant. Susie lost her nephew to suicide in 1994 on the Fleurieu coastline. She says, "while you get used to the pain, you never get past the loss." She was determined to walk 60km with her teammates not just for her nephew Wills, but for everyone struggling with their mental health.

Fiona Chapman, Susie Ashton-Davies, and Christine Law from The Fleurieu's Fleurs tell us what made the Coastrek experience so special and share their top tips for new or nervous Coastrekkers.

You’ve done a number of Coastreks before Adelaide. What made this one so special?

Susie: "This was my 5th Coastrek. It was exciting to be walking somewhere new for just such a great cause, Beyond Blue. On a deeper level, it gave me a reason to reflect on the death of my nephew, Wills, who took his life not far from where the event was held. He was just 24 and an inexperienced vet in his first job, with little to no professional supervision in an under-resourced practice thousands of kilometres from his family and friends in country New South Wales. When this happened it was so shocking, so physically and emotionally shattering. It was impossible to reconcile and I felt numb for years.

"In the weeks leading up to Coastrek I wasn’t sure how I would feel about returning to near where he died. But as the grief again pricked a gaping hole in my heart, I realised that being here, doing Coastrek, and raising the funds, has made the pain of my loss more tangible. I will always associate this Coastrek with Wills and the pain that those with mental health issues suffer, and that’s okay."

What was the highlight of the experience for you?

Fiona: "The best part about Coastrek has been training with my team, spending time on the track with them and getting to know them in a way that doesn’t happen other than when you are undertaking a physically demanding challenge together."

Chris: "There were so many highlights. The friendship of our team, the scenery of the Fleurieu coast and the wonderful support of our crew."

You raised an incredible amount of money for Beyond Blue. How did you go about fundraising?

Fiona: "Gai inspired us to have a fundraising night, Susie organised a fabulous silent auction, Chris organised the speaker from Beyond Blue and the food, and my task was to provide flowers for the tables. My daughters had a wonderful time arranging bunches of native flowers. Many friends who couldn’t join us gave generously to our fundraising page."

You mentioned your support crew was crucial to your enjoyment of the day. How did they help you along the way?

Susie: "My friends, Sharon and Paul, pretty much managed us end-to-end. This started with dinner the night before where we discussed the day. They are locals so they had done a reconnaissance of the drop-off zone and all the access points along the way. Psychologically, having options to look forward to, such as food, drinks, shelter and dry clothes makes Coastrek so much easier. We each gave them a bag of clothes with options of fresh socks, boots, shirts and another bag of snacks, food, drinks, Hydralyte, and first-aid. We left nothing to chance. They anticipated our every need, appearing with coffee, snacks and encouraging smiles along the way, especially towards the end. In the last 5km, when the rain was bucketing down in the dark, Sharon drove behind us to light up the way ahead, making it just that much easier for us to finish."

What advice would you have for new Coastrekkers?

Fiona says:

  1. Train, train, train and train again.
  2. Test out your gear and load up your pack as if you were doing Coastrek. We were surprised on the day how much heavier our packs felt with snacks, two litres of water and a few medical supplies.
  3. Stick together as a team. Allow the slowest person to be at the front on a regular basis, it is amazing how much faster you can walk when you know your team is behind you, both literally and figuratively!
  4. Stop every now and then, appreciate the scenery and remember why you are doing this. 

How did you feel crossing the finish line? What were you thinking as you stepped over the Hope, Recovery, Resilience banner?

Chris: "I had mixed emotions by the end. I was tired, exhilarated, wet, chilly, and emotional."

Have the Fleurieu's Fleurs inspired you to get out on the trail with your girlfriends for a good cause? Register now for the 30km or 60km Sydney Coastrek!