Rotary Aussie Peace Walk
harry berg at two day walk canberra

Join us for the 30th Canberra Two-Day Walk

diana-marshall

Written by Diana Marshall

When the organisers of the Canberra Two-Day Walk decided that the 29th event in 2020 would be it’s last, local Rotary members came to its aid.

‘The Canberra Two-Day Walk has always been a terrific way to get people out exercising,’ says Rotarian, Chris Edwards. ‘Long walks, especially over multiple days, are an ideal platform to foster better physical and mental health, and we didn’t want to see the community lose this event.’

In 2021, the 30th Canberra Two-Day walk will continue, renamed as the Rotary Aussie Peace Walk.

It will be a significant milestone that coincides with the Centenary of Rotary service in Australia and New Zealand.

Fond Family Memories

Walking is an activity everyone can do together. From its outset, the Canberra Two-Day Walk has provided the platform for a healthy bonding experience for the entire family.

The two-day walk is not a timed event with winners and losers. It is a challenge for all ages and can be a fabulous bonding experience for family members from grandparents to grandchildren.

Think of the fond memories you can leave your children or grandchildren, of the weekend you achieved 7, 12, 21, 24 or 42km together?

Pictured: The Berg Family at the 20th Canberra Two-Day Walk.

How The Canberra Two-Day Walk Began

In 1989, Harry and Kathleen Berg visited Harry’s uncle and aunt (the Rijnevelds) in Melbourne. The Rijnevelds had been in Europe and Japan the previous year, and when asked about their travels they said they had taken part in several great multi-day walking events, and proudly brought out their many awards.

The Rijnevelds were Australia’s very first International Master Walkers (and also amongst the first in the world to achieve this award), having completed all the IML walks in the eight founding countries in 1988, the first year of the IML.

(Unfortunately, 1998 saw the last Ballarat event after 28 years.)

Harry and Kathleen were both impressed and also surprised at this achievement given their age. After all, the Rijnevelds were much older than them.

Harry and Kathleen were told about a similar walking event in Ballarat, Victoria. They joined the Rijnevelds at this event in March 1990 and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The event was well organised but very formal. There were nice trails through forest and town. Kathleen’s recalls the weekend:

I took part in the 15 km routes. Harry’s aunt had wanted me to walk the 25 km routes with her as she was the only female in that category, but I did not think I was up to it. I was tired after the first day, but after the second day I thought ‘is that all?’ and realised that I had seriously underestimated my capacity.

In contrast, Harry’s aunt completed her walks, still looking immaculate after 50 km. Harry opted for the 30 km routes and was put out that he could not keep up with his older uncle. The uncle had an unusual walking style, and we later found out that in his youth he had been an Olympic standard ice skater in The Netherlands.

At this event, there were also some Japanese walkers, including Mr Timothy Maruamo, a vice president of the Japan Walking Association (JWA). We were introduced to him by Harry’s uncle and found JWA was very keen to see an IML event created in Australia.

Taking part in Ballarat inspired Harry to reflect on the possibility of creating a more relaxed event. Canberra was seen as a perfect location for such an event with its extensive walking path network, national buildings and nature parks. Harry then started work drafting potential routes and developing an award system.

Kathleen and Harry Berg at presentation
master walkers, Kathleen and Harry Berg

Above: Kathleen and Harry are recognised as International Master Walkers

After Several IML Events in Europe, They Were Hooked

A subsequent trip to Europe provided an opportunity for the Bergs to participate in several IML events, and they were hooked. They enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow walkers and seeing places at a slower pace.

Back in Australia, Harry continued developing his ideas. Through friends, they met another Dutch family (John and Lena van Gerwen) who also had a dream of a Canberra multi-day walk, and more serious planning began.

Marion Reilly (Kathleen’s sister) was the inaugural secretary and her administrative knowhow was a great help. Marion managed the Registration Desk until ill health caused her retirement after the 20th Walk.

The Grant That Gave The Event a Boost

The Canberra Two-Day Walk Association (CTDW) was established in October 1991.

The ‘Life Be In It’ section of the ACT Government’s Bureau of Sport and Recreation agreed to support the concept for its first year, and if successful, for another three years. With a committee in place and some funding, the Canberra Two-Day Walk was on its way.

It was now full speed ahead to prepare for the first event, set for the first weekend in March 1992. The date was chosen to coincide with the Canberra Festival and was also a fortnight before the Ballarat walk.

‘Sport and Recreation’ would handle all the administration, while the Canberra Two-Day Walk (CTDW) committee would handle award design, route development, course marking, and walker support.

They based the ultimate design of the medal on an upside-down map of central Canberra. They called many families and friends to help operate the checkpoints.

In later years, one of the ‘criteria’ for prospective partners of Harry and Kathleen’s children was their ‘ability to help at the event!’

harry berg at two day walk canberra

Above: Harry Berg at the 20th Canberra Two-Day Walk in 2011.

The First Event Had 299 Participants

The event was publicised in the Dutch Australian newsletter and also through the Ballarat walk. Looking at the family names of the entrants in those early days, about one third appeared to be of Dutch heritage.

There was even an international participant in the first event – Wim van der Poel, a keen walker who spent the Dutch winter in Australia. Wim completed the first 17 events and provided some useful feedback from his international walking experiences.

The first event had an open-air starting area on the grassed area near Questacon with just two marquees. It was a beautiful, but hot, day with 299 participants. The Bergs were thrilled to welcome Harry’s aunt and uncle, and father, to the event who were all very impressed with the walks.

‘Sport and Recreation’ were delighted with the inaugural event and offered to underwrite it for a further 3 years.

When reviewing the first event, they made the decision to start future events in a building with seating and toilets. Over the years, many start locations have been used. One other change that ‘Sport and Recreation’ imposed was to move the event to April as they felt March could be too hot. 

Shortly after the first event Harry and Kathleen accepted job offers in Sarawak, Malaysia (on the island of Borneo) because of increasing redundancies in their department and lack of jobs in Canberra. They worked in Malaysia until late 1998, but every holiday in the period 1993-98 was spent back in Canberra, completing arrangements and running the second and subsequent Canberra Two-Day Walk events.

Bergs working at Canberra two day walk

Above: Harry (centre) and Kathleen (right) managing volunteers at a Canberra Two-Day Walk.

Thank You For All Your Years of Community Service

The event would not have continued without the support of the committee and many helpers over the years.

We must make special mention of Lachlan Wilkinson, who assumed the role of President after Harry stepped down in 2006. Diana Marshall then became President in 2012 when Lachlan moved interstate.

A chronological history of the event can be found on the AussieWalk website.

Harry and Kathleen have dedicated much of their lives to the event over the intervening years and were recognised for their efforts in the Queens Birthday Honours List in 2013 with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to recreational walking. 

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