Still doing it

empress falls 2 - 1

From David White

We left early last Sunday morning for a bushwalk to the beautiful Empress Falls. As we crossed Lillian’s Bridge and came to the intersection with the Falls track we found ourselves hiking against the tide. A stream of runners, then walkers, in gear from fancy fluoro to old t-shirts and netball skirts, were competing in their Running Wild event, a sturdy 16.7 k’s on a Sunday morning through the bush. Up, down; up and down again – hundreds of stairs, even the odd ladder.

They had come almost half the route, and the crowd had sorted itself into levels of capability. The further we went, the less gung-ho were the competitors. We reached the Falls, and after obligatory photos and selfies, turned for home so we were going with the stream.

By now there were people towards the tail of the field whose pace was stolid rather than competitive. As we turned off the event route, we chatted with one girl who said, “I usually come about last, but I don’t care; I just love being out here.”

At that end of the field, the memorable thing for me was that they were out there doing it – not winning, not placing, just taking the opportunity to pit themselves against the route, where the descents can be as testing as the ascents; where your quads burn and your breath rasps at the top of the steep pinches, and your knees ache and your legs wobble at the bottom of the ladders.

My role once, when we used to do the big rides, was to go as hard as buggery, to get there and nab the best camping spots for our tents ahead of the crowds. Now, decades later, I take instead for motivation on my morning rides a snap from Pinterest:

“I may be slow, but I’m lapping everyone on the couch.”

I’m warmed and inspired by those walkers we passed and then joined, at the tail of the field:

  • Out there sweating and stumbling, challenging themselves on a bastard of a route in the Mountains, when they could have been doing smashed avocado on toast and a latte in a café in Leura instead
  • Still doing it even though, like me, they are decades past their prime
  • Taking joy and companionship from hanging out with like-minded people
  • Being the best they can be, even if they can’t be the best.

I’ve bookmarked their website – might even have a go myself next year, when that event rolls around. Slow no doubt, but lapping the couch sitters.

(You can just see a couple of the walkers on the right of the photo, on a steep part of the climb)


  1. And also, we were doing some of it too. Even if not the whole 16.7km. We did get a good latte and breakfast as well though.

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