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New Zealand’s Largest Walking Group Doubles In 2023, Now Calling More Kiwis To Join The Challenge In Its Third Year

New Zealand’s largest walking group has doubled in size in the past year, with 4,700 participating in the Walk1200km challenge, and they’re looking for more ‘superwalkers’ to lead the charge into 2024.

The Walk1200km challenge, led by Wilderness editor Alistair Hall has ambitions to have more than 10,000 Kiwis walking 1200 kilometres each year for a range of health and wellbeing benefits.

Forged in the pandemic, Walk1200km encourages New Zealanders to register (free) for the challenge of walking 100km each month over a year. In the last two years, Hall has been pleasantly surprised by the uptake from keen individuals spread across the country, saying the Walk1200km community is growing fast, and it is great to see Kiwis taking charge of their own health and wellbeing.

“Our purpose behind the challenge has always been to encourage people to prioritise their wellbeing and enjoy the journey along the way.

“There are many documented health benefits to walking, and Walk1200km participants have been impacted in a variety of ways with some overcoming grief, opening up to their walking buddies, progressing their weight-loss journey, making new connections, training for a ‘Great Walk’ or simply committing to a daily habit. In a time when Kiwis are facing all sorts of crises – from climate to the cost-of-living – there’s never been a better time to walk – it’s free, it’s accessible and it’s a great way to enjoy this beautiful country we live in.”

A new Walk1200km participant in 2023, Jade Bell joined the challenge after her partner John passed away following a short and aggressive battle with pancreatic cancer. To support her healing process, Bell began walking and joined the Walk1200km challenge, finding the fresh air and movement helped her to sleep better at night and provided a sense of achievement and a goal to work towards.

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“The challenge was finding the motivation I needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other, both physically and mentally. With the support of the Walk1200km community, I discovered I never felt lonely while out on a track, even though it was often the most physically isolated part of my day.”

As her passion for walking has grown, Bell drew on some of her late partner’s estate to pull together a multi-day tramping kit, considering each walk using this gear to be part of John’s last gift to her.

Another avid Super Walker, Ingrid van Leeuwen is in it for the journey, saying the challenge has taught her that walking is the best happy drug you can have.

“We are incredibly fortunate to live in such an amazing country with some of the world's most magnificent ‘great’ walks. This challenge has reminded me that life is all about taking one step at a time and breathing in the moment.

Walking has become my new normal, and it’s a way for me to escape, discover new places, and share experiences with my “musketeers”, Lizanne and Karen.”

Unexpectedly finding her now partner on a cold and wet tramp, in Hakatere Conservation Park, Donna Broome says Walk1200km was instrumental in their meeting and rekindled her love for the outdoors.

From leaving parcels of pistachios and liquorice under her windscreen wipers along with his card, Donna says, “It took Pete seven weeks to ask me out and hold my hand, and he said that my answer wouldn't have bothered him.

“If I had said no, he would have carried on enjoying my company as tramping buddies. It's pretty special.”

Pushing past her comfort zone, Broome says the 2023 Walk1200km challenge supported her in overcoming depression and social anxiety, finding a supportive community and making new connections along the way.

In 2024, Hall hopes Walk1200km will keep its momentum, with more Kiwis taking on the challenge and a step in the right direction towards prioritising their health and wellbeing.

“No-one regrets starting this challenge. It seems monumental at first – 1200km! – but every step you take brings all around health and fitness benefits.

It doesn’t matter what level of fitness you have, what your goals are, or what stage of your journey you’re on, the Walk1200km community will support you. I cannot thank them enough for bringing this challenge to life and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish over the next 12 months.”

Registrations are open now for Walk1200km 2024 at wildernessmag.co.nz/walk1200km

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