OAMs awarded to Harry and Kathleen Berg

A photo of Harry and Kathleen Berg with GG Quentin Bryce.

Harry and Kathleen Berg with Governor-General Quentin Bryce in September.

Did you know that Harry and Kathleen Berg have received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for service to recreational walking?

The honour was announced last Queen’s Birthday (June 2013) and presented in September. 

The Bergs were nominated for their exceptional commitment to promoting the health and social benefits of walking as well as to encouraging international friendship and understanding. After experiencing multi-day walking events in Europe, Harry and Kathleen established the Canberra Two Day Medal Walk in 1992. Their aim was to promote walking, to provide a healthy, enjoyable recreational activity and to encourage walkers to achieve a personal challenge. They also sought to encourage international friendships. This aim was notably advanced in 1997 when the Canberra Two Day Walk was accepted into the IML Walking Association.

The Association has strict requirements for events to be recognised by the IML. Through its award system, walkers are encouraged to participate in IML events around the world. IML walks are held in 26 countries throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas. The Canberra Two Day Walk, now known as the Canberra Walking Festival, attracts hundreds of walkers from across Australia and overseas. Participants choose walks of various distances from 5km through 42km (marathon). Ample time is allowed for walkers to enjoy the sites of Canberra, and even our local walkers find something new to see.

Many walkers return each year because they enjoy the varied and attractive courses, the social atmosphere, the quality of the organisation and the opportunity to meet and interact with overseas walkers. Many international friendships have been formed and Australian walkers have taken the opportunity to renew those friendships by taking part in IML events overseas.

The Canberra Walking Festival has been very successful in supporting the IML’s motto: “May walking bring us together.” Our event has received consistently positive feedback from our overseas participants. In addition, the event has done much to promote the health benefits of walking for all ages, as well as promoting programs with similar aims, such as those managed by Heart Foundation Walking. All this did not happen without a lot of hard work by Harry and Kathleen!

Harry’s personal contribution has included:
–Founding President of the Canberra Two Day Walk Association (the organising committee of volunteers) and occupying that position for 15 years followed by active membership on the committee since then.
–Creating and maintaining a database of participant information.
–Processing all registration and preparing start cards.
–Developing, measuring and mapping walk routes; preparing detailed directions and signage.
–Preparing the Control Centre and all equipment for the events. 

Kathleen’s personal contribution has included:
–Secretary of the Canberra Two Day Walk Association and maintaining an active membership on the committee since then.
–Managing the 50+ volunteers needed to run the event.
–Guiding the planning of the event and related activities, including obtaining government approvals.
–Dealing with overseas inquiries; providing accommodation and travel advice.
–Assisting overseas walkers during the event to ensure their stay in Australia is enjoyable and rewarding.

Over the past 22 years, the Canberra Two Day Walk has been enjoyed by nearly 10,000 walkers. In addition to the Canberra Walking Festival, the Bergs have introduced Internationaler Volkssport Verband (IVV) walks in Australia. IVV walks are available in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Lakes Entrance, Bairnsdale and Wodonga. Harry and Kathleen regularly host overseas groups wishing to undertake IVV walks in Australia. Their promotion of IVV walks here has encouraged many Australian walkers to take part in IVV walks overseas.


An article by Diana:

Do you suffer from blisters like me? I didn’t realise that I had a serious problem with blisters until I participated in my very first two day walk. Then I sure found out about the “joys” of blisters! For my first walk I made two basic mistakes:

1. I was wearing relatively new shoes that had not been broken in properly for a long walk. I later decided these shoes were not right for my feet, and so no amount of breaking in would have helped.

2. I had not walked such a long distance before, so I did not know how my feet were going to react. Generally I can walk up to about 20kms without too many problems, but anything longer will result in blisters unless I take some precautions. The distance for each walker will vary, and some lucky walkers will never experience the discomfort of blisters. It really helps if you can identify your own foot ‘hot spots’ before venturing off on a very long walk, so that you can take the necessary precautions.

Blisters are caused by repeated friction/rubbing from shoes and/or socks on the skin causing friction burns, and once the outer layer of skin separates from the inner layers the space between fills with fluid.

However blisters can be prevented by following a few simple steps:

  • Ensure your shoes fit correctly and are in good conditions (not too new or too old) – I prefer Asics running shoes over walking or hiking boots, but everyone is different.
  • Identify your own foot ‘hot spots’ and protect the areas prior to starting your walk – I like Mefix tape or Leukosilk (but have started using Flexitol Blistop spray which has been pretty effective too – a bit like applying a spray bandaid) and love Scholl Gell Finger/Toe Protectors for my blister prone toes (it’s a little pricey, but can be re-used).
  • Ensure all seams are flat inside your shoes and socks fit snugly without wrinkles. I have had good success with using lightweight double layered socks (WrightSock) that wick away moisture.
  • Keep feet as dry as possible. Consider changing your socks during a very long walk and perhaps using foot powder to help keep them dry.

At the first sign of a blister – STOP! Don’t try to walk through the pain. Immediately apply a dressing/plaster or tape the area. Dry your feet and change your socks if possible, and this should provide immediate relief. I recommend all walkers take a change of socks and some tape/plasters in their day pack if venturing out on a very long walk.

If you do suffer from blisters during the Canberra International Walking Weekend, come and see our first aid attendant in the Control Centre who can provide some treatment to help get you through the event!

Do you have any suggestions for preventing or treating blisters? Or perhaps you can recommend a product that you have found particularly effective. If so, please leave a comment below…