Four inspiring Aussies win 2018 Golden Shoe Awards

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Walking is good for our physical and mental wellbeing, but a commitment to walking has just earned four inspiring Australians something extra. They are the winners of Heart Foundation Walking’s 2018 Golden Shoe Awards!

***Editor's note: For interviews and photographs, please contact Media Manager – Physical Activity, Siobhan McMahon, on 0478 313 656.***

Heart Foundation Walking is Australia’s largest free walking network, with more than 44,000 members using our walking app or striding out in approximately 1,200 walking groups nationwide.

The annual Golden Shoe Awards recognise individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to walking. For the first time this year, nominations could be submitted via an online portal, which resulted in a bumper crop of more than 100 entries in four categories.

And the winners are:

Category: Courage and Commitment
Winner: Evelyn Cowie, NSW

Evelyn, 75, joined the “Niagara Park Walk and Talk” Heart Foundation Walking Group on the NSW Central Coast in February 2010. She enjoyed the regular physical activity and friendships she gained through the group.

In May 2011, Evelyn started suffering some unusual headaches. A trip to the doctor revealed she had a life-threatening brain aneurysm.

Within a week, Evelyn was admitted to hospital for surgery. While this fixed the aneurysm, the next day Evelyn had a stroke, which necessitated a second operation.

Evelyn survived, but she could no longer walk. She spent the next 18 months in a wheelchair, under the care of her devoted husband of more than 40 years, Alex.

In late 2013, Evelyn and Alex attended the walking group’s Christmas party. “This was a real turning point for Evelyn,” Alex said. “She missed walking and missed her friends in the group; she was very keen to get back into it.”

Through a combination of physiotherapy and sheer determination, Evelyn began walking short distances – around 100 metres at a time. Due to some balance problems, her progress was slow, but she worked her way up to longer walks.

Today Evelyn walks up to four kilometres daily, including three days a week with her walking group, which has supported Evelyn throughout her journey. She has completed an impressive 632 walks with Heart Foundation Walking.

“I am thrilled to win this award, but for me, an even bigger reward I get from walking is that it keeps me active and social,” Evelyn said.

Evelyn was nominated for a Golden Shoe Award by the group’s Walk Organisers, Dianne Walker and Pat Kaczorek. “We are very proud of Evelyn and think she is the most deserving person for this award,” Dianne said.

Category: Leadership in Walking
Winner: Pia Mazzaracca, SA

Twelve years ago, Pia saw an advertisement inviting people in Adelaide’s West Torrens area to form a Heart Foundation Walking Group.

Attracted to the idea of group walking, Pia not only joined the Kurralta Park group but also volunteered to be its Walk Organiser – a role she has kept ever since.

Under Pia’s leadership, the group has grown from just four people to more than 30 registered members. They walk for 30 minutes every Monday and Thursday morning, and have clocked up more than 9,000 walks.

The group is called the Almond Tree Trackers because they meet under an almond tree before their brisk walk along one of the area's shared paths. Once a month, they finish up with breakfast at a local café.

Pia motivates and encourages the group with her upbeat personality. “I’ll say to them, ‘Aren’t you happy to be out here in the sunshine instead of under your doona?’ And then off we will go,” she said.

In all her years with the group, Pia has rarely missed a walk – and generally only when on holidays or in extreme weather conditions. 

Pia was nominated for a Golden Shoe Award by Amanda Johnston, Community Development Officer at the City of West Torrens.

“Pia is an amazing motivator for her walkers and the community,” Amanda said.

“Rain or shine, Pia is cheerful, energetic and absolutely committed to promoting the benefits of walking and the Heart Foundation.

“Given that all walks start at 8am, I consider her dedication, support and love to be second-to-none,” Amanda said.

Category: Increased Walking During the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps
Winner: Carol Duroy, NSW

Carol was a latecomer to the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps – a Heart Foundation Walking challenge from earlier this year in which participants had 20 weeks to complete one million steps or 100 group walks.

In fact, the challenge had been running a full two months by the time Carol signed up in late May.

Carol had been doing a different step challenge at her workplace, but that was just about to finish.

“My husband and I were going on a trip to Alaska in August. I wanted something else to keep me motivated, so I could stay fit and healthy for our holiday,” said Carol, 55, who is from the Sydney suburb of Revesby.

“When my sister, Sue, told me about the Prime Minister’s One Million Steps and that it would wind up one week before I went overseas, I signed up straight away.”

But, for Carol to reach one million steps in the time she had, it would not be easy. Participants who had been in the challenge from day one would need to walk about 7,500 steps a day to hit the magic milestone; for Carol, this would be double at 15,000 steps.

That wasn’t Carol’s only obstacle. As a finance officer at a high school, she spent hours behind a desk and could not easily accumulate steps during her workday.

Describing herself as “a goal-driven person”, Carol locked on her target. She committed to walking every day after work, as well as on weekends.

Carol not only reached her one million steps but thanks to a little extra effort along the way, she did it with a week to spare.

Sue was so proud of her sister that she nominated Carol for a Golden Shoe Award. Carol learned about her win just before she returned to Australia from Alaska. “It was an amazing homecoming surprise,” she said.

Category: Health and Wellbeing
Winner: Adrienne Harries, QLD

Adrienne, 51, is from the Brisbane suburb of Mango Hill. She walks between 30 and 80 kilometres every week and uses the Heart Foundation Walking app and a Fitbit to clock her many steps.

Adrienne’s main motivation for walking is fitness and health, so it is appropriate that she has won this particular award.

“I plan to work and live for a very long time, and walking keeps me strong and healthy,” she said.

Adrienne also describes walking as “a form of meditation for me. It clears my head and helps me find solutions to any problems I might be having.”

To avoid getting bored, Adrienne mixes up her walking routes – varying between local bike paths, the waterfront, bush walks and her treadmill. 

While she sometimes walks with family and friends, Adrienne generally prefers to go solo, which allows her to walk fast rather than dawdle. She’s usually accompanied by a new addition to her family – a four-month-old kelpie-cross puppy named Flash. “He has a lot of energy!” she says.

Adrienne’s husband, Phillip, nominated her for a Golden Shoe Award in the form of a poem:

She walks everywhere for fitness and fun,
She encourages me and everyone,
Great for the environment leaving the car,
Healthy lifestyle she leads by far,
Enjoying the scenery as she goes,
How far she walks only her Fitbit knows.

Kay Richards, General Manager of Heart Foundation Walking, congratulated this year’s Golden Shoe Award winners.

“Whether they are individual or group walkers, these award recipients have all demonstrated a wonderful commitment to walking, which will, in turn, inspire and encourage others to be more physically active,” Ms Richards said.

“This is important because being inactive is a risk factor for heart disease, which continues to be the single leading cause of death in Australia,” she said.

“Getting involved in Heart Foundation Walking is a great way to ensure you meet the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week, and as our winners can attest, it can also be a source of great fun and friendship.” 

The winners will each receive a $250 Athlete’s Foot voucher and a Golden Shoe Award pin.

Find out more information about Heart Foundation Walking or call the Heart Foundation Helpline on 13 11 12.

Heart Foundation Walking is supported by the Australian Government and the Queensland Government.

Media contact:
Siobhan McMahon, Heart Foundation Physical Activity Media Manager
M: 0478 313 656 E: siobhan.mcmahon@heartfoundation.org.au