Retirement means walking length of the country for a cause

By Courtney Hammond

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Ken Ash at Kerikeri's Rainbow Falls this week as he walks the length of the country to raise funds for the Neurological Foundation.
Ken Ash at Kerikeri's Rainbow Falls this week as he walks the length of the country to raise funds for the Neurological Foundation.

Four weeks after "retiring", Ken Ash is walking the length of New Zealand to raise money for the Neurological Foundation.

Mr Ash retired from his job as a tutor at Open Polytechnic NZ at 76 and is in the process of walking the 3002km long Te Araroa trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff.

While raising awareness of neurological disorders through his efforts, he also wants to dismiss the stereotype that older people are not fit enough or don't have the capability of completing such a goal.

Mr Ash, from Wellington, started his journey from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island on November 5.

He is 18 days into his walk and said that he has "sore feet" and is likely to go through three pairs of sneakers over his long journey - one pair every 1000km - but that there is "no problem with the distance".

Mr Ash has always been a runner and when he made the decision to see the whole of the country, he decided that walking the Te Araroa trail while raising money for a cause very close to him, was "the most intimate" way to do it.

He has spent most of the past 18 days staying in a tent and has been eating meals from a dehydrating cooker that his wife bought. Before Mr Ash set off he had met, and become friends with three others, one of which was American, who had also walked the 3002km trail.

They had "discussed the pros and cons" of the walk and he gathered many tips and tricks to help him along the way such as "Snickers bars won't work". When you are walking such a long distance for such a long period of time, it is important to "eat a healthy diet".

Mr Ash's motivation to complete this walk and raise money for the Neurological Foundation came from his wife who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease affecting the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves in eyes, a few years ago.

His mother also developed Alzheimer's and a couple of workmates had had strokes, so the foundation and its work to "alleviate suffering from diseases and disorders" is important to Mr Ash and his family.

The charitable trust raises funds to ensure that neuroscientists can continue researching the neurological disorders and diseases that one in five New Zealanders are diagnosed with in their lifetime. Through his walk, Mr Ash also wants to change others' perspectives and expectations of what he can do at his age while saying that he is "one of the oldest" to complete a walk like this.

Ken Ash's Give a Little page: https://givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/kenwalksaotearoa

- Northern Advocate

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