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Prabodh Malhotra walks 1000km for McGrath Foundation AGAIN!

Having completed a 1100km walk from MCG to SCG last year, 72-year-old Prabodh Malhotra is back for his second McGrath Foundation walk, this time 200km longer.

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Prabodh Malhotra is no stranger to going the distance.  

Last year, he completed a 1100km walk from the MCG to the SCG via Canberra, a 52-day long affair to raise money for the McGrath Foundation. It was a journey replete with generosity and blisters, a marathon feat, not least for a 71-year-old. 

One year older and wiser, he’s doing it all again. On Sunday 29 October, Malhotra set off from the MCG on what will be a more arduous journey, over 200kms longer than the last one.  

This time, Malhotra will take a scenic route through regional Victoria and New South Wales, covering roughly 30 kilometres each day. With regular pit stops at servos and scheduled rest days along the route, he aims to walk 259 kilometres in his first week alone, reaching the SCG on January 3 to attend the Pink Test. 

“My friends say people who retire [should] relax and put [their] feet up!” says Malhotra. “They say ‘last year we thought you were crazy, but now we know you are!’” 

Prabodh Malhotra sits under a tree with his thumbs up, smiling and wearing a pink polo shirt with McGrath Foundation logo.
A very happy Prabodh Malhotra is out on his charity walk again! (Source: Chris Pavlich Photography/McGrath Foundation)

Of course, such an undertaking isn’t possible without the generous support of these family, friends, and volunteers, many of whom will accompany Malhotra for portions of his journey. 

For the next two months, his home will be a rental van, a rotating roster of volunteers including his son in the driver’s seat, watching every step. Family friends have lovingly prepared samosas, masala tea and meals for the fridge in his van. Some have even readied their spare bed and put the kettle on, eagerly awaiting his arrival in their town.  

And then, there’s the kindness of strangers along the way…  

“People are very nice because you’re working for the common good,” says Malhotra. “When they find out you’re doing this charity walk, they want you to have a chat or stay over. It’s really moving when people go out of their way to help you.” 

Last year, Prabodh Malhotra and his crew found themselves on the road in Cosgrove, just outside of Shepparton, where they’d hoped to stay the night somewhere in the town centre – except Cosgrove, with a population of 50, didn’t have a town centre.  

“We were walking in the middle of nowhere, and I was thinking, ‘where is this Cosgrove?’”, he remembers. 

Lucky for them, an inquisitive local pulled over, recognising Malhotra from a TV interview earlier that week. 

“He said, ‘You’re the walking doctor! Don’t worry, you see that farm? You can stay there.’ His wife made me the most beautiful vegetarian dinner, and fresh bread, and breakfast the next morning. It was unbelievable,” Malhotra says. 

Four people stand in front of a white van, holding cup of chai.
Prabodh Malhotra will live out of this van for the next ten weeks, helped by family and friends. (Source: Prabodh Malhotra’s blog.)

This year, Malhotra has chosen a route through the regions to raise awareness of breast cancer in Ballarat, Echuca, Bendigo, Deniliquin, Wagga Wagga and Goulburn.  

With breast cancer affecting over 20,000 Australians each year, it’s a conversation that’s set to resonate with regional communities.  

“I’m not worried about the mileage. The whole idea is to raise awareness and connect with the communities. As long as I can do that, I’ve done my part,” he says. 

This year, he hopes to raise $100,000 through his walk, which will go towards the McGrath Foundation’s goal of reaching 250 specialist McGrath Breast Care Nurses to support families through their cancer journey. 

“The sooner they increase the number of nurses, the better for the community,” he says.  

Breast cancer awareness is a cause close to Malhotra’s heart, having supported his sister through her diagnosis in 2017. It’s this lived experience, and his admiration of the McGrath Foundation which has kept Malhotra persevering on the toughest of stretches, particularly in the lead up to this year’s walk.   

 

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 In 2022, as Prabodh Malhotra took his final steps towards the SCG in his fourth pairs of shoes for the trip, many asked him whether he’d walk again next year. At that time, he famously said he’d ‘cross that bridge when he came to it’. 

But hamstring and glute issues which emerged in the months after his first walk threatened to stop him crossing any bridges at all in the future.  

“In the back of my mind I thought if I could, I’d love to do it again. But I was in a bad shape,” he says. “I didn’t want to start something I wasn’t going to be able to complete.”  

The dream of a second charity walk was slipping away – but Malhotra remained determined.  

He laboured through months of rehabilitation, a jam-packed weekly roster of Pilates, pool exercises, physiotherapy and exercise physiology. Slowly, he trained his body to walk long distances again, walking 30+ kilometres to his friends’ houses across Melbourne, and regularly visiting his favourite 1000 Steps Walk in Ferntree Gully.  

It’s effort that’s paid dividends, with Malhotra now well placed to go above and beyond his last walk.  

“I feel happy and better prepared than last year,” he says. “Some of my friends said I’m over-prepared, but I think you can never over-prepare for such a challenge.” 

So can we expect a hat-trick? Malhotra’s tempering his expectations.  

“Look, I don’t know. I think I’m getting tired, and I’ll be 73 next year,” he says. “The body’s okay this year, but I don’t know how it’ll go [next year].” 

Donate to Prabodh Malhotra’s walk for the McGrath Foundation here. 

READ ALSO: “Never thought I’d hear that C word”: Srividya battles ovarian cancer 

Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy is an emerging journalist and theatre-maker based in Melbourne.

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