Would you run to save the Pilliga Forest?

TrailRunMag 28.04.2021


I was lucky enough to visit the Pilliga Forest in north-west New South Wales recently, where a few of us were scouting the area to find trails for The Pilliga Ultra, an event to support The Wilderness Society’s campaign to protect the Pilliga Forest and its communities from damaging fossil fuel extraction.

We had an absolute ball running over breathtaking rocky outcrops while taking in the stunning views and rare eucalypt woodlands.

We found two beautiful routes, 20km and 50km long. They’re both super technical yet diverse – trust me, I have the cuts and bruises to prove it!

The best part of the trip was getting to meet some of the community members affected by the potential coal seam gas plants.

I gained a deeper understanding of how we, as trail runners, can make a huge difference to a community and a magical forest.

Back in 2019, I co-created takayna ultra, with the hope of drawing attention and raising significant funds for the Bob Brown Foundation, the organisation fighting the real fight to protect takayna.

The idea came about after I watched Patagonia’s takayna, a film about the deforestation of the Tarkine and how trail running could save this majestic wild place.

I knew I needed to do something about it! In the three years that I’ve volunteered for this event, I’ve seen the power and motivation that outdoor sportspeople have when they unite to protect the environment. The outdoor sports community is a natural ally of the environment, and I’m so excited to harness this.

This year, we raised almost $200,000, and more than $600,000 from the three events over the past two years. This has been the single highest-earning fundraising endeavour for the Bob Brown Foundation

This experience led me to co-create ‘For Wild Places‘ – a community of trail runners dedicated to protecting the places of environmental significance. We’re doing this through unique wild events such as camps, workshops and trail races.

The next event we’re working on is the Pilliga Ultra.

The threat to the Pilliga Forest is a national matter and we as runners can add our voice to support this campaign.

Beyond a refuge for flora and fauna and home to a vibrant local community, this land has cared for the Indigenous custodians, the Gamilaroi people, for millennia, as they have cared for the land.

The forest also helps feeds clean water into the Great Artesian Basin — providing life-giving irrigation for much of inland Australia.

Change happens we can run for it!  The Pilliga Ultra is happening 31 July, 2021, and it’s not too late to enter!

Written by Simon Harris, co-founder and director of For Wild Places