Trail Run Editorial: The Voice of Fear

‘Failure is not falling down, but refusing to get up’ – Chinese proverb.

HIGH Hut to Hut -400I’m scared. And that’s a good thing. It got me out on a blustery night to grind out hill repeats toward a midnight salvation.

So what’s your motivation? I’m not talking about the ‘Big Why’, here. For me that is easy: I simply love to run through wild places. Simple and pure. It makes my soul – whatever that manifestation is – feel charged, along with all that other quasi-hippie waffle I tend to spill in these pages. Tree hugger, guilty as charged.

But when it comes to actual motivation of the moment – the driving force that in winter keeps you tramping out the front door rain, hail and – if you’re based in the southern Australian states like me – eff-all sunshine. No matter how much you love to dry-hump a eucalypt and wax lyrical about the spiritual journey along life’s dirty highway, some days are just plain hard yakka. At that moment, when you’d rather plump on the couch and (cringe alert) guiltily enjoy reality singing schlock show The Voice while bitching about prima-donna judge Delta while morphing into a fanboy of her fellow judge, Jessie J …arrr, did I just write that out loud? I digress – what is it that makes you cut short the brave performance by that guy with Tourette’s (Adam Ladell – amazing how singing quietens his devil like running wild quietens ours), kill the tube and brave the sleet?

Fear. And commitment. The former seeded and sprouted, a flowering force borne from the latter.

You have signed up to something big. A relative-to-you big. Could be your first run or your five hundredth. But it’s a biggie. And you know that you are not quite ready. And you don’t have the time to be well-oiled ready. But you have some time to do something about your current inadequacies that are rising from the pit of your stomach like a badly thought-out Nutella sandwich at kilometre eighty-eight; you feel sick right now.

Well, that’s the fear I’m feeling and that’s my current of-the-moment motivation.Mt Buller

In a weird way, it reminds me of the fear felt when you first fall in love and she/he says an unexpected “yes” (to whatever your sappy or salacious question was). And you think, shit, what now? What do I do? What if I look like a dick? What if I throw up? What if I pass out? Have I got clean undies on?

Transpose that to what is feeding my fear now and those things are all very real possibilities, and the undies factor is suddenly a resounding ‘no’.

Ahead of me is a big mountain run, in very high, very remote places, over many days in a row. That bit doesn’t worry me. I’ve (somehow) survived that before and now have a possibly ill-advised semi-confidence in terms of the terrain and my ability to move through it. But like a semi-hard on, that bravado could be deflated in an instant when the harsh fluorescent light of reality is switched on to reveal my ill-prepared nakedness.

Like a first love, it’s the company I’ll be keeping – if I can keep up – that turns my stomach.

Timothy Olson, Chamonix, France. Photographer: Tim Kemple. The North Face Rights Expire: 09_15_15

Timothy Olson, Chamonix, France. Photographer: Tim Kemple. The North Face

Timmy Olson (above), I’ll tell anyone who will listen, is a monster in the way only a Western States 100 record holder can be. Look at him. He’s a running Buddha without the belly. A Zen ultra marathon man disrobed to reveal powerful piston legs, a core that is beefy yet lithe wrapped in a six-pack and packaged with a steely stare that makes mountains wilt before him; he’s the perfect running form of human being. That’s not hagiography, by the way, that’s just my insecurities sweating over the dude (and let’s face it, he’s a ‘dude’) I have somehow signed up to keep pace with on a Himalayan mission of likely little to no mercy. For me, that is.

High fiving Timmy will be his female mirror in Anna Frost, just as accomplished and at home in high mountains having won Hardrock 100 and knocked off the Nolans 14. I’ve already had the inglorious honour of clinging on to her heels for dear life up a steep incline or twenty in the same territory we are to return to as a crew of four, led by Everest summiteer, American Ben Clark.

Here, I look for solace to the Everest of quote machines, Winston Churchill:

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

This editorial along with a bunch more dirty goodness can be downloaded and read in the latest edition or Trail Run Mag. Click HERE.

This editorial along with a bunch more dirty goodness can be downloaded and read in the latest edition of Trail Run Mag. Click HERE to download FREE or subscribe via iTunes.

Well, there were certainly a few stumbles running with Anna (she didn’t see most of them, being too far ahead), but enthusiasm duly got me through. That and fear given the fact that there was no other way off the mountain – no roads, no crew car, not even a helicopter ride (Bhutan, the country in which we were running, may have a lauded policy of Gross Domestic Happiness revered above Gross Domestic Product, but its Gross Domestic Helicopter quota was also zero).

So as I head out into a blustery night, ignoring the high notes of The Voice calling my name, I hopelessly seek Everest-scale slopes in a seaside landscape that barely rises to dunes, feeling the urgency of my commitment to the team and the mission. Of what lies ahead, I feel like a giddy love-sick teenage cross country runner about to hit some hardcore hills with his heroes. But rather than give up and return to my couch-side critique of the latest contestant on The Voice, instead I go and run a 50 vertical metre hillock twenty five times with imaginings of how Frosty and Olson would judge me should I not; scathingly, like Delta Goodrem ripping through a sour note contestant.

Ah failure. The fuel of champions.

Chris Ord, AU Editor

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Theory of Relativity


They tell me that is your energy systems transferring from glucose (reserves now gone) to fat burning. I just know everything is telling me the grass tree looks a comfy place to curl up. But so early in the run?

Mentally it is over. But I’m a long way from home. So it’s not. Plod. Plod. Should I walk? Yes. No. Get to that post. Then walk. No, next post. A hill, great, I can walk without shame. From here it is a zombie run. Not the ‘fun’ type where horror film and makeup buffs congregate to trot out five kay dead-leg style in homage to their favourite living dead flick. This is just straight day of the living dead running, no Shaun references or makeup required.

Halfway and there’s an inkling I might make it, but the stomach is turning over, flip flopping on a trampoline of indecision that has me simultaneously ravenous and on the verge of throwing up.
This run is going to be the end of me.

Of course, ultra runners may recognise this narrative well. The legs getting tired at 30km, the shift in energy systems at 40 or so… But the run I’m whingeing about was no ultra. It was, to be precise, a mere 6.4km run. Nay, an epic 6.4km. Epic in particular moments, at least. It may as well have been an ultra, so my mind chatter told me at the time.

But that’s the beauty of running – challenge, brutality, pain, hunger, fear; it’s all relative to the solitary moment and the individual feeling it. And all just as valid regardless of time, distance, ascent or some other self-validating number used to beat a chest with.

Someone’s very first 2km run – perhaps the beginning of a life-changing journey from couch to metaphorical Kosciuszko peak – can be as nightmarish as the worst trainwreck written in the history book of the 240km Coast to Kosci itself.

Which brings me to my point. Every run is worthy. Every run can hurt. Every run can be euphoric. Every run can also be a trainwreck with mental and physical ramifications as serious as the runner judges it to be. It’s all relative.

Ultra runner Rich Bowles loves to say “you didn’t ‘just’ run (insert whatever kilometre distance you like). You ran (insert kilometre distance). Be proud. Any run no matter the distance is an achievement.”

I agree – drop the magnanimous, self denigrating ‘just’ as though whatever you ran doesn’t really count when compared to…to what? Stop the comparisons.

Why is your run any lesser to anyone’s, the Kilians of the world included?

Because it’s not far or tough enough? Compared to who? To what? Because it didn’t hurt as much as someone else claims to have hurt? Judged by whom?

It seems we are in a phase where the ultra is the new marathon – the thing to be held in reverence, to be revered as an experience that allows you into an elite ‘club’ of sorts. It seems the marathon, which used to be held in the same stead, is something to be whipped out between breakfast and lunch, a mere training run. It is no longer to be boasted about, no longer backyard barbeque fodder, for it no longer (seemingly) holds the gravitas it once did in the New Audacious Age of 100km, milers and beyond.

Lest we forget we remain a niche sport. By the numbers, there are more people in our local communities who are yet to run 21km, let alone a full marathon, than there are those who have. That puts those who have run an ultra in a smaller minority again (note: this minority does not equate to superiority). Let us not lose respect for those who tread the trail at lesser distances. Lesser brutalities. Lesser inclines. It’s all very well to push the limits of mileage and pain when your limits have already been stretched into the ultra zone. But don’t sneer down at those entering their own hurt lockers at a Park Run. They are no lesser runner. They are no less brave (for who knows their demons, their struggles and what a 5km run around a park could represent in their context – it may be the equivalent of your Northburn or Buffalo Grand Slam, hell it may be their own personal Barkley Marathons).

Toughness is not measured in sheer distance, elevation or peaks bagged in one run. Respect should be afforded for the mere effort of lacing up and stepping into the environment, no matter where, how far, how long.

No doubt that running an ultra is a massive achievement worthy of the cherishing and of the plaudits. And like any experience of life, once lived you will find you have secret handshake conversations with others who have lived through the pain. You may even succumb to the fallacy that those who have yet to run an ultra ‘will never understand’. Indeed, I’ve seen it bandied that you’re not a real runner until you tick the 100 box.
Bollocks to that.

If you take a step out your front door, manage to get a bounce in your step, and do a blockie at a pace greater than you would when collecting the fish and chips on a Friday, and you do it more than once a week with no other intention than to travel faster than a walk somewhere, around something, through something, to something – then you’re a runner. You didn’t just run around the block. You ran around the block. And while you may not have risked rhabdo or even dehydration, you ought still feel chuffed to have run at all. And we, as runners living all sorts of contexts, should be chuffed for you.

Chris Ord, AU Editor 

This editorial first appeared in Edition #20 of Trail Run Mag. available for free download (along with all editions) HERE.

Larapinta strip

Editorial: Yin to the Yang

Editorial: AU Editor Chris Ord looks at the balance, or lack of, in his trail running lifestyle. This editorial appears in the current edition (17) of Trail Run Mag, downloadable for FREE here

Mt BullerIn my natural state, I am chaotic, unorganised, and essentially a lazy individual.

But sometimes life demands more of you.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still that same person sitting on the couch, eating fish and chips and ice cream watching endless episodes of Breaking Bad, wondering if my shed will be suitable to run an easy-money meth lab.

But somehow, today, life as a runner has demanded a little more of me. A little more organisation. A little more responsibility. A little more effort.

And, as a runner, it is demanding a lot more attention to detail than perhaps my personality has inclination toward. Attention to detail like, umm, training.

Essentially I’m on a mission to balance my running life of unpredictable, unstructured and unplanned running yīn with, for the first time, equal amounts of rigid, structured, charted-training-plan running yáng.

Now my yīn (shady side) is like Darth Vader’s force within (powerful and looking for total domination); the yáng (sunny side) is like pre-Yoda coached Luke Skywalker, all wide-eyed naïve and a little lost.

Barely two weeks in and I’m fumbling with the demands of scheduled training like Luke fumbles with the realization he’s related to Princess Lea. It’s awkward to watch.

My yīn approach to trail running has long been one of as-and-when-the-whim-strikes I’ll go for a training run. Trust me, the whim never struck at 5am. And if it did, I missed it, being fast asleep and all.

The whim that did win out on occasion is the one that had me entering long(ish) trail events without sufficient lead-in training. That mostly ended in all sorts of agonizing wrongness (particularly embarrassing was the needless call out of ‘medic!’ at the finishline of Shotover Mountain Marathon). I am responsible for all my own embarrassing demises, of course, and that is one thing I do take full responsibility for. Indeed I usually document it, see TRM Edition 12 for the Shotover tale.

But the time has come to see if there’s any Jedi lurking within. Reason being, I have committed to an expedition run in the high Himalayas. It’s a project that would be fine to approach with a death-by-cramp-at-altitude-wish if it were just me up there. But on this expedition I will be responsible for guiding other runners. And if there’s one thing that will make me sit up at 5am on a crisp winter morning, it is the realisation that I’m to be responsible for other people’s lives as they trot up to 5000 metres at a rate of incline that risks death from cerebral or pulmonary edema. Even tapping that out makes me sweat more than my scheduled hill repeats ever will. It also induces me to do them. At 5.05am.

And so in search of my inner-Jedi, I have sought some Yoda-wisdom where the Force I’m aiming to tap into is conditioning and strength. While I can (mostly) blag the distances and I’ve completed a wilderness first aid course so medical knowledge is covered, it’s the strength and abating of injuries and cramps that I need to tackle. The latter is my Death Star nemesis (exhibit A: a near-death banshee screaming session as seen in Run The Planet, a TV show pilot that underscored my ill-preparedness, in that instance at 93km in a desert. Google it. Not in a workplace. Swearing involved).

So the yáng to my yīn has materialised in the form of not just one structured approach to training, but two, the other side of my personality being always to put in three chillis when the recipe says one and generally over-salt everything.

And while I wouldn’t say that I am yet to latch onto Skywalker’s singleminded focus (The Force is a long way from my grasp), I have managed to jump on the Bulletproof Legs bandwagon, a program from the crew at Brewsters Running. Then there’s an adjunct program from Lee Harris, a mid-east based Brit who is a multiday running machine and owner of Lifestyle Fitness Management. His knowledge about holistic training methodologies and a focus on core strength gives me faith he understands where I need to get to with this new-fangled yáng approach.

To my own disbelief, I’m enjoying the structure and routine. It’s a work in progress, my idea of ‘routine’ a long way from winning any Anally Retentive OCD award, but on trail I am seeing, even in these early days, results. Whowouldathunkit?

Even better, I’m enjoying the yīn side of my running more so thanks to the late arrival of yáng. On an impromptu jungle run in the Otway Ranges, south west Victoria, we ran in with not enough water (there were waterfalls so we were safe), no food and no idea how long we’d be in there for. The reward was one of the most stunning waterfalls I’ve seen standing proud in an ancient forest far from any human impost. It was wild and remote goodness, off the chart. What made it possible and enjoyable was the fact that I’d been training. The foundations are only a brick session or two in. And the Otway run topped out at roughly 200 metres above sea level, not 5000, so we’re not on training parity just yet. But I love that my new yáng is complementary to (rather than opposing) my beloved yīn. Light cannot exist without shadow. Performance cannot exist without training (it’s finally sunk in). And for my money, a training program will never be truly leveraged without the chaos of a whimsical wilderness run where anything can happen, but the legs are bulletproof enough to withstand it.

Your getting-more-balanced editor, Chris Ord

Check out the latest edition of Trail Run Mag by downloading for FREE here.

Mt Buller

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Time bomb: Edition 13 Editorial

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way
–       Time, Pink Floyd 

I look at my daughters, four and six. I watch them dart around the garden. Doing everything at once and nothing at all. And I yearn so badly to be a child in that moving but endless moment again.

That moment is one where time exists as a broken metronome. Tick. And the tock takes hours to show up, despite it only taking a second.

134580515064971As an observer – a supposedly ‘grown-up’ parent – my kids’ two hours running around barefoot, climbing the apple tree, laughing, bickering, sulking, crying, laughing, takes but seconds. I look down to my computer screen. I look up two seconds later and they have had five lifetimes of adventure (I can see it in their smiles and the grass stains on their knees). Yet I have only half written these first paragraphs.

The universe, apparently, is expanding at an accelerated rate and so to my life is accelerating; time is speeding up, robbing me of my life, stealing my children’s childhood, running me out of time faster than I could ever have imagined back when I was up that backyard tree plucking at the juicy apples of my own ‘when I grow up’ dreams.

Life. Slow. Down. … … … Please.

Tired of lying in the sunshine
Staying home to watch the rain
And you are young and life is long
And there is time to kill today
And then one day you find
Ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run
You missed the starting gun

No one told me when to run. I missed the start, absolutely. But when I did start to run, properly run, I tried to (and still try to) do it like I was a child. Like I wasn’t late to the party. Like life had only just begun. Like my kids. But you can’t outrun time. Nevertheless, I try. I run more. And in the moment it works. When I am not running, I am going faster. Everything swirls around me – life, family, work, friends, events, words, jobs, happenings, dishes, renovations, crises, dinner, stop, stop, stop. Give me a moment. And I run. Into the trees. And my watch, thank Christ, doesn’t work. And so I am timeless. I’m running but I am going slower than I have for decades. Maybe I haven’t gone this slow since I was darting around the backyard as a child. And so I run further into the trees, away from time.

And you run, and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death
Every year is getting shorter

Technology, the pace of connected life, the number of emails, the rate of my Facebook updates, the sheer number of things I am now plugged into…everything is being crushed under the weight of having access to the entire world and its vast store of information. I can talk to anyone on the planet, yet I don’t think anyone is listening, really. Everyone, including me, is just talking. Louder, quicker, more. I eye off the trees. They look quiet. There’s no-one there. Not even time Herself.  

Never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to nought
Or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone
The song is over
Thought I’d something more to say

There remains sixty seconds in a minute and sixty minutes in an hour. But that doesn’t mean time hasn’t sped up. For thousands of years, the Schumann Resonance or pulse of the Earth has been 7.83 cycles per second. Since 1980 this resonance has reportedly risen to over 12  cycles per second. Even if you don’t subscribe to the theory, look at it the perceptive way: what you can fit into 60 minutes (or sixty seconds) today, took much longer yesteryear. Communicate to your friend in England? Three months back then. Today, a millisecond. Travel from Melbourne to Sydney? Months once upon a time. Today, you can get there in a few hours by plane. And what you are expected to achieve in any one time span today is much, much more than ever before. Just ask your boss.

Effectively, time has sped up because we squeeze more action (if not result) into each tick of the clock. More, more, rush, rush, squash it in. It is no wonder our perception is one of accelerated  – or looking at it another way, lost – time. And the feeling that we have no time for anything. Especially the important things.

Perhaps, then, it is a good thing, that I am not a runner who tries to go fast. In fact, running for me is all about slowing down.

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire
Far away across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees
To hear the softly spoken magic spells
–       Time, Pink Floyd 

Your rushed editor, Chris Ord

Mt Buller


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Tomorrow’s run is now: editorial

Dear 39-year-old self,

You’re eighty years old now and in hindsight I can tell you one thing: trail running saved your life.

At the moment, as you near your fortieth birthday, you just think it’s something you stumbled upon and through; something that weaves symbiotically between your personal life and working life.

It all started when you had to write a profile. Remember? Hah. Running with Dean Karnazes to get an interview. He said it wouldn’t hurt you to run your first-ever marathon on zero training. He was so wrong. Asshole. Couldn’t walk for weeks. Shot knees. No fun.

At that stage you hadn’t run since high school. And it showed. You thought you’d never run again.

Nevertheless, the pain faded (as it does) and the experience sparked something. This very magazine to be specific.

Of course, you had to run that Oxfam 100 before the idea really firmed. You really should have trained for that, too, idiot. Dragged in by an old high school mate who assured you that you could finish with only a few 7km runs a week “and a bit of footy training. That’s all I do,” said the six-time Oxfam finisher. Prick. Remember the shin splints? The hallucinations so bad at 90km that as you ran past your childhood home in Warburton, you didn’t even recognize it?

Screenshot 2014-03-24 10.17.28Two painful experiences. And it led you to where you are. An addict. But you know there are worse things to be hooked on (remember the Dandenong years: mantelpiece of booze and drugs inhaled on dangerous ‘rubber band’ binges that led to a car crash). Yes, most certainly there are more dangerous addictions. You were lucky to escape one for the alternative.

And while your only Class-A indulgence now is a predilection for higher quality wine (shiraz if anyone’s buying), you’re still not very good at putting in the training yards. A word from the future, you’ll never be great at the training consistency thing. But don’t sweat it. Leave the run-fast stuff (and your guilt) to the A-Types. Don’t mock them for it, though: appreciate them for their prowess and work ethic. And then go run in mountains when you can, for the love, for the whim, not the win. (Because I can tell you categorically from where I sit in the future, you never win anything).  But the fact that you get out there, irregularly, for the love, does save your life. I promise you.

In fact, every moment on trail adds to it in some way. And so every moment on trail has worth.

Remember the times where the pain was so great that it turned to some kind of bliss? Remember the times where you threw up – making the moment seem no better than a teenage (or Dandenong) binge drink session?  Remember the times you couldn’t be bothered? And you felt like a failure for not having the same determination as everyone else on Facebook touting their 5am, fifty kilometre taper run? Don’t stress. Rather, remember the times when you did get out there.

Here: remember the nothing-special run that was February 11th 2014. A night run. No reason (apart from you were scared about having not trained for the Shotover Moonlight Marathon in New Zealand ten days ahead, knowing that once again…you were undercooked beyond rare). You were ambivalent about getting out. But you were depressed. Couldn’t pinpoint why. You felt lonely; empty; and guilty for feeling so. Moaner. You have a habit of that, by the way. Stop it. This, despite the amazing kids, amazing wife, amazing life. Fact was, you were just down. There was only ebb, no flow. But a bright moon and a sweet, sultry breeze dragged you out. Up over cliffs then onto Urquhart’s Beach. Then single trail to Aireys Inlet. Spiderwebs everywhere. Headlamp on, tunneling through heath, feeling guilty for ruining the spiders’ architecture, ocassionally stopping to admire them at work, spinning, catching, creating. Remember you stubbed your toe. Again. Frustration. You felt good, then sick. Fire road didn’t help. Then singletrack back into town. All alone. No one about. A roo. A moth. The spiders. Always the spiders with their eyes reflecting back your headlamp beam, creating a carpet of stars on the ground.

You didn’t check the time, the distance, nor your pace. You just ran in the bush.

Pegging home at close to midnight, you showered, kissed your daughters fast asleep, and lay down. And finally for the first time that day you smiled.

You do that many times in your life. Run that gamut. Out run the black dog.
And while the running isn’t free of ramification (your wife will occasionally resent the time, your kids will ask why you don’t play with them instead of run, you will have injuries, and your fetish for shoes will cost you dearly), the trails will give more than they take away.

Mainly they give you freedom. From the ebbs. From addictions that cause more harm to you than running ever could. And the freedom to have energy to actually play with your kids more. To be in better moods and argue less with your wife. To have the energy to put more into family life. Into work. Into Trail Run Mag. Into smiling.

I tell you this as an old man. You in forty more years. A you that needs you to keep running. So I (that is, you) can smile more now. Now being then. And now being the future. Now being always.

Your in-the-moment editor, Chris Ord

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This is the Australian Editor’s editorial from the newly released edition of Trail Run Mag (Ed#12), available as a FREE DOWNLOAD from You can also purchase it for your iPad or Kindle Fire. Go to the same link for the relevant shop details.


Screenshot 2014-03-20 14.18.15WHAT’S IN THE NEW EDITION, YOU SAY?

Himalayan Hustle > Martin Cox goes gonzo in Indian ultra //
Cause to run > Ryan Sandes & Sam Gash talk running for a reason
Storm on Makorako > even the pros need rescuing sometimes //
Fastpacking > light and long on trail //
Dreaming of Dirt > Olympic hurdler Victoria Mitchell //
Shot over Moonlight > mountain marathon gone wrong //
JAPAN Special > Singletrack Samurai Kabukari + trail heroes
Nutritional Supplement > Running on ‘shrooms + periodisation + reviews //
PLUS trail guides, gear and shoe reviews, editors’ columns, event previews. And a little bit of dirt.

Get it on iTunes

Get it on Kindle

Or get the FREE pdf download.


The calling: editoral

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Ultra legend Pat Farmer prowls the Big Red Run campfire telling tales to fire adventure runners’ hearts.

The man prowls around the desert fire, beating his chest.

“It’s in here,” he thumps fist to heart hard enough that you can hear the thud from the back row.

“You gotta have it in here (thump). You gotta want it like nothing else (thump). No excuses (thud). If it’s in here (thud), nothing can stop you (glare).”

The man, shorter in stature but larger in life than you could imagine, pauses for practiced dramatic effect, circling his stare around the gathering. He has each and every one of us captured in his story net and he knows it. The glint in his eye is magnified by the light of the soaring cratefire flame.  He has held us enthralled by tales of a running life that no one could make up. But rather than intimidate with boasts of superhuman feats, he has used his life spent putting one foot in front of the other a million times over – and then some – as the fuel to make us all feel invincible.

His injection of inspiration is timely because tomorrow is marathon number three in three days. And out there, beyond the halo of fire light, awaits the Simpson Desert and a running course that will beat, scratch, bake and curtail that invincibility to within an inch of its being, to within one more desert thorn sting of quitting the Big Red Run, an inaugural 250km adventure run odyssey through the Australian Outback.

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Tongan-Australian, Mark Moala on his way to his first multiday multiple marathon adventure and into the great Book of Inspiration for all first-timers to follow at the Big Red Run.

The choice of Pat Farmer, the campfire pacer, as event ambassador was smart. Sure, he’d bring some promotional attention, some credibility – he is one of the world’s most accomplished ultra adventure runners after all, his pinnacle feat after decades crammed with them, being to run from the North to the South Pole.

But his credentials for this event run closer to the fencewire than that. Pat holds the record for being the fastest man to run across the Simpson Desert, a record he captured twice. Beating his own record for number two. That’s Pat all over. A hard man. Who better to come and chaperone nearly sixty runners to run through the territory of which he is running king?

But it is less so the feats of endurance that impress so deeply. Not once you’ve met the man. It’s his presence as a person brimming with raw passion and hard earned experience, both of which he’s willing to share.

But this is no hagiography. Rather it’s paying respect to one of our trail elders and the importance of listening. Yet Pat’s story begins with one older than himself.

A young mechanic standing in a workshop in western Sydney, he watched as an old man ran past the tin shed door. Pat couldn’t believe a grandfather (although technically at that point this guy was no grandfather) was out there running. He looked at the spanner in his hand and then listened to the clomp of a potato farmer’s boots fading into the distance down the road.

TRM Australian editor, Chris Ord, chats to Mark Moala on the morning of the final day of the Big Red Run.

TRM Australian editor, Chris Ord, chats to Mark Moala on the morning of the final day of the Big Red Run.

It was Cliff Young.

For Pat, it was a calling and he heeded it.

Eventually he would run much further than Cliffy could or would have dreamed about.

The point: Pat looked to his elders, listened to the message of moment, and ran with it. Literally.

The day following Pat’s fireside speech in the Simpson desert, every runner trotting the sand took Pat’s message (and so Cliffy’s by osmosis), and ran with it.

One competitor, a 100kg-plus Tongan-Australian called Mark Moala, heeded the message to knock over more personal firsts than anyone would think possible in one week: first half marathon, first marathon, first back to back marathon, first triple marathon in three days, first double marathon in one day, first multiday, first desert run. Not bad for a bloke whose only running of any note prior had been a dash on a rugby field chasing a patch of leather. He had all the excuses in the world to call on if he wanted to stop: not a runner, not enough training, overweight, bad knees… yet he leaned on none.

On the final day, as Mark reached the finish line that many thought he’d never step across, Pat approached, hugged him and paid tribute: “You’re my hero mate.”

A man who ran from Sydney to Melbourne runs past a mechanic’s workshop. A man in that workshop runs from the North Pole to the South. A man listens to that story and runs six marathons across a desert.

One day, Mark Moala will run past another someone … and I wonder: where will the inspiration take them?

Your inspired editor, Chris Ord

This is the editorial from the latest edition of Trail Run Mag, your fave magazine dedicated to trail running in Australia, New Zealand and Asia, now available online via:

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A dirty art: trail running*

I look at the large format canvas in front of me and ponder.

richard painting in the field

I guess I’m supposed to be pondering the way the artist has captured the light, the technique to be admired in the brushstrokes, what the scene – of a swathe of earth near Tibooburra located at the remote intersection of the Victorian, South Australian and Queensland state borders – makes me feel.

I’ll tell you what it makes me feel: like I want to go run it. I want to jump into that canvas and run through the brushstrokes, explore the terrain the artist has captured for the ‘cultural crowd’ that mills around musing, supping champers, demolishing cheese platters and generally engaging in discourse that has absolutely nothing to do with running whatsoever and is never likely to (judging by the a few of the postures and paunches pontificating around the room).

Anyway, I’m here, in amidst this arty crowd and all I can think of is trail running the lands that the three artists on show have captured. Stick with me here, there’s a parallel between the art world and ours.

One of the artists is revered Gippslander, Gary Miles. His son, Beau, just happens to be the first person to have successfully run the length of the Australian Alpine Walking Trail. He’s the reason I’m here – Beau is showing his film of that feat up at the Brooks Trail Run Fest, happening on Mount Baw Baw, and which I am curating (oh, such an artsy term).  Beau is also tapping back in to his Dad’s talent with his hands, rather than his feet, these coming days as he turns some wood medallions for some of the event winners at Baw Baw.  I happen to be staying at his rural property on the way up the mountain and so I find myself here at the art showing. Beau apologies for dragging me along, but I don’t mind in the slightest.

Screen shot 2013-03-25 at 2.23.18 PMIn the speeches, each artist talks about camping, heading off to explore the landscapes they were there to paint, to ‘experience’ them as a human beings, to discover their ‘essence’ in order to capture it in oil daubs.

All I can think of is that while they experience with a pure purpose to go and bottle that earth up and explode it onto canvas to share, with all their artful perception of it, we trail runners go one step further, to the detriment of the ‘sharing’.

We run it. We don’t bottle it, capture it, represent it or ever try to control its ever-changing light. We are artists of movement through our subject, and the art only ever lasts each split moment, in each distinct step.

We leave our art on the trail (maybe where it belongs?).

Sure, we can talk about it when we get back. I’m now blabbering to anyone who will listen about the light up on the ridges between Mount Erica and Mt St Gwinear after marking the marathon course between Walhalla and Mount Baw Baw.

But can we ever truly show it to anyone, the way an artist can? Can we drag the beauty out of the bush and do any kind of justice to it?

But in that lies magic. The magic of a moment experienced and felt never to be replicated nor, really, shared off trail.

The true art of trail running is to be in that moment. And let it seep onto your inner canvas.

(And then, perhaps, pontificate about that moment to a willing – or glazed eyed – audience. There.  There’s the parallel to the art world.)

Your artsy-fartsy editor, Chris Ord

*This is the AU Ed’s editorial from the latest edition of Trail Run Mag.



Run The Planet journey begins in Red Centre

Two Antipodeans are about to embark on an endurance run challenge that will see the pair retrace the footsteps of an Indigenous stockman who, in 1922, ran 252km through harsh desert country to save the life of a dying missionary.

Lisa Tamati will battle heat for the Race The Planet run retarcing the 126m route taken by Indigenous stockman Hezekiel Malbunka from Hermannsburg to Alice Springs in 1922.

On 25 February, 2012 Victorian (and Trail Run Mag editor) Chris Ord – a novice to ultra running (but not trail!) – will join experienced ultra runner, New Zealander Lisa Tamati, to run the 126km leg from Hermannsburg to Alice Springs through Australia’s scorching Red Centre, battling temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius.

The pair will tread in the historic footsteps of little-known Indigenous stockman, Hezekiel Malbunka, who took up the gauntlet to run 126km from Hermannsburg, a Lutheran Mission desert outpost, overland to Alice Springs in order to save the life of missionary administrator, Carl Strehlow.

Regarded as one of Australia’s most important anthropological experts on the local Arrernte Indigenous culture, Strehlow lay dying at the mission homestead. As horses were being saddled to dispatch a message to the Telegraph Station at Alice Springs requesting medical assistance be sent from Adelaide, Malbunka declared that he would go faster on foot. From his sick bed, his friend Strehlow agreed and so Malbunka set off, arriving at the Telegraph Station a day and a half later, quicker than station hands agreed could have been achieved by their horses. Incredibly, he then turned around and ran back, taking only a day.

The pair will film their attempt for a pilot television series dubbed Run The Planet, in which Tamati, who has run a distance equivalent of around the world four times, along with crossings of nearly every major desert on the globe and the length of her country besides, joins forces with Ord, who is, he says “decidedly not an ultra runner.”

Ord will be her protégé for the series as she attempts to prove that an ordinary fun runner has the ability to achieve extraordinary running feats, setting the pair up for a series of challenges in locations around the world.

Tamati and Ord will travel the globe, searching for legends of extreme endurance undertaken on foot. They will then attempt to recreate each run, attempting distances of between 80km and 350km while asking the question: were humans really born to run?

“I argue yes,” says Tamati, who is constantly queried about her sanity. “I don’t think I’m crazy at all; anyone can do what I do, anyone is capable of it, it just requires training and the correct mindset – a will to overcome.”

Chris Ord, pretending to train for his Run The Planet debut.

For his part, Ord argues that’s an easy thing to say for someone who has run ultra events the likes of the world’s toughest footrace, the 222km La Ultra, which only seven people have ever completed.

“I crewed for Lisa at La Ultra,” says Ord. “And Run The Planet is the distillation of a bet, really, that Lisa could turn me into an ultra runner. We were discussing the amazing things some runners – particularly indigenous runners around the world – have achieved. And I guess I got the ultra bug a little after seeing what Lisa endured, and how she endured it. I wondered if it was possible for an ordinary guy like me to push myself to that level of, well, insanity.”

“She’s one tough woman. I’m not sure I’m that tough, but it’s going to be an interesting journey finding out. There will be tears…”

Tamati will speak to local experts to find out the details of the Malbunka and Strehlow story, including relatives of Malbunka and directors of the Strehlow Research Centre, which holds key artifacts including an audio recording of Malbunka speaking in Arrernte language recounting his legendary run, and the few images of Malbunka that survive.

“As an Maori woman, the indigenous element of this story strongly appeals to me,” says New Plymouth-based Tamati. “Part of my message – that anyone can achieve great things, be that in running or other pursuits – is linked to the sedentary lifestyles modern society cultivates, especially for our Indigenous communities. Yet the stories we are unearthing show that Indigenous people were ‘born to run’ – they have an innate instinct and ability. It just needs to be tapped into. We want our show to highlight that while also pushing our own bodies and minds to the limit.”

The run has piqued the interest of Robert De Castella’s Indigenous Marathon Project, that saw a group of Indigenous runners train for and then run the New York Marathon in 2010 and 2011. Two of that project’s runners, Reggie Smith and Charlie Maher, will join Tamati and Ord for sections of the run.

People wanting to follow the Run The Planet journey can get updates by ‘liking’ .