Editorial: Life bender

Vicki Woolley, NZ editor’s column from the latest edition of Trail Run Mag.

EditorialPicThe other day I picked up a crappy cheap canvas board from The Warehouse, plain black with blue writing:  “ONE DAY CAN BEND YOUR LIFE”.  It’s not hanging on the wall yet, oddly, I move it around the house every few days.  Even now as I glance at it propped up against my computer table, I am simultaneously empowered and humbled.

The course of my life bent dramatically two months ago when Malcolm Law published the story of my battle with mental health issues on the Partners Life High50 Challenge blog page.  Within four minutes of it going online, Facebook Messenger began pinging crazily and at the same time, texts came flooding in.  Not the sugary messages of sympathy I was dreading, thank god, but empathy for our shared experience.  My people – our people – pouring out their own tales of abuse, neglect, obsession, addiction and ultimately – anxiety, depression… finally suicide.  Words gushing out, crowding each other on the page, needing to be said, desperate to be heard.  So much pain.  So many tears.  So wrong.

I had always suspected that borderline mental health disorders were over-represented in the trail and ultra running communities, but until Malcolm and Sally Law created a safe platform for the conversations to start, I had not realised how rampant dis-ease in our community is.  And I can’t help but suspect it is no accident that so many of us have stumbled into trail running as a strategy for our emotional survival: trail running gives us a huge raft of benefits, possibly more than any other single sport I can think of.  Obviously flooding our system with endorphins and adrenaline is a double bonus in that it reduces negativity AND gives us that indomitable ‘runners high’.  The physical benefits are obvious: feel strong, feel fit, look good, feel good.   Running in wild and beautiful places feeds our souls, our sense of adventure, achievement: it is impossible not to have your spirit touched when running beside thundering West Coast surf, climbing an exposed rocky ridgeline, or cruising silently through a stand of majestic ancient Kauri.  And trail running has become a social sport, a way of connecting with like-minded souls.

And now we are at the crux of things.  Connecting.  Connection.  We wonder often – individually and in groups – about the unusual nature of bonds formed on trail.  We bond quickly and we bond deeply.  Is it because trail runners have a unique interest that is common to all – we love the outdoors?  Is it because the boundaries of competition are less clearly delineated than that of flat, fast road running: speed over terrain is subject to so many more variables; gender differences are narrower and vary over distance?  Is it because you must have a sense of humility if you run trail – at some point in the game you ARE going to end up face down in mud or gorse with your butt stuck in the air while your mates roar with laughter?  Is it because a great number of us run trail to quiet the noise in our heads – and we get that about our companions?  Is it a combination of all these, and more?

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Whatever: the point is that as we connect on trail, we talk about stuff that matters to us: sport, politics and religion, a shitty week at work, difficult kids and troublesome partners.  It’s just a little step further to be more open about ourselves: the things we are struggling with, the areas we need help. Mal, Sal and the Partners High50 Challenge have cracked the door.  It’s up to us to start the conversation.

Your thankfully connected editor, Vicki Woolley, NZ

THIS EDITORIAL is from Edition 14 of Trail Run Mag, now on the digital stands, downloadable for FREE or on subscription via iPad and Kindle. See www.trailrunmag.com/magazines to get your copy now.

New editors join Trail Run Mag

As The North Face 100 crowds gather atop the Blue Mountains under blue skies, tension mounts as everyone plays the schoolyard “I’m just out for a social run” game, knowing full well everyone will leave it all out on the trail come tomorrow’s TNF100 and 50km ‘fun run’, as it’s been affectionately dubbed.

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TRM’s new Asia Editor, Rachel Jacqueline runs in the Vibram 100 in Hong Kong. IMAGE: Vibram HK100 Kit Ng

But as Richard Bowles – he of the Te Araroa, BNT and of late Israel National Trail triumphs – says:  “We should never use the word ‘just’ .You’re not ‘just‘ doing the fifty kay. You’re DOING the fifty kay. Five, ten, fifty or one hundred – every run is an achievement.You’re never ‘just’ doing any of them. You DO them.”

Well, Trail Run Mag has two soldiers out to diesel their way through the century version of the TNF: co-publisher Adrian Bortignon is backing up his recent 100km at Northburn with another on home soil and our now roving editor Mal Law is roving, true to form in the 100km, too. The AU Ed, Chris Ord, is one of those sprouting ‘social run’ nomenclature in the fifty (and getting a spray for it). But we have another new Trail Run Mag trailite, one of two new members joining the Trail Run Mag editorial team, out on trail, this weekend.

Trail Run Mag will soon extend its coverage reach into the Asian region with the new appointment of an Asia Editor, while the sideways stepping of Mal Law to concentrate on bigger projects has seen the appointment of a new New Zealand editor.

Operating out of Hong Kong, Rachel Jacqueline, takes up editor responsibilities covering a region bigger than any other TRM editor. But one that is booming as much, if not more, in terms of the trail running action.

Jacqueline believes nothing is impossible. Be that running 100km, or the brutally harder challenge of making a living as an adventure writer. The latter she does for South East Asian media including the South China Morning Post; the former she ticked off the bucket list on home soil at the 2013 Vibram Hong Kong 100. Now she’s combined her two loves into one role: writing and trail running as the Asia Editor for Trail Run Mag, covering everything form her home city where trail and ultra events has proliferated, to keeping an eye on adventure and multiday outings and the characters who are out there running trails just for the sheer hell of it. When Rachel is not capturing the best of Asia’s trail stories, she can be found running on one of Hong Kong’s many trails with her dog, MacLehose.

“I’m super pumped to be running this weekend,” she says of her 50 outing, “And I look forward to being a part of Trail Run Mag team!”


TRM’s new NZ Editor Vicki Woolley, making her feelings about trail running very clear. Love it.

Meanwhile, Trail Run Mag has already stamped a dirty shoe on the New Zealand scene from our beginning more than two years ago, with trail Godfather Mal Law keeping the words and imagery from New Zealand flowing onto our pages. One of Mal’s running partners, and another who has great respect in the trail running community, is Vicki Woolley. As Mal steps down from ongoing coordination of New Zealand content (but has promised to keep flinging some words and imagery our way), Vicki takes up the reins, and with gusto.

“As newly-appointed Trail Run Mag NZ Editor, I have to do a bunch of stuff that I LOVE doing while pretending I’m “working”.  Stuff like… run around in wild, remote and rugged places.  Talk to people: those who live for challenge and adventure, those who are at the top of their game, those who are in it for the love (I LOVE talking!).  I get to do a little research into trail running from both scientific and spiritual perspectives (I LOVE research!!). And – the icing on the cake – I have to go home and write about all the fun stuff I’ve heard/seen/learned.”

“Don’t get me wrong – its not going to be easy: I’m stepping into very muddy, very tough, and very big shoes.  For the past two years Malcolm Law has added shape and flavour to TRM with his boundless enthusiasm for adventure, his pure love of the trail and enduring passion for encouraging people to take one step beyond their comfort threshold.  Mal always – always – sets the bar high: he and Chris have worked tirelessly to establish a point of focus for a sport that is experiencing a popularity explosion.  Going forward, my goal is to engage readers in an e-conversation via TRM, encouraging experience- and information-sharing, contributing to the building of an exciting, inspirational and adventurous trail running community.”

Trail Run Mag would like to publicly thank Mal Law for all his sweat, tears and possibly a bit of blood in being a cornerstone of building the title to what it is today. Quite simply, without Mal, Trail Run Mag does not exist. Thus we have reserved a lifetime of being shouted beer (or drinks of his choice) at the bar whenever with any of the TRM team (our version of a lifetime pension for hard yards put in), and an ongoing title of Roving Editor. Which really just means he does as and what he wants and flings us some stories and commentary every now and then, but we love him for it.

Thanks Mal. You are a doer. The best kind.

Speaking of doing…(without a ‘just’ in sight) Mal, Rach, Adrian and Chris have some doing to be done in the Blue Mountains. Vicki, alas, is holding fort in NZ where we believe she is, as always, out on trail.

Good luck to all those running both the TNF100 and the Wilsons Prom 100 this weekend, and in NZ, those running the Stephen Hill Te Mata Terrific Tui or the Xterra Auckland Trail Run Series race 1.