July 19, 2021

Majell Backhausen sees life lessons on the trails

Majell Backhausen sees life lessons on the trails

Have you ever taken something on that, at the time you thought, ‘I’m in over my head here, what am I doing?’

Maybe it was moving cities, changing careers, building a house, going on an adventure?

For me, it was running a marathon. I remember exactly how it happened. I was living and working in New Zealand, and the company that I worked for had sponsored the Auckland marathon and encouraged staff to enter. I felt pretty fit, and all my workmates signed up to the 10 or 21km runs

I don’t know why, but for whatever reason I signed up for the full marathon. It was a moment of inspiration, and I felt really good about it

Now, I had NEVER run in a proper event before. Not even a fun run. I was healthy, but I was not, and still am not, by any stretch a gifted athlete

And everyone around me started saying: “what are you doing? The full marathon? You’re crazy”

All of a sudden I was terrified

I trained a bit but also had a newborn so juggled my time, and like I said I had never done any serious running before, and I was getting all sorts of cramps and pains in my legs and feet

Race day came and I remember riding on the ferry, in the darkness of the early morning, to the start line all alone. All around me were people who looked like serious athletes, they all had the gear, seemed to know one another, and my heart was POUNDING. I felt nauseous and I wanted to give up and go home

The race started and I tried to keep pace with the 3:30 pacer. About halfway through he dropped me and shortly after that I started cramping in my calves. I ended up walk/jogging the rest of the way in pain. It was a struggle, and it sucked

I limped across the line very un-ceremonially in about 4 and a half hours. Then I got in the car and drove home thinking I’d failed

But then, after a rest and some food, it hit me. I did it. All I set out to do was finish and I achieved that, literally all on my own

And then I had one of those life lesson moments where I said to myself: “What else am I capable of?”


Now, my guest today has a similar, albeit far greater and far more impactful story

He is someone who stumbled into the everyday 9-5 office work schedule as an engineer (nothing wrong with that), but he itched for something more and he tried to scratch that itch with footy and drinking beer

But one day he left it all behind to live a dirtbag life as an ultra-runner

He too, started with a casual marathon, which grew into ultramarathons which then took him all over the world. He has raced in famous events such as the 170km Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, and the 230km Marathon Du Sables, and he has WON events in places from New Zealand to Canada

And more recently, he has been the trail lead or ‘race director’ for the takayna ultra in Tasmania (the event that I ran earlier this year) Not only that, he became actively involved in the rainforest protection campaign, supporting the blockade and even appearing in court in defence of protecting these forests

He is now a co-founder of For Wild Places, a not-for-profit that holds events to raise awareness and funds to protect Nature through sports activism

This is a conversation about questioning the comfort and leisure of life. It’s about how everyday people can do amazing things

It’s about running, but more that, how a condensed event like running, or any other big life event, presents us with a metaphor to breakthrough and live a more conscious life

So please enjoy this conversation with the brave, kind, and awkward, Majell Backhausen