As many of you will know, we’ve featured the writing of the talented runner, Majell Backhausen a few times already – winner of a number of Aussie races, as well as a highly credible 26th place at UTMB this year.
Recently he won the Great Ocean Walk 100kms and decided to put fingers to keyboard for us. But rather than the usual chronological order of events you might read from a race report, Majell dives a little deeper into why he runs and some of the pressures he feels being one of the leading runners in a race. Sometimes we think of our leading runners in a certain way – their ability to make mincemeat of courses offering a false sense of ease at which they run. They do however face exactly the same issues, pressures and doubts as the rest of us, as Majell highlights… take it away…
This year of running has been like no other.
After the Two Bays Trail Run in early January, I committed to a job, working 21 days straight then 7 days off, it was a routine of work, train, eat, sleep and repeat.
But following selection for Australia in the IAU Ultra Trail World Championships, working in the flat outback of QLD was not good enough for training and eradicating the pressure I placed on the situation.
Pressures to perform, which are, derived from influences and expectations, which are more often than not, non-existent and self-proclaimed.
So I went into the unknown and committed to train, eat, race, sleep and repeat.
Replacing ‘work’ with ‘race’- well that was just ingenious.
That led me to GOW 100km, October 17th . It is seriously ‘grass roots’, a complete example of long distance trail running, it’s stunning and an event, which should inspire nothing but excitement and the desire to run.
Racing Translantau, UTMB or Tarawera are all equally as stunning as GOW 100km, but for me, they lack that self-imposed pressure that racing in Australia does.
Running a good race in Australia is incredibly important to me. But this results in an undesirable pressure, which I have experienced in the only two Aussie races I have done prior to GOW, taking enjoyment and a sense of freedom from my time running on our great trails with equally great runners.
A small bit of uncertainty set in and that built, as my legs were slowly recovering from UTMB, but never ticking over as fast as I needed them to. This ‘first world racing worry’, then compounded with the self-imposed Aussie race pressure factor. A pressure generated from a feeling that I am referred to as a ‘new kid on the block’ and that I have to prove myself in a community of great and very talented Aussies.
GOW100, in some moments, I wanted it to end before it even started.
But why? With the opportunity to run one of the iconic races in Australia with nothing but singletrack goodness? Not to mention spending a sweet weekend down the Great Ocean Walk with my crew of Lucy B, Alice McK and my Brother!
Well, it again all came down to the pressure I put on the situation, it took away the smile and desire to run.
Travelling to the event, I forgot my running shoes, an early FAIL (First Attempt In Learning) but luckily I was saved by the ultra champion that is Roger Hanney.
But running in brand new kicks didn’t add pressure, because it provided a small excuse, an excuse to perform below what I was capable of.
A number of these opportunities to make excuses came up through out the race (six times to be exact), four times for going the wrong way, once for my crew not being at an aid station and then a Mexican stand-off with a snake… I ran away really fast, possibly yelling, so I guess the snake won that battle.
It was in these moments the real runner, the real me stepped in.
I do this sport for a bigger holistic reason. I don’t predominantly do it to try to prove my worth as an athlete, because that is not the biggest or most impactful part of who I am.
I do this sport because it makes me a better person, and in turn allows me to be a better person to people I meet, people I know and trail buddies I have not yet been able to shred a single track with.
Events like GOW100, through its organisers, volunteers and its settings, encourages and allows more people to join our community, to enjoy its simplicity and benefits (of which there are so many). It then has a great side effect of creating better people and making our world a better place.
This is the basis for rock solid thoughts. Thoughts I needed in GOW, especially at the 70km mark, where I was advised, that from 70km to 100km you need to have legs to run. Another reason I love this sport are the game plans. Run 70km and then you must be prepared to really run.
I worked hard to ease the self-imposed pressure at GOW, through positive thoughts and having a great crew. It worked, but I didn’t succeed entirely to be honest, I am slightly disappointed with my time and how it looks on paper.
But from the holistic view, I got to meet so many great people, have proper trail chats, laugh and be deeply grateful for the opportunity to run the Great Ocean Walk.
The weekend spent with my crew just built better friendships and put me in more debt to them, for helping me out so well. It will provide many laughs for the future.
All of which really does make me forget the pressure of racing, the need to win a large glass fish trophy and keeps me grounded. The race and its outcomes are only a small cherry on top of a huge cake if you make the journey true and enjoyable while continually learning.