Opening image: Now in its fifth year, the takayna Trail not only raises funds to save the wilderness area but creates a deep connection to that wilderness with all who run it. Photo Calumn Hockey


We were jetting south from naarm as a group of running misfits. The work crew and I were flying to lutruwita to join over a hundred fellow punters for the Bob Brown Foundation’s takayna Trail, the off-piste running event for all those who enjoy some wholesome type-2 fun. You could pick your poison: a 22km half, 62km ultra, or a split ultra-distance relay. I took the former, thanks.


Why was I there? Was it for a new challenge, or was I simply there in Tassie to Come Down For Air? I tend to bikepack our great backyard, and trail running seems to be the mountain biking of the running world… just a little more hectic. That enticed me. Combined with the prospect of helping to save takayna, I was mentally there. The physical part we’d work out later.


Potential and imminent physical struggles aside, we were all there for the purpose of running to save wild places. takayna, (colonially, the Tarkine) was under threat yet again from Captain Planet's arch nemesis, the Logging and Mining Industries Corp™. In its fifth year, the takayna Trail continues to make great strides. This movement of passion and purpose-driven folk is growing. This year was its most successful yet, supporting efforts to have takayna World Heritage listed and returned to its Traditional Owners.


Few of us knew what we were running into. The takayna Trail course presented a range of obstacles under thick blanket canopy. Over log, under log, squeeze past tree trunk, down the gully, up the gully, down a steep face, dodging trees and slipping on loose leaves. The leafy lid then opens up and we meet the valley floor, only then to have a steady climb back out of the valley, the climb out almost half the length of the entire course. But this is sensational. Who in hell would want to do a city run after experiencing this?!


The ghosts of mining’s past were close, however. What was once an access trail to an old silver mine was now our path to fighting off the same threats a hundred years later. Look just south to Queenstown, a testament to what unregulated man-made land exploitation can do to a landscape.


One of the hardest parts of the run is to stop and take it all in. This forest journey sets the same challenge we often face in our regular nine-to-fives – to take a breather, stop and look around. We’re always compelled to just keep moving. You’re in this crossfire of feelings as you contend with the degradation on your body that distance running inflicts while taking in the sheer magic that surrounds you visually, luring you to look around, perhaps up through the canopies of a hundred-year-old myrtle, only then to potentially trip on that very same myrtle’s tree root just below your feet.

The run traverses a variety of wild landscapes including ancient Gondwanan rainforest. “The experience of moving through such an ecologically significant area will take you on a journey that will make you feel human again.” Photo Nathan Jones

With this thought in mind, I kept my eyes on the ground ahead, but it turned out the ground ahead held more surprises than I’d anticipated.

Someone had left a shit on the trail, in a zip-lock bag, complete with shitty toilet paper. Right then, I knew in my mind… what happens in takayna, does not stay in takayna.

Maybe the guy running close to me was within earshot when I noted, “Someone’s gotta carry it out.” I once learned that the best someone is always you. Never rely that “someone else will do it.” So yes, dear reader, I picked up that plastic handbag and its filthy contents and continued running. The textbook didn’t mention anything about this potential scenario, nor did the hours of training prepare an individual for such a task, but on I ran, carrying the bag.

I felt the need to find the owner. Passing a few other runners I warmly asked how they were doing in their grand individual efforts, shortly before cutting to the chase and asking if they’d dropped anything. After tormenting enough folk shaking a plastic bag in their direction, I precariously pocketed the package so I could run on and once more enjoy the grandeur of takayna.

Support pours out of every soul who sits and waits at the finish line. Bob Brown, the Foundation’s namesake and self-confessed “hugaholic”, spent as much time there embracing sweaty runners as those punters had spent running sweaty. While the desire to receive the embrace of Dr Brown – a personal hero of mine – was tempting, the need to get rid of the Code Brown from my left-side shorts pocket was greater. After crossing the line, I gave him a handshake with my uncompromised right hand and made for the closest landfill receptacle.

(Left) Bob Brown himself greeted every runner at the finish line in Waratah. (Right) The author having a momentary crisis of conscience, his long-time idol Bob Brown reaching out to congratulate him for finishing the run, unaware the author is carrying a bag of human crap in his pocket that he found on the trail and figured needed to be cleaned up. Photos Matthew Newton

Throughout the remainder of the event, the poopertrator never made themselves known, not even after all 200-plus runners, volunteers and organisers saw me on stage receiving a rather unconventional award for handling the bag of golden tickets. I thought, I’m going to go down as the “poo-man” by all parties involved to witness. It’ll be the running joke in the family for years to come.

I was proud to cross the finish line alongside my friends and workmates. Our lack of experience and training suddenly turned into a great appreciation for our bodies and empowerment for what we could achieve as a group of people charged with a purpose. I can’t help but think, when will Bob and the foundation cross their finish line? When will Aboriginal ownership be returned? When will takayna be World Heritage listed? What comes next and what can we do?

There’s different approaches to saving takayna – you can run it or you can climb it – with all efforts being valuable. Photos Darcy Swain

A week later, the trees sway in the wind as I gaze out the window of my second floor Brunswick flat, typing this story, while ‘Tyto’ – takayna defender Viola Barnes – sits alone, twice as high, perched in an old myrtle in a tree-sit protest down in takayna. I’m also wondering when her finish line will come. It’s been some 70 days for her already.

As a first timer to takayna Trail, it struck me right in the feels. This warmly fostered event that generates enough energy to power the outer-suburban district of Cranbourne, lit up my world. It feels trite to write it, but it felt like we were a part of something truly special. The fight roars on.

At the time of writing, runners this year have raised over $400,000 that’ll go towards the cause. The event continues to break all funding records for the organisation. That’s not just hundreds of people donating, that’s hundreds of people engaging with the cause. Vote with your wallet as they say.

We must protect takayna at all costs, otherwise it’ll turn into a bag of shit.

* Nathan Jones manages Patagonia’s Fitzroy Outlet, and ran the takayna Trail with workmates Ella McLennan, Stevie Butler and Sam Heywood.

Opening image: Now in its fifth year, the takayna Trail not only raises funds to save the wilderness area but creates a deep connection to that wilderness with all who run it. Photo Calumn Hockey


God Creates Dinosaurs. God Destroys Dinosaurs. God Creates Man. Man Destroys God. We Create Roaring Journals.

Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories
Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories Related Stories