Majell Backhausen is an equally fierce trail runner and environmental advocate, two passions he combines to make a difference – like running 273km across the proposed Great Forest National Park in order to save it.

WAE: How did you get into trail running and how long have you been doing it?

MB: I stumbled upon running when I moved to London and started commuting to work. I’d get to work equally sweaty if I ran or took the tube. So, it was a good use of time. 

From there the allure of marathon running captured my curiosity and I signed up to a trail marathon in 2012. I was an amateur, running the race in road shoes and taking zero food or drink with me. It was an experience that I now realise was a door to a new world and life. 

Fast forward a year and I was working offshore as an engineer in the North Sea and spending my time back on land in the hills of Scotland or the mountains of Chamonix. I fell in love with trail running and the rest is history.

The experience of running on trails really took me back to the days of being a kid, bashing through the bush all day, covered in mud and generally just being outdoors with little worry.


WAE: Have you done long traverses before, like the 273km one you run in your new film ‘End to an End’?

MB: I’ve done similar distances in stage races. Like the Marathon des Sables in the Saharan desert of Morocco. It’s a self-sufficient, 230km race over seven days, you carry everything you need except your water. Also the Manaslu Mountain Trail Race in Nepal which circumnavigates Manalsu the world’s eigth highest peak. Again it was just under 200km and we hit altitudes of 4,700m racing and hiked over a 5,300m pass on our ‘non-racing’ day. 

Then I once traversed the same 400m athletics track in Coburg for 24 hours running 204km… that was a mental adventure.

Along with the racing, I’ve had some of the best times in life doing long multi-day training runs with friends, covering routes like the West Highland Way (Scotland) and Tour du Mount Blanc (France, Italy, Switzerland).

WAE: How did the ‘End to an End’ project and film come about?

MB: When I learnt about the Great Forest in Victoria’s Central Highlands and the proposed National Park, I wanted to explore it on foot, moving through the landscape and feeling it out as I’ve done in other countries. I’ve spent a lot of time living and training in Warburton, on the proposed Great Forest National Park boundary. So I had an idea of how beautiful this place could be.



My traverse was mainly to gain a deeper understanding of the area and use that knowledge to help communicate its significance to the wider trail running community.

I saw a map of the proposed Great Forest National Park and running it from end to end was the obvious answer to my desire to explore it. 

Making the film ‘End to an End’ with Patagonia, where I work as the Sports Community Manager, is one way we’re communicating and celebrating the Mountain ash forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands, the area’s beauty, its importance, and the individuals and community-led organisations fighting to protect it.

Patagonia has also been building relationships and supporting grassroots non-for-profits through our 1% FTP Grants for a number of years before I came along. ‘End to an End’ is a part of a larger effort, ‘Thank You for not Chopping Here, and a way we can amplify the message and significance of these local groups’ work, which is vital to protecting these lands and waterways.

WAE: What was the most challenging part of the journey, and how did you overcome this?

MB: To be honest it was overcoming the mental pressure of making sure I successfully moved through every ecosystem of this forest so we could capture it and share it far and wide.

There was a pressure associated with this run that I’d never experienced before. It wasn’t connected to a podium or a sponsorship deal. It was connected to the health and wellbeing of land, water, culture, inhabitants of this forest, and us as humans. We need fresh air, drinkable water, and carbon capture to live long into the future and this forest provides all these elements.

I felt like this run needed to be completed so we had the right content to capture people’s hearts and minds in a way that might move them into action for this area. 

To run 273km when it’s feeling easy and when it’s hard, it really comes down to just taking one step and one breath at a time. It’s a strategy that has worked time and time again.

Not allowing yourself to get too caught up in thoughts while being out there is a big factor too. 

I needed to focus on doing one of four things at any moment: moving forward, eating, drinking or being positive! If I kept that up, I knew I was heading in the right direction.

WAE: On the other hand, what was the highlight for you?

MB: Near the end of the second day, my sister joined me for a 20km section of the run and we climbed out of Healesville up to Donna Buang at 1250m. We met Wurundjeri Elder, Perry Wandin, at the summit. The sun had just set and the near-full moon was rising. It was a still and peaceful night, not a breath of wind.

We spend time with Perry talking about Country and its significance. He welcomed us to the lands of the Wurundjeri people. The smoke from the eucalypt and sheoak made its way around the circle of people, yet the wind wasn’t present, it was special and unforgettable.

WAE: Why should people watch this film?

MB: ‘End to an End’ documents the unique and valuable asset we have on the doorstep of Melbourne. The Mountain ash forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands are significant for water capture, critically endangered species habitat, carbon storage, recreation, and tourism potential, and ultimately the health of humans. 

Really, the film is one way we can begin to communicate this and help amplify the voice of our grantees and environmental organisations protecting the forests. Patagonia is in business to save our home planet and this campaign is another way we are showing up for Earth. 

WAE: What do you hope people to take away from it?

MB: It would be that change is required and we need to action our way to a brighter future and better way of operating in the natural world.

Using the Mountain ash forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands as a place for natural resource extraction is an outdated and detrimental way of operating as a species. We need to let our government and local MPs know we don’t want native forest logging to take place in this area, or anywhere in Victoria.

These trees are worth more standing than they are as toilet paper.

WAE: What’s next for you?

MB: The work on this has only just begun, the run was the easy part. The heart of the success of this movement sits with moving people into action for the Earth, lands, waterways, and culture of this area. 

We need people to join us in turning their emotions into action and that’s the task at hand for the foreseeable future. Patagonia has some exciting things coming up via our ‘Thank you for not Chopping Here’ campaign. Watch that space.

WAE: Is there anything else you’d like to add or highlight?

MB: Please visit the Mountain ash forests of Victoria’s Central Highlands. And hand write a letter to your local MP if you enjoy your time out there and want it standing for generations to come.


Photography by Cam Suttie