Imagine a goal you’ve been working towards for over a decade crumbling around you. Mat Grills doesn’t have to, his X-Country mission is over… for now.


Most people have simple dreams. Dreams of living a cushy life, retiring happy, finding true love or just plain getting through the week. Whilst these things are nice, normality and the mundane scares the life out of me. To me, it’s the epitome of vanilla. My life to date has been far from normal.

I’ve been a hardcore band front man, pituitary tumour survivor, some time gym junkie, straight edge for life (never drunk alcohol, tried drugs or cigarettes), I’ve been in the Police Service, I’m covered in tattoos, have over 60 body piercings and have now been an ultra running mad man for 15 years.

My dream, for 11 years, has been to run from the westernmost to the easternmost points of Australia. The project took on a life of its own in the last three years and the project all but consumed me. 50 days out from my 40th Birthday it was go time; 100k a day was all it would take. A dream launching on the 22nd of September, 2022.

Preparation To Run Across the Country

In 2020 I ran 100 half marathons in a row. In 2021 I ran 10x 50k days and 40 marathons in a row. I have over 60 ultramarathons and a lot of kilometres under my belt from the last decade and a half.

Then there was the challenge of actually getting ready for a mission like this. It took a lot of prep, I was looking for minutes in the day, not hours. Sponsorship, logistics, vehicles, crew, permits, the route, gear, nutrition, actually getting to the westernmost point of Australia (difficult!), access to supermarkets/water/fuel…the list goes on.

Add these things to the fact that I’m married with two daughters and run two specialty coffee shops, it was a lot. Then there was the training. 12-40 hours a week of running (I’d already done over 5000k for the year before even getting to the starting line), some strength work and prehab exercises saw not a lot of sleep and VERY full days.

However, when the time came to leave home, I believe I’d done everything I could, sacrificed a LOT and was as ready as ever to tackle this challenge. Preparation meets the dream.

Go Time

The drive to Western Australia was long. Very long. My dad and I set out from my home in Bargara, picked up my mate in Byron and commenced the trip across the country. We drove, ran out of fuel, got a massive rock stuck between our dual rear tyres and got a flat literally at the turn around point.

Here we drove the final 100k of 4WD tracks out to Steep Point with my friend Guy, shed a number of tears at the thought of a vision becoming a reality, slept the night and were ready to go.

After not much sleep, on the morning of the 22nd, I touched the sign and started running.



Five Days and Devastation…

It seems tripe to sum up running 100 kilometres so briefly when for a chosen few, to run 100 kilometres once is a life achievement. Yet here we are.

The first day was amazing. The road out of Steep Point may as well be on another planet. I spent the day on sand, corrugations, and very undulating terrain. It almost seemed surreal, yet at the same time it was so incredibly real.

Day two almost destroyed me. The first 50-60k went by easily, then the sun turned on me. With no breeze and no shade, the 33 degree ambient temperature (probably 35+ on the bitumen) nearly cooked me. I struggled through and got one of the hardest days of running I have ever done in the books.



On day three I bounced back well and really enjoyed it…now we were settling in! But on the morning of day four I really struggled mentally and missed home. I managed to work through this and get rolling but after about 20-25k, my right hip started to complain, loudly. After not too long I was reduced to an ugly limp and significant pain.

After over eight hours, I decided to call it a day at 50k and honestly, I didn’t know what to do. We discussed a number of options before I slept and woke the next morning in an attempt to continue the quest.

But after 11 excruciating kilometres and many ugly tears later, it was over. I stepped off the road, failing my X-Country attempt. I was broken, disappointed, devastated and somewhat despondent.

My dream had shattered.

The Aftermath

Five years ago I learnt that I have shallow roof hip dysplasia. This is generally genetic, however could’ve been caused by my pituitary tumour and the excess growth hormone my body was producing through my 20’s. Regardless, it caused significant issues back then for about nine months, however, ever since then, only small amounts of discomfort here and there. Nothing significant enough to stop me running… up until day five.



In dissection of what occurred, even though I ran morning and afternoon on the way over, sitting in the van for five days likely aggravated the joint. I normally sit for less than 10% of my day so the extended time on my backside wreaked havoc on my body. Lesson learnt. Next time fly. Which brings me to next time…

A week or two removed, I was not going to return. I was over it, the moment had passed and mentally I was moving on.  Now, with some clarity, provided all continues to improve I will for sure be back having another go at fulfilling my dream. I can’t let it go. I’ve put too much energy and life into this project just to walk away. I sometimes feel irrelevant, removed and ‘past it’. Although I’ve done and completed things 99.9% of the population would never think of, I still feel, in a way, invalid having failed at this venture. I want…no, I NEED redemption, or at least a decent crack at the journey.

I learnt many lessons by the sheer act of going to Western Australia and seeing with my own two eyes what it’s actually like… and it is wild. Literally the wild west.

I feel a strange pull, a longing and desire to be back there, moving through time and space.  I regularly find my mind drifting back, back to when all I needed to do was cover distance under my feet. A bizarre longing.



Where to shower, how far apart everything is, how to get groceries, the heat, winds, mind numbing long straight roads; so so many lessons seen and learnt. Potentially the greatest lesson was the feeling of vulnerability. I’ve been in some pretty secluded places and run solo plenty of times in the middle of nowhere with only a headlamp for company, but the feeling of solitude in WA was like nothing else. Next time I’ll be more prepared on this front.

Overall, even though I was and still am so saddened by the fact that I really didn’t get a good go at crossing the land by foot, the adventure was worth it. Dave Proctor recently ran 104ish kilometres a day across Canada and only completed his journey on his third attempt.

When we aim high, well beyond what most think humanly possible, the risk of failure is high. I fully realise this. This same reason is what makes the challenge so alluring to me.

I refuse to live this life with questions of ‘what if’ and I think I at least owe it to myself to have another go at my X-Country dream.


Thank you to everyone who has offered words of support, love and kindness upon my withdrawal. It truly means the world to me. I look forward to re-building, providing more inspiration, and positivity to encourage all to do and be the best versions of ourselves possible every day. Much love and until X-Country completion… Consistency + Commitment.


Photos thanks to @ifyouseeaiden