PROJECT RUN FOREVER
We’re absolutely stoked with the success of Project Run Forever that took place last weekend. At 7am on Friday 8th April, Tom set out to run the furthest he had ever run. After another flooding event in the days leading up to the run, the course and conditions were brutal. Many sections were underwater (up to waist deep), trees were down, rocks were submerged and streams overflowing. Not to mention, the clay-like mud made for some really challenging foot placement.
Tom started off extremely strong and, if it were a 100km ultra, the ‘race’ would have been a dream. However, his legs became “completely shot” on Saturday, and Tom made the call mid lap 13 that he would complete one more. Despite being physically and mentally drained, Tom’s spirits remained high and his temperament extremely friendly.
Tom completed 140kms in 34 hours and has, to date, raised $25,200. I caught up with Tom after the event, and asked him about his experience, internal and external motivations, the role of community in keeping him running and key takeaways from the event. Here’s what Tom has to say…
Q&A WITH TOM BATROUNEY
First and foremost, huge congratulations in completing a whopping 140kms around Manly Dam on Saturday. What an achievement! We’ve all seen the IG stories, and the challenging conditions that you ran in. I was fortunate enough to join you for laps 13 and 14 – you described lap 13 as “the hardest thing you’ve ever done”. Can you explain why lap 13 specifically, and not the first or the last?
Hey thanks! Thanks so much for joining me too. It was so great to run with you. At that stage my quads had totally blown up and what happens is the chemicals that create the first step in your muscle ‘grabbing on’ and being able to accept force and propel forwards sort of malfunction or stop producing. I had absolutely no control over my quads, the biggest muscles in my legs and on top of that the pain as a result of the muscle being so fatigued was absolutely excruciating. It’s always hard to describe pain but just imaging every single step feeling like your quads were about to rip and also having very little control over foot placement in tough conditions. Doesn’t sound fun but it is haha!
I was at the stage where I had been going for 8 hours longer than I could physically and mentally. You always have little give up moments but I was very in control of my thoughts through PRF and 8 hours before this I made the conscious decision to stop only to get a second wind! It’s hard because I was trying to bargain with myself. Lap 13 was the hardest because not only had I been going 8 hours longer than I could but lap 13 was originally decided as my last so I could get through it and then as some sort of sick joke I did a post on IG story half way through saying the next lap would be my last so everyone out there would hold me accountable for one more. I am also very weird about numbers and finishing on number 13 was not an option even if I had to crawl!
Are you able to describe the balance, or battle, that unfolded between your internal motivation and external motivations whilst running laps of Manly Dam?
For sure. Like I said my mind was very calm and powerful the whole run really. Up until the 110km mark I seriously felt fresh both mentally and physically. The wheels are always going to fall off when you’re setting out to run forever but if I could have wished for anything I would have said to feel decent at 100k and I felt great! Being a 10km loop and being able to see my crew, the FWP team (and Seabin virtually) plus all of the incredible media every hour or so was huge motivation. It’s so important to get out of your head because internalising pain, hardship and the enormity of what was ahead always sends you down a rabbit hole of destruction just like it can in life. People are the key, hugs are great and everyone at the aid station and out on course gave me such a life and also such a reminder as to why I was doing it. The Instagram fam too are a huge inspiration to me, I treat social media like real life and I know I inspire a lot of people on there and they inspire me too.
It’s great to feel the intensity of your internal dialogue when you’re hurting and doing something incredibly tough but it’s equally great to snap out of that in a second with a huge hug or seeing someone smile in your direction.
Are you able to explain the role of community involvement in motivating you to keep going?
I love the saying ‘think global, act local’ to describe community. I am always looking to create hugely powerful actions big and important enough to reach all corners of the earth but I’m not targeting those places far away I’m targeting my local community in Manly, NSW, Australia and online because that is where the ripple effect starts. Also reaching people digitally is very powerful and can be very pure but getting people face to face is something that we always have to do to create movements. We all have the power to create huge change within each other and doing that in person is the most effective way for sure.
In hindsight, do you think training and organising or the event was the best use of your energy, in comparison to more ‘traditional’ ways of fundraising? What is it about sports activism that excites and motivates you?
100%. I have zero regrets and if you step back and look at what we achieved, the people we reached, the money we raised and the positive movement we created it is absolutely mind blowing. Everything can always be improved and adapted but I would not have done anything differently aside from maybe running for 300kms but we’ll do that next year?
Are you happy with the outcome of the event (with ‘outcome’ being open to interpretation – from the distance you ran, community support, fundraised amount etc)? And what are your key learnings/takeaways?
I really am. In terms of my personal goals and growth I really just wanted to run for between 30-40 hours and I ended up doing 34 or 36 hours I think. For myself it was a huge confidence boost because it was the first big run I went into feeling very close to 100% so there were no excuses. My body did an incredible thing and I knew my mind would be solid so it has given me huge confidence for what’s next.
The community support in very tough conditions was great. I guess this can only be judged by how many people interact with the event physically and online and also for me personally how many people I have ‘magic moments’ with. I had people yelling at me out on the trail, the Run Lab crew who came down for a training run with their coach and PRF pacer/ supporter Vlad Shatrov who brought serious vibes and a young girl came up to me at the end of the run with her parents and gave me some cakes she had made with them for me! Are you kidding! I really just want to reach as many people as possible with my messages of how important it is to love each other, care about each other and protect this place we all call home and rely on for so many reasons and we ticked that box in a massive way.
HUGE THANK YOU
This event would not have been possible without the support of our sponsors – Trail Brew, Single O, Salomon, Heaps Normal, Patagonia, Fractel, Pala, Ora, Go Pro, Le Bent and earshots – the incredible volunteers who helped out on the day, and the wonderful community that supported Tom during this feat.In total, Project Run Forever raised $25,600 to support the ongoing work of For Wild Places and Seabin. We are incredibly grateful to all of the event sponsors for dollar matching donations right throughout the run, to those that came along to run with Tom, keep us caffinated and kept the stoke high.