“The Trail Beyond – 4 Women, 4 Ultra marathons, 4 Months” is an ultra-running expedition in which 4 Australian women will strive to complete the 4 toughest ultramarathons in the Asia-Pacific region in just 4 months.
If successful, this will be a world first. One of these ultra-marathons alone is considered a test of survival for highly-trained, elite athletes. However, these women are not elite. They are everyday women, aged between 30 and 60, who are working to support themselves and their children and deal with the challenges of daily life.
A documentary film crew will capture their life-changing journey from the initial training and juggling of family life and work, through their attempts to complete each gruelling event and recover for the next one, and finally to the celebrations and heartbreak at the completion of the project.
We caught up with Donna Urquhart to find out more.
What have been some of the big personal hurdles you ladies have faced in this journey so far?
We have each dealt with some major hurdles over the past months, from family tragedy to significant physical injuries and major work issues. I personally have been blown away by each person’s capacity to cope with adversity and move forward. Anne left me speechless after she was forced to withdraw from our second event due to an ongoing knee injury. While she spoke to me about her disappointment, she then went on to talk about her preparation for our next ultra – in just 4 weeks.
How did The Trail Beyond begin?
The Trail Beyond began in early 2014. After a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and another friend passed away suddenly, I was left numb. As the numbness started to fade, I was left with an overwhelming drive to get out there and make a difference. So I spent the next 12 months exploring numerous options to combine my passion for adventure/ultra-running with a drive to help other women achieve their goals. In the end I found 3 amazing women who shared the same passions and wanted to join forces to develop and support the TTB initiative.
What are the 4 ultra-marathons that you have/will run? What makes them so tough?
To date we have completed 2 of the 4 ultras; Run Larapinta, a 4 day stage race in Alice Springs, and the 110km Shinetsu Five Mountain Trail in Japan. We are currently in Hong Kong to run the Lantau 70km ultra and next month we will attempt The Ancient Khmer Path, a 220km 6 day stage event in Cambodia. What makes this adventure tough is the tight time frame. Trying to recover and prepare for the next event within 3-5 weeks, while at the same time working and caring for family, has been a huge mental and physical challenge.
We hear so often from women, comments where the statements ‘I just …’ or comparative statements towards women we assume are faster, stronger, braver, more adventurous etc. than ourselves, limit where and how we see ourselves as participators in active pursuits; How are you hoping The Trail Beyond might begin to change that conversation?
At The Trail Beyond we want to change this conversation. We want to show others that we are everyday women, not elite athletes, who are juggling jobs and families and at the same time having a go and striving for our goals. We hope that who we are and what we are trying to achieve resonates with other women and in turn empowers them to take a step forward towards their own goals. We want our journey to highlight that while we may/may not achieve our goals, we have already succeeded through the amazing experiences, friendships, and opportunities we have had along the way.
Has having a film crew follow you on this adventure affected you or the way you have approached competing in the events?
Absolutely! In fact the whole project has changed our approach to the events. We actually rocked up to our first event quite exhausted. The 6-8 months leading into Run Larapinta was intense and hard work. We had to focus to make the project happen in short space of time and this involved co-ordinating a myriad of activities, from deciding on an event schedule, building a website and social media platform to interviewing and selecting a film crew.
How have you juggled your work life balance throughout this project?
It has certainly been a massive challenge to keep our usual busy lives ticking along while undertaking this project. To be honest there have been some hard times. Times where we wanted to bail out. However, we have persevered and kept pushing forward. I honestly believe that perseverance is the core to achieving amazing things and that this where people often go wrong. They have a novel, exciting idea but when things get tough they question the idea, lose momentum and shift away.
What is next for the Trail Beyond?
When our 4 ultras are over, the next two key phases of this project will begin. We will be working with our director, Cassie, and a production house to produce a feature-length documentary, along with preparing to launch the first Women’s Adventure Film Festival which will showcase The Trail Beyond documentary and a selection of women’s adventure films.