Outdoor recently caught up with Jenny Weber, campaign manager at the Bob Brown Foundation, and Naima Wilson, marketing manager at Patagonia, to have a chat about the upcoming takayna Ultra race in the takayna / Tarkine region of Tasmania.
OUTDOOR: What sets the takayna Ultra apart from other ultra-marathons?
That it takes place in the wild, ancient and threatened landscape of takayna / Tarkine, where a run like this has never happened before. Equally unique about takayna Ultra is the fact that it will raise funds for an NGO (the Bob Brown Foundation) dedicated to defending and securing the region’s protection.
OUTDOOR: Why Tasmania? And further, why takayna?
The inspiration for this ultra-trail marathon lies with long-time conservationist, Nicole Anderson. Nicole has been a trail runner and an advocate for the protection of takayna / Tarkine for many years. She’s had a dream for a trail-run in takayna since 2015. When she inspired other trail-runners through the Patagonia film she starred in last year, two people approached our Foundation interested in volunteering with us to make a trail-run happen. It all came together to make takayna Ultra.
OUTDOOR: Can you tell Outdoor about the process of selecting a course designer? Was the area — takayna — instrumental in selecting the course designer?
After discussion with the volunteer team for takayna Ultra, gauging the impending threat of environmental and cultural damage to the coastline, and much planning — including many trips to the coastal route by our volunteer Race Director — the course for the takayna Ultra was set.
OUTDOOR: In terms of course design, what factors were taken into consideration for maximising both participant ultra-in-the-wilderness experience and also of showcasing the attributes of the region to an onlooking audience?
The wild, ancient and stunning landscapes were taken into consideration for designing the course. Close attention to the sensitive cultural heritage landscape and direction from the Aboriginal Heritage Officer Sharnie Read were both very important components of the course design. The vast distances in the remote region and coastal landscape, changing from buttongrass plains and up river to the largest temperate rainforest in Australia, meant that we did need to choose between the coast and rainforest for the takayna Ultra course. We chose the coast due to the impending threat of the Tasmanian government’s decision about whether they will allow more offroad vehicle access to the coast. We have also designed the event so that participants can visit the rainforest the day after their run.
One of our key focuses in our campaign to defend and protect takayna / Tarkine is to provide opportunities for people to visit the place. Bob Brown has a saying: 'to see it is to want to save it.' Through the five years of our campaign, we have published a bushwalking guide to the Tarkine, we have travelled with hundreds of artists and scientists and volunteers through the threatened landscape, and these activities have grown our community of ambassadors who support the protection of the area.
This next project, takayna Ultra, will see a new group of people travelling from around Australia and across the globe to experience takayna. Through photographs, videos and storytelling we will be able to continue to broadcast the beauty, fragility, and threats to one of the last wild places on Earth. Our intention is to compel those with the power to protect takayna / Tarkine to make change and securely protect 500,000 hectares in a World Heritage listed National Park and return it to Aboriginal ownership.
OUTDOOR: What is the central theme(s) of the Patagonia takayna Ultra you hope competitors and onlookers will take with them?
A wild ancient threatened landscape, takayna / Tarkine is one of the last wild places on Earth and needs secure protection from logging, mining and offroad vehicle damage. By participating in takayna Ultra, the runners will be helping to save the landscape they have run through, supporting the Bob Brown Foundation campaign for protection.
OUTDOOR: What role does the Bob Brown Foundation have in the Ultra?
The Bob Brown Foundation is the organiser of the takayna Ultra. Our campaigners and staff are working closely with the volunteer team to make this event happen. Bob Brown Foundation will receive the monies raised by the runners which will be used to support our Tarkine campaign.
OUTDOOR: Who are some of the ‘big name’ entrants competing in the Ultra?
Patagonia Global Trail Running Ambassador Krissy Moehl and top Australian runner Majell Backhausen will be running in the event. Krissy was an integral part of the takayna movie tour in the USA and has grown passionate about the Tarkine region in Tasmania.
OUTDOOR: What are some highlights both competitors and onlookers should look forward to experiencing and witnessing?
Dinner with Environmentalist Bob Brown on the night before the run. A course that takes people through an ancient landscape. A wild coastline that has the roaring 40s winds that pummel the shoreline. And breathing some of the cleanest air in the world. Guided tours of the ancient rainforest as a perfect way to wind down after the run.
OUTDOOR: Lastly, what is Patagonia’s goal for the future? Are we likely to see more events like the takayna Ultra in the future?
The Patagonia mission is that ‘We are in business to save our home planet’. We will continue to stand up for wild places in Australia and New Zealand and connect with the wider community through our core sports and environmental activism.