Interview | Majell Backhausen

April 17, 2023

Meet Majell Backhausen: Ultra Runner, Patagonia Ambassador, Human

How long have you been running and what is your proudest sporting moment?

I’ve been running with real dedication to the craft since 2011, mostly road marathons then. In 2012 I did my first trail running marathon and I didn’t realise it at the time, but the rain and wind must have soaked down into my soul and awaken a part of me that starting a life in the sport of trail running from 2014 onwards.

It’s been great to represent Australia in the sport at World Championships (2015, 2016 and 2022). But If I am honest, what makes me proud is being a part of the movement that is sports activism, especially through the work I do with Patagonia and our Thank You for Not Chopping Here campaign to end native forest logging. takayna Trail which has raised over $1.3 million to have takayna/Tarkine listed as World Heritage National Park and return to Aboriginal ownership. and now Footprints to bring more people to this space and help make leaders amongst us.

I say this because, this ensures generations of people to come can run on a healthy planet and enjoy the true beauty of the elements you encounter when standing atop a summit.

When did climate action become important to you? Was there a specific moment?

Through many long days and countless hours being outdoors training, I realised that one of the greatest things about trail running is that it is an immersion in the elements. The moving through natural landscapes and experiencing the wind, rain, sun, and fresh air. I’d like everyone to experience this way of feeling alive, just once in life.

Studying and working as an engineer I was told about the Japanese word ‘Kaizen’ which translates to “Continuous Improvement”. In the business management context, continuous improvement means a never-ending effort to identify and eliminate the root causes of problems that produce errors or diminish value. When I paired this with how my small daily actions and the actions of large global systems had a negative impact on the natural world (of which we are a part of), I knew I had to do apply Kaizen to my life in trail running. And so, I started to look deeper at the trail running and outdoor industry and its impacts. And more importantly the opportunity for areas we could have continuous improvement.

Tell us about your involvement in climate and sustainability?

I think the most important thing is to have real conversations with a focus on listening and then be honest about what you feel and think about the state of the world. It is the only way we can learn and move forward.

What I give my time to most is working with Patagonia as their Sports Community Manager and brining to life campaigns such as Thank You for Not Chopping Here, calling for an end to native forest logging. I work closely with the Bob Brown Foundation on their biggest fundraiser called takayna Trail, which has raised over $1.3million through the sport of trail running. And now I am helping on a new project in Australia called Footprints, where we develop environmental knowledge and leadership skills, and connect participants with grassroots organisations and localised projects that are active in conserving and protecting wild lands.

I am also an open book when it comes to any conversation, we can have about moving forward in a better way.

Is there anything happening in the climate space that you're particularly interested in or excited about?

Yes, all of the above. Our current campaign at Patagonia to end native forest logging, the unbelievable community we have at takayna Trail and what is to come with Footprints.

Also I’m excited to see so many people start to put action behind climate emergency work. Look at Footy for Climate for example, what a great job that team is doing to use one of the biggest sports in Australia to get the conversation and action going. Big shout out to Jasper, Tom and the team at Footy for Climate!

Climate change can be overwhelming. How do you stay positive and what motivates you to keep being an advocate?

I run a lot.

Bob Brown has always said, don’t get depressed, get active.

You got to turn that negative energy into positive action, there is a way everyone can do that. It takes curiosity to find out what that way is for you.

I also strongly believe getting outside, away from screens and being in wild places is a real motivator. You protect what you are connected to.

So GO OUTSIDE MORE! And let nature do it’s thing.

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