How the Trail Running Scene Reignited David Byrne’s Stride
A chance encounter filming for The North Face 100 reignited Dave Byrne's passion for running which was rooted in track. Working the event gave him an insight into the world of trail running and the unique community built around it. Not long after he was proclaiming that he'd be running his own 100km trail race, not filming it. Hear how The North Face trail runner Dave Byrne made the switch from road to trail.
Words by David Byrne, Photos by Mark Watson.
Muddy trails; toiling up mountains covered in slushy snow; endless hours of shuffling; descents so steep you fear for your safety - these are just a few of the reasons why I run trail ultramarathons. You might think I’m a bit sadistic. Why would anyone want to put themselves through this kind of suffering? The reality is, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Those muddy trails lead to amazing places. The icy mountains you conquer become the stories you tell years later. Tackling gnarly terrain gives you an adrenaline rush, and the endless hours of shuffling eventually do end with a sense of accomplishment you can't match anywhere else.
It’s easy to understand why it’s not for everyone. It takes a particular type of personality to be up for a sport like this. You don’t have to be super human or even a particularly accomplished athlete to do it. You just need to have a willingness to push your mental and physical limits and an appreciation for the opportunity you’ve been given. For me, the appreciation for the opportunity is a big part of the motivation. I always remind myself that I’m lucky to be able to take on such challenges. I have my health, the time to do it and an incredible world in which to partake in my hobby.
My journey into the ultra trail running scene started as a track athlete. I loved the speed and competitiveness of athletics and was driven by achieving personal bests and the rewards of running well. For over a decade I considered myself a middle distance runner but at 26, despite only just getting to an age when I would be considered to be in my prime, I gave the sport away. Not through a loss of love for running, but largely from the need to make a change in my life. I shifted focus from physical pursuits to work and education.
What got me back into running was a chance opportunity to work at an ultramarathon. My production company was commissioned to film The North Face 100 Australia and as a ‘former’ runner I was excited by the chance to apply my trade to a sport I was passionate about. However, back in my track days I always looked at the trail and ultra world as being for old folks and hikers. I had the attitude that it was a sport for those who couldn’t cut the mustard in athletics or road running. Boy, was I completely wrong.
David Byrne running at Ultra Trail Australia, 2017 shot by Lyndon Marceau
While filming the race I was blown away with not only the environment the race took place in, but the incredible athletic performances. I also had my first taste of how supportive and positive the scene was. It was a combination of the people I met, the landscapes I saw and the athletic prowess of the pointy end that got me thinking this was an unreal space to be in.
So once the day of filming was over and we packed up the gear, I sat with my film crew at the Station Bar in Katoomba, drank many beers, ate a pizza and made the proclamation that I would someday run 100km. Move forward a few years and here we are. I’ve dragged myself over numerous mountains and trudged through countless muddy miles. On several occasions I’ve had to overcome my fears when faced with exposed, treacherous tracks. I have scars from falls, lost a few toenails and every morning I can barely walk thanks to chronic Achilles pain - and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Outside the competitive element of trail running, there’s the aspect of travel and adventure it allows. It’s a pursuit that takes you to amazing places and often gives you a chance to share the journey with like-minded people. One location I recently had the opportunity to pursue my passion in was Tasmania. It was the first place I travelled to as an athlete, when I went there as a primary school student to compete in the national cross country championships. Since that time I have returned on many occasions to fly fish and hike, and most recently I spent countless hours running on trails in pristine wilderness that’s unlike anywhere else in Australia. It’s a destination with unrivalled variety in the terrain you can run on. From rugged windswept coastline and dense rainforest, to rolling farmland and craggy alpine backcountry - in Tasmania you’re spoilt for choice.
Watch our Flight Series Athlete Test in Tasmania, Australia with David Byrne and Blake Hose.
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