Can you run forever in a few pairs of socks? Team Runner Tom Batrouney wanted to find out, so we slung him a bunch of fresh socks from our New Trail Collection, and cheered from the bushes as he literally ran laps around us at a local trail at Manly Dam in Sydney. Tom planned to run 10km laps around the Dam, for as long as he possibly could, maybe even forever. Three pairs of socks and 140km later, Tom called it a day — 36 hours after he started running. Below Tom writes about why he set this impossible goal and what running forever means to him.
PROJECT: RUN FOREVER
by Tom Batrouney
I always wanted to run forever.
Ever since entering the world of running on the school oval, it was always in the back of my mind. My body just wasn't built for speed. I knew this, but finding a distance long enough was almost as impossible as the concept of pushing myself to my very limit and beyond for, well, forever. Could I run forever? Haha, don't be ridiculous. That's what people would say so that's what I would say to myself.
Then I stumbled into the world of ultra-trail running. A world not so much about speed but using your body and mind to travel through nature over absolute mind-blowing distances.
I spent years in the bush training, on the physio table and in the gym, making myself indestructible physically and mentally. I spent time getting to know my body, what was strong and what was weak. A weakness in everyday life is fine but a weakness over 36 hours of running with no sleep will become the most painful experience of your life.
Tom hitting his stride during one of the easier sections of trail in his Run Forever route.
Nature has been a constant in my life. From watching every single animal documentary sitting on my Dad's knee to dedicating my life to protecting and promoting it, nature has always been there.
Every single thing I have in my life has come to me, not by luck but by impossibly hard work and lessons learnt in nature.
Nature has taught me when to be hugely powerful and confident but that it can reduce me to an adult man curled in a ball on the ground crying. It demands respect but needs care and there is a way to harness it to allow for all that is good in this world to flow into your life. The key is not nature, stay with me, the key is you, yep you, people are the key.
There was a rotating crew of trail lovers and friends who came down to support Tom in his attempt to run forever.
Absolutely everyone can do absolutely anything. It all just comes down to what you listen to, what you think and what you tell yourself.
Is running forever ridiculous? If so, why? What about when you were a kid and you didn't care what people thought. Was it ridiculous to climb that tree that everyone said you couldn't?
Things can only be ridiculous until you say you're doing them and then once you do that they go from ridiculous to an action, a movement or a conscious 'thing' you are doing. They transcend words and talk and enter the world as physical action and this is where I get really excited.
Tom hydrating and stretching the hips at the aid station after lap number 4... that is, over 40km into his run.
So why would I run forever? Why not — is really the best answer in the world. Why the hell not. All of the reasons not to, can become reasons to, if you attack them one by one, throw fake caution to the wind and are willing to face fears head on, over and over and over again until they become your best friends.
I set out at 7am on April 8th to run continuous 10km loops of Manly Dam on what was potentially the wettest day on record and my plan was to run forever.
What better way to test the new trail range. Lé Bent team runner Vlad Shatrov joined Tom for a few laps and wore the new Terra Ultra Light 3/4 Crew Trail Socks. After 30km — much of which underwater — they were not so 'winter white'. Tom's in the background wearing the slightly more cushioned Terra Light 3/4 Crew Trail Sock in Konbu Green.
I wanted to push myself so far beyond my physical and mental limits to show both myself and those I can reach, that our planet is worth fighting for. Not to sacrifice myself like a martyr but to show myself in my rawest, most beaten down, pure form because that is where the power is.
PROJECT: RUN FOREVER was something I could DO.
“This loop is, without doubt, one of the most challenging trails out there! It's constantly changing incline, direction and surface making rhythm difficult and adding to the difficulty of the challenge.
Then add in the conditions encountered, flooded, wet and rutted out! Constant focus was needed so as not to fall or get injured, sections of thick mud added additional fatigue, harder than the UTA100 for sure and reminded me of the 2018 Tarawera mudfest!." - Vlad Shatrov
Tom and Vlad quickly discovered what condition the trail was in — or rather, how much water it was under — after just 3km.
We set out with 3 goals, to keep me moving for as long as my body and mind would allow, to bring a community of people along for the ride and to raise a huge amount of money for two environmental groups doing critical work for the future of our planet. Spoiler alert, we did all three!
The first environmental group was For Wild Places. They are engaging the running and outdoor community to fall in love with nature and fight to keep wild places wild for future generations. It's a new brand of sports activism and man is it important.
The other group is Seabin, who are cleaning up our oceans. They're using upstream solutions to catch and analyse rubbish at the source, so that we can, for the first time in history, actually know what is in our harbours, rivers and lakes before it's out into the ocean where it becomes a vastly more difficult problem.
I grew up in the ocean surfing and have moved in and out of running on trails and have seen the effect of, well us, on these ecosystems. The relationship between land and sea is something I'm involved with daily and the small thing that I can do is to raise money and awareness for something that everyone cares about but not everyone knows about.
“To see the community of runners join in to do their bit was special! My team got so much out of it as I know Tom did too! A collective of like-minded individuals brought together on an awesome adventure." - Vlad Shatrov
People are great and I love absolutely everyone. I don't care what you do, what you look like or what the world thinks of you. We are all people, all the same, and love is really where everything that is good starts. If you love someone, you care about them, and if you care about them, then you care about what might happen to them and that right there is the best brand of environmentalism.
I’ve competed in and witnessed a few runs for environmental causes now and something really special happens when the purpose of the endurance feat lies far beyond the finish line. It’s difficult to put into words.
Tom slipping on a fresh pair of Light 3/4 Crew Trail Socks after 70km's in the Terra's.
Another Lé Bent team runner, Paige Penrose, joined Tom for a jaunt and to offer moral support.
"The look in Tom’s eyes after lap 5 was not that of someone who had run 50km of definitely not flat, dry trail and who had potentially hundreds of kilometres left," Said Paige.
"It was excitement!"
“The humans surrounding him handing him potato after potato, topped with a banana or two, finding him dry clothes, taping his feet, doing live videos with various brands and companies or arranging tv news coverage to spread the word further fed off and emulated that drive.
Yes, Tom achieved an immense physical performance but the message was clear without words — do not underestimate the power of individual action in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Especially when it comes to the planet." - Paige Penrose
Tom's young son cheering him over the start line for yet another lap. When you're running forever, there's no such thing as a finish line.
I love you! I love you so much that I want to fight so that you will at least have a chance to experience what I have in nature.
I ran for 140kms, 36 hours and pushed my body and mind to absolute breaking point.
I did it for me, so that I can learn and grow and be the change I want to see in the world and I did it for you to inspire you to do something that scares you knowing full well that you have absolutely no idea what you are truly capable of.
PROJECT: RUN FOREVER was a lifetime in the making and it was, without doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It was terrifying, horribly painful and dark but none of those things will kill you, they will just make you a much better version of yourself.
At the time of writing this, we are around $4k short of our $30k goal and donations are still open. Can you spare $23 to remove 250 plastic straws from Sydney Harbour or $250 to inspire a future sports activist?