Bounding Plains to Share
4000km Run for Refugee Awareness
Bounding Plains To Share (or BP2S) is a 4000km run down the east coast of Australia from Cooktown, QLD to Melbourne, Vic. The trip, raising funds and awareness for Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) is being completed by two young Australian's; Cassie Cohen, 22 and Jackson Bursill, 24. Along with the goal of running almost a marathon a day for 100days, the duo are sharing a story of a former refugee to help celebrate Australia's multiculturalism. After just passing the halfway mark of their epic journey, Cassie shares the story so far..
Tom Dunn: To you, what is Bounding Plains To Share?
Bounding Plains To Share: To us, Bounding Plains to Share is a chance to showcase Australia’s multicultural diversity, one story at a time. We both love taking on massive endurance challenges, and we came up with the idea of tying in this crazy run with something that was about more than just us. It’s inspiring to meet so many remarkable people who have come to Australia, and who are now giving so much back to our communities. Having been on the road for almost two months now, we’ve realised that most people who hold strong views against multiculturalism simply haven’t been exposed to many people from different backgrounds. Often, this can mean that their views are informed by whatever media they digest. The aim of our project is to use our online platforms to introduce Australians to people with refugee or migrant backgrounds who live in their local area. We’re saying, ‘these people are your neighbours, your kindergarten teacher, your aged care worker, your surgeon and they’re actually not that different to you.’
TD: You've covered almost 2,300km in 52 days so far (hitting the NSW border on day 47), I assume you've settled into a bit of a daily routine by now?
BP2S: Yes, we’d like to think so! We spoke to a few people who had taken on similar challenges before we started, and they all said that the first couple of weeks would be the toughest, as the body gets used to the workload. That was definitely the case. About a week in, we were both feeling pretty sore and wondering if we’d get to Melbourne, but it turns out that the trick is just to keep on running! Since we’re running in the heat of the Australian summer, our daily routine is pretty much set around trying to avoid running in the hottest part of the day. When we were in Queensland, we were waking up at 3am for a 4am start. Now that we’re in New South Wales, the clocks are an hour forward, so a 4am alarm time feels like a sleep in! We’re usually finished running by 10 or 11am, after about 5 or 6 hours of running, and then it’s stretching and recovering for about half an hour. After that, we usually go to wherever we’re staying that night – either a friend’s place or a caravan park – to set up the camper trailer we sleep in. Then it’s either finding people to interview or editing the stories we’ve collected so far so we can make sure we always have a story ready to go each day. We aim to be in bed by 8 or 9pm each night, so it’s a bit of a different schedule to most!
TD: What's been the toughest day of the journey so far?
BP2S: We have different opinions on this! For me, it was probably day 3, which was our day in the Daintree Rainforest. We had to do most of the day unsupported because we were running on a 4WD track that was unsuitable for our car and trailer, so my dad (our support driver at the time) had to drive 5 hours to take an alternative route. It was seriously humid up there, and we were just drenched in sweat, but we only had limited water to get us through. The day also had about 1300m of vertical climbing over 42kms – there were these huge hills that seemed to go forever. In hindsight, it was really beautiful and an amazing experience, but it was pretty tough at the time!
Jackson’s toughest day was day 8 into Babinda. It wasn’t so much the conditions, but he had a lot of knee soreness that day, and he was in a lot of pain. I think it took heaps of courage for him to pull through that day. We had a walking rest day into Innisfail the next day, and that seemed to fix things up a bit.
TD: Tell me about the origin of BP2S. Did the idea form purely as a way of supporting ASRC, or was the trip an idea you already had before then choosing ASRC to benefit?
BP2S: That’s an interesting one! It all kind of happened at the same time. We wanted to take on a crazy endurance challenge that involved going from one side of the country to the other, and we thought, ‘Hey, what a great way to show Australians how much space we have to welcome people from different backgrounds!’ As the ASRC provides advocacy and support for people seeking a new and safer life in Australia, it seemed like the perfect fit.
TD: The choice to run 4,000km through the Australian summer to most people would seem like an impossible task. What made you excited about the trip, and was it a passion for running that kept you committed to the idea?
BP2S: Yes, plenty of people told us we were taking on an impossible task, but – to be honest - that probably only made us more determined to get there. We’re possibly a little bit stubborn! We do both love running, but the passion came more from the opportunity to share the stories of the people we’re meeting along the way. When we’re running, we’ve got hydration packs, and a support crew to stop and top up our water and give us food when we need it. We’ve met former refugees who have told us how they had to walk 1000kms between countries in Africa to seek refuge from civil wars. They didn’t choose to take on a challenge. No one was following them on social media and providing them with support along the way. They just wanted to save their families. For us, that puts it all in perspective, and keeps us committed to continuing the journey and sharing the stories.
It is also a chance to illustrate what humans are capable of if they have enough self-belief to give something a go. We’ve both commented that everyone seems to think we’re crazy to take on a challenge like this, but we reckon plenty of people could do it if they were prepared to give it a go. Before this, I’d never run an official marathon. My family said ‘You’ve never even run a marathon, how do you know you can run 100 in a row?’ And I replied, ‘I don’t know if I can. That’s why it’s called a challenge.’ Hopefully we can inspire a few people out there to reach their full potential by taking on something (not necessarily running 4000kms!) they never thought was possible.
TD: What would you consider to be the success marker for the trip? Fundraising, awareness, or just making it to Melbourne alive?
BT2S: Haha, making it to Melbourne alive would be great! Our aim is to tell the stories in a way that resonates with all Australians, and prompts them to pause and consider the positive impact that multiculturalism has had on our country. We’ve had some conversations with people along the way who you’d probably describe as anti-immigration, and rather than trying to tell them what to think, we’ve just shown them some of the stories. In most instances, they’ll say things like ‘Oh, aren’t they lovely! Those ones are ok!’ We’re not trying to change the world; we just want to give it a gentle nudge. While most people who take on these challenges do them as fundraisers, our main focus is the storytelling, while the fundraising is more of an added bonus.
TD: Running along the east coast of Australia is a pretty spectacular backdrop, what's been your favourite experience so far?
BP2S: We’ve run through some beautiful places – the Daintree Rainforest, the Whitsundays and the Sunshine Coast all spring to mind. We’ve also spent about 30 days on the Bruce Highway, so don’t be too jealous! One of the best things about running through Tropical Queensland was the abundant fruit growing on trees. There are mango trees on every corner! Everywhere we went, people would give us mangoes because they just didn’t know what to do with them all. We’re going to struggle when we have to start paying for mangoes again! One day, we happened to finish our run at a melon farm, and the owner drove past to check that we were ok. Once we explained our project, he said, ‘Well, I’m half Spanish!’ and handed over two boxes of melons that were so heavy they weighed down the car!
TD: How are you going spending all day next to each other? Are you noticing annoying habits or wishing you were running by yourself?
BP2S: Haha, I guess I’ll answer for both of us… We’re definitely getting to know each other pretty well! 100 days is a long time to spend with the same person, but it’s also a lot of fun to share the experience with someone. I wouldn’t have wanted to run by myself. We tend not to talk too much when we’re running, just because we’re trying to conserve our energy. Usually, it will be me who will say ‘Ooh, look at that sign!’ or ‘This is quite nice’ and Jackson will say ‘Hmm, yeah.’ Other times, Jackson will want to discuss the mechanics of the Tesla (his dream car) for the last 5 kilometres, so I’ve learnt a fair bit about electric cars. He daydreams a lot while we run. One time, he’d been silent for a while, and then he revealed a fully thought out plan for a new political party full of economists, which he’d call ‘The Force’. Five or six hours allows for a lot of thinking time… possibly too much!
TD: What gear do you carry each day?
BP2S: We carry about two or three litres of water mixed with electrolytes, which we top up after the first two hours and then every hour after that. We also eat 2-3 muesli bars and some chips during the run. Running in the summer, sun protection is a must, so we’ve got some pretty loud fluoro legionnaires hats. We’ve actually had a few enquiries from people wanting to know where we got the hats from, so if nothing else, we might emerge from Bounding Plains to Share as legionnaires hat models… what a claim to fame. We’ve also got 6 pairs of shoes that are labelled Monday to Saturday, and then Sunday is a wildcard day where the least worn pair of shoes gets another turn.
TD: Imagine for tomorrow's run you can have the company of anyone in the world, and have one luxury item waiting for you at the end of the day. Who and what do you choose?
BP2S: Interesting! We had a ‘runterview’ (a live interview while running) with a Nepali migrant in Cairns, and that was awesome, so we think it would be someone like former Vietnamese refugee Anh Do, who we could interview as we run. He’d also be able to entertain us! We’d love to have him run with us in Sydney in a couple of weeks. In terms of a luxury item, it’s hard to go past the chocolate milk and ice cream combo that we have most days! We’ve also become a bit hooked on the trendy acai bowls in beachside towns. Crocodile and stinger free beaches are always great too!
TD: Are you imagining the finish line? What's it going to feel like running those final few kms?
BP2S: Yes, we’re looking forward to it! We’re hoping we’ll get some people running with us for the final few kilometres into the ASRC in early March (check in on our Facebook page for more info closer to the date). It will be probably be quite overwhelming to finish, and to know that we won’t have a 3am wake up for a run the following morning! It will be very special, and we look forward to celebrating with our family and friends, as well as the extremely supportive staff at the ASRC, and of course, all the remarkable refugees and migrants who we’ve met along the way.
TD: What's been the biggest lesson you've learnt about yourselves so far?
BP2S: For me, I’ve learnt that I’m capable of a lot more than I realised. There have been plenty of challenges along the way. Last week, we had to swim across a river because the bridge had been destroyed. We’ve faced significant heat and humidity. We’ve juggled running with interviewing, editing and writing the stories. We’ve become pros at setting up and packing down the camper trailer. Many of these things are pretty new to me and it’s exciting to see how far you can push yourself when you venture outside your comfort zone.
Jackson has learnt that by just keeping on going, injuries he would normally have stopped or rested for can and do actually get better, despite the continuous load. More than before, he believes that running is the activity that our bodies were built to do for long periods of time. He’s also learnt to appreciate just how unique every refugee and migrant story is.
TD: What's the final message you'd like to leave people with?
BP2S: We want to encourage Australians to get to know the people in their community, particularly those with a refugee or migrant background. The people we’ve interviewed so far have all been outstanding community members. They’re our nurses, our teachers, our doctors, our disability workers and our budding politicians. Imagine if one of our followers saw a story we’ve posted of someone in their community, and reached out to that person to get to know them on a personal level. We’ve got so much common ground as a human race. Let’s celebrate it and get to know each other a little better!
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