Environmentally Sustainable Running

Do you think about how your trail running affects the world around you and that of generations to come? You should, right? Sustainable running is the topic of this, the first post in iRunFar’s Earth Week series dedicated to discussing trail running and the environment. The post is primarily meant to get all of us thinking about the biggest effects we, as trail runners, have on the environment, as well as share 12 Rules on the Run that can guide us in our daily running.

While pretty much anything a person does has consequences on the environment, below are some of the biggest impacts trail running has on the environment.

  • Travel. Whether it’s firing up the car to drive three miles to the trail head, taking weekly trips to the mountains, or flying to the races in the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, our travel comes at a price.
  • Food. Those extra calories we burn on the trail have to come from somewhere and all calories don’t come with equal environmental costs.
  • Gear. We should consider the amount of gear we purchase, how long we use it, as well as the construction and transportation of that gear.
  • Footprints. Where we tread and when we do so can greatly effect the vitality of the places where we run.

What do you think are the biggest impacts us trail runners have on the environment? Have you changed any aspect of your own trail running after considering your the effect you had on the environment? Any tips for how we can leave a lighter footprint while out on the trail? Please share!

For guidance in our everyday trail running, the American Trail Running Association (ATRA) has developed its Rules on the Run, which promotes respect for the environment, as well as other trail users. In drafting these rules, the ATRA attempted to embrace Leave No Trace principles while also consulting the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Rules of the Trail. Please read these 12 rules and keep them in mind any time you hit the trail.

  1. Stay on the trail.
  2. Run over, not around obstacles.
  3. Run only on open, officially-designated trails.
  4. Respect animals – both wild and domestic.
  5. Keep you dog on a leash.
  6. Don’t startle other trail users.
  7. Be friendly and courteous.
  8. Do not litter!
  9. Run in small groups. (See Anthony Portera’s post on this topic.)
  10. Be thoughtful and proactive regarding your own safety.
  11. Do not take or disturb natural objects along the trail.
  12. Give back by maintaining the trails, which can prevent erosion, detrimental trail detours, and other environmental degradation.

You can the full text of Rules on the Run over at Nancy Hobbs’s blog, which was previously a weRunFar feature.

Are there any other rules that we should observe when on the trail?

There are 3 comments

  1. Sara

    Happy Earth Day/Week/Life!I love your Green Theme this week, Trail Goat. Great idea!One of my favorite things about trail running is that it brings me into (at least somewhat) natural environments on a regular basis, which makes me appreciate nature much more than I probably would. A lot of our modern world depresses the hell out of me, but I've gotten better at being positive. It helps a ton to hear that so many kids are very into protecting the environment. They are growing up Green, and this gives me lots of hope! A lot of things are really changing for the better, yay!Also, a good book about hopeful initiatives around the world is The Geography of Hope, by Chris Turner.

  2. Trail Goat

    Sara,I'm glad you like this week's topic. It's been something I've been thinking about for months and I've been collecting ideas over that time. Entering natural environments is definitely a big draw of trail running. While I don't hit the trail as often as I'd like, I find my encounters with the natural world where I can. For instance, just last night I saw a fox while running on a paved bike path late in the evening. I've seen Pense', as I've come to call him, before. We have a routine. I run up the path with him on the west side. He scampers across the path and stops to look. As I come closer, he trots closer to the tree line. We both stop and look at each other. Neither of us is staring, we are investigating one another. After a couple seconds, Pense' hops in the underbrush before wandering off. It makes my night every time this happens.

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