Environmentally Sustainable Running

Do you think about how your trail running affects the world around you and that of generations to come? You […]

By on April 21, 2008 | Comments

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?

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Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.