‘Running Up For Air:’ New Film, Jared Campbell Challenge Runners To Connect With Environmental Issues

Watch the new “Running Up For Air” film to learn about how Jared Campbell is leading the way in connecting runners with the critical issues of their environments.

By on April 12, 2024 | Comments

Jared Campbell may be best known for his truly ridiculous resume of endurance feats, to which he recently added a fourth finish of the Barkley Marathons. But I think the Utah-based father and engineer might prefer if you knew more about the nonprofit he founded, Running Up For Air, which aims to connect us runners with the environmental issues of the landscapes through which we run.

The new film “Running Up For Air,” by Patagonia and filmmaker Forest Woodward, tells the story of how Campbell recognized and chose to address one of his region’s most significant environmental issues, air pollution in the Salt Lake Valley of Utah.

RUFA - Running Up For Air film - title slide

Running Up For Air is an event that began on Grandeur Peak in Utah, and has expanded to several locations. All images are screenshots from the film “Running Up For Air.”

We learn that in 2012 Campbell and a couple of his friends ran up and down Salt Lake City, Utah’s iconic Grandeur Peak, in and out of the area’s air pollution for 24 hours, to help bring awareness of the issue to runners and the world beyond.

Breathing, we are told in the film, is a necessary element of being human — and a runner. Thus, an air-quality issue like that of Salt Lake City is not just a human problem, but a problem for our sport.

The mission started small, but its momentum built. Next came the nonprofit, and the original Running Up For Air race on Grandeur Peak, which asks other runners to engage with this environmental problem by raising money for local air quality nonprofits.

In the modern version of the event, now held each winter, several hundred participants race up and down the peak in race divisions between six hours and 24 hours in length. Along the way, runners gather pledges and make donations.

In the years since the first Running Up For Air event, the race series has expanded so far to seven events in four states. Virtual events also take place in countries around the world. Last weekend, in early April 2024, a new event launched in Moab, Utah.

The film tells us a global, virtual Running Up For Air challenge will take place in June 2024, and to watch the Patagonia website for details. This will allow even more folks to participate virtually.

RUFA - Running Up For Air film - Jared Campbell

Jared Campbell founded the Running Up For Air nonprofit and event series.

Campbell tells us that a race is a metaphor for working on an environmental problem:

“Everybody has a starting point. The first mile is often the hardest because your mind knows what’s ahead. It’s the preparation and seeing the big vision that keeps you going in those early miles. As you chip away at the thing, you find yourself 50 miles in, halfway through, right? And all of a sudden you can start to see where you’re trying to go. I love that process, from daunting and impossible, to counting down the final steps to the finish line. And I love that about anything that seems impossible. If you stop because your thought process is that your individual actions won’t by themselves produce change, we’ll never change.”

To date, the film shares, the nonprofit and its events have raised $482,000 and gathered the participation of more than 40,000 trail runners. Chipping away, indeed, until a bunch of small actions have added up to a lot. Watch the film, join in, and let’s all keep chipping.

RUFA - Running Up For Air film - running at night

Runners above Salt Lake City, Utah, at night.

Meghan Hicks

Meghan Hicks is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. She’s been running since she was 13 years old, and writing and editing about the sport for around 15 years. She served as iRunFar’s Managing Editor from 2013 through mid-2023, when she stepped into the role of Editor-in-Chief. Aside from iRunFar, Meghan has worked in communications and education in several of America’s national parks, was a contributing editor for Trail Runner magazine, and served as a columnist at Marathon & Beyond. She’s the co-author of Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running with Bryon Powell. She won the 2013 Marathon des Sables, finished on the podium of the Hardrock 100 Mile in 2021, and has previously set fastest known times on the Nolan’s 14 mountain running route in 2016 and 2020. Based part-time in Moab, Utah and Silverton, Colorado, Meghan also enjoys reading, biking, backpacking, and watching sunsets.