Monday, November 18, 2013

The State of the Trails

Reforestation Camp Trails, Green Bay
Now there's a question for a geologist and environmental consultant...do trail races result in unnecessary damage to the environment? People get pretty wound up about this, as it has been noticed in some recent discussions about qualifying races.

So what's the answer? No trail races? Should everyone just run on treadmills? Oh wait that uses electricity powered by coal plants. And likely the treadmill is in some concrete structure changing earth's albedo. So that doesn't help. Running on the roads presents many of the same issues with the concrete jungle. Then there are all the people that drive to trailheads. Now its not even just the trails that are damaged. These people, myself included, are just really out to get Mother Earth I guess. You could literally go in circles for months discussing which form of running creates the least amount of environmental impact.

Imogene Pass, Imogene Trail Run...seriously everyone
should experience this at some point in their life!
There are always going to be a few people who can't be bothered to throw out their gel packets at aid stations, who prefer to shortcut trails and in general don't respect trails. You're never going to completely solve this problem. But I think in general when you get someone in their first trail race and they see how unbelievably beautiful it is this person gains a new respect for trails and their environment. You can show pictures and talk a big game all you want, but the best way to get someone to understand is to show it to them. I'll never forget my first trail run. Now I didn't immediately run home and volunteer to help rebuild trails or make any sort of conscious effort to protect the trails. But it gave me a new appreciation for trails and I knew I wanted to run trails for a long time to come. I knew I always wanted there to be places like the Reforestation Camp trails we ran in college. I remember in one of my first trail races crested the top of Blue Sky basin and literally having to stop for a moment to take in how amazingly beautiful the view was. I had run a load of races in some pretty cool areas, but nothing captured my heart like trails.

This is my view of environmental impact - cleanup of a pipeline release
 
As someone who spends the majority of their weeks working on cleaning up petroleum hydrocarbon leaks from above ground and underground storage tanks I think there are bigger battles to fight than the environmental impact from trail races. I try to pick up pieces of gel wrappers I see on the ground when I'm out running. I throw out all my wrappers at aid stations, carry my own water bottle, I try to avoid muddy trails, don't shortcut trails...all the typical respect the trails things. But I'm also not going to start boycotting races with too large of fields (I may focus on smaller races just from personal preference) and I'm not going to start getting on races to reduce their impact. I've got bigger battles of my own to fight so I'll continue to do my small part and call it good. In my humble opinion the benefits of trail races outweigh the downfalls. 

Long live trail races!

Week November 11 - 17
Miles Running: 48.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 7.0
 

 


Another amazing trail view!

 

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