Avid trail runners are in general also avid nature lovers who actually help raise awareness about the importance of preserving the integrity of parks and natural trails. For Team FitU, these are the same trails we go cross country or snowshoeing on all winter long.
Trail runners love and embrace nature at its most raw state. We like to say how trail running is the way running was meant to be! How, we run through natural paths as opposed to the road runners on their asphalted destructive man-made roads.
This is a most honourable concept and by now you are probably thinking that my answer to this month’s topic is an obvious no. Well, in reality it’s a timid and hopeful no.
The majority of trail races that I've taken part in were eco-friendly: recyclable or collapsible cups, trash collected on spot, respect of the natural tracings. Some organisers also ensure that portion of race fees is donated towards park preservation fund as well as limit the number of runners. But is that really enough? Here’s my definite No!
More needs to be done especially with the growing popularity of trail running. In Quebec alone, trail running has exploded in the past 15 years with over 50 events being held across the province in 2013.
We must preserve not only the trails we are running on but their surroundings which will inevitably be damaged by the growing number of participants and spectators. Are you driving to your race? Are you alone in the car and where will you park?
I've recently come across the "rules of running" posted by the American Trail Running Association as principles of trail running etiquette that foster environmentally-sound and socially-responsible trail running. http://www.trailrunner.com/news/trail_etiquette.htm. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any such rules in Canada. If they do exist, please let me know. I will then gladly send copies to certain race organisers who obviously chose profit above all other consideration.
I am thinking in particular about one of my favourite trail races which will no longer be held as organisers have decided to host obstacle races instead. This 2-day event will certainly attract close to 10,000 participants and spectators as opposed to the 1,500 runners who showed up this year to race to the top of the mountain. This weekend event alone will inevitably result in extensive damage to the natural trails that I love to run through. Those trails will be laden with corrosive obstacles and an extra load of mud and trash. Now, this is the real damage!
One thing remains obvious to me, it is up to us trail runners to take a stand and demand that all measures be taken to ensure that we are able to transmit our passion and our favourite trails to the many generations to come.
The way I see it: every step you take will inevitably leave a footprint so make sure it's erasable.