Climate Action: Our Theme for 2020

The American Trail Running Association (ATRA), is proud to announce “Climate Action” as our theme for 2020. This important topic follows our recent annual themes including last year’s Trail Running Responsibly, 2018’s Trail Stewardship: Leaving a Lasting Legacy, and the 2017 theme, Community: Building Trail Running Connections.

At ATRA, our mission is to represent and promote the sport of mountain, ultra and trail running. This covers not just racing but trail running as a lifestyle — a healthy, outdoor activity for all age groups and ability levels. As part of our mission we also encourage trail maintenance, access to public lands, respect for all trail users and sustainable land use.

Our theme of Climate Action reflects our intent to educate our community about how climate change is affecting the sport of trail running. Over the past few years, many races have been cancelled because of fires and flooding, the root of which lies in extreme weather ostensibly caused by climate change.

In 2018, the deadliest fire in California history – the Camp Fire (photo above) – killed 85 people and caused 16.8 billion dollars in damage. Smoke from the fire was so heavy that it caused the North Face 50 Mile Endurance Challenge race 180 miles away to be cancelled.

Located along the Atlantic Coast, Seabranch Preserve State Park (pictured above) in Stuart, Florida has six miles of trails and provides a unique opportunity for runners to experience several different natural habitats including rare sand pine scrub, scrubby flatwoods, a baygall community and a mangrove swamp. Sea level rise threatens this habitat and could take much of Seabranch’s trail system out of use.

For the past several years, snowshoe races across New England have been more frequently cancelled or turned into trail races due to a lack of snow. As climate change warms the planet, many communities in the northern latitudes like New England are receiving less snowfall and experiencing warmer temperatures. After seeing a peak in participation in 2010, New England snowshoe races are attracting smaller field sizes and fewer events are being held due to lack of snow.

Throughout 2020 we will be sharing stories from trail runners, race directors and brands who are working to make a positive impact in the fight against climate change. Climate Action will also factor into our ongoing programming which includes sustainability guidelines for race directors, event standards program, our national directory of trail maintenance organizations and stories published in our Trail Times newsletter.

Adam Chase (pictured above left), ATRA President, observes, “It seems natural, as we deal with an immediate global emergency, to draw parallels between climate change and COVID-19 and recognize that both have very real, devastating impacts on our lives. Conversely, it has become that much more clear that how we lead our lives has a direct effect, albeit seemingly minor, when multiplied out over millions of individuals. And that is exactly why ATRA has chosen to endeavor to ‘flatten the curve,’ so to speak, taking a stand to try to slow or, optimistically, even reverse the negative trend through its Climate Action campaign.”

Terry Chiplin (pictured above right), Director of the US Trail Running Conference, adds: “ATRA has been an engaged leader at the forefront of trail running since 1996. I am excited to hear that this year’s theme is Climate Action, and look forward to this initiative developing and providing innovative education to make a positive impact to slow down climate change. I am also eager to work in partnership with ATRA on an effective and inspirational 2020 US Trail Running Conference that shares a parallel theme.”

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