I’m teaching an environmental philosophy senior seminar at Sterling College this semester titled Posthumanism. The premise of the course is to think about how it might change our relationship with both one another and with the non-human world if we reframed our perspective to no longer see humans at the center of the world.


We begin our twice-weekly foray into the posthuman by dipping into the Copernican revolution and the rise and deconstruction of Cartesian dualism and build a scaffold of phenomenology and postmodernism to empower us to blur the boundaries between the human and the non-human.

To ask, quite literally, where do you end and where does the world begin? 

Throughout the course, we summarily explore the end of nature, the demise of metanarratives, the slipperiness of fact and truth, the ineffectiveness of language, and sometimes get very very depressed.

In those moments of existential despair, though, we come back to time and again the idea that we are ultimately, bodily, inextricably connected with the world and everything and everyone else in it — and if we can learn to accept and embrace that connection, we can strengthen our relationships with one another first.

The key to understanding posthumanism, it turns out, is first understanding how we can be more human, more civil, more caring toward one another.

Only then, I believe, can we make any meaningful lasting change for a more resilient and positive future.


every step

I’m procrastinating a little.

It’s day two of our January thaw.

It’s 48 degrees and raining, which has glazed the 4th-class gravel road in front of our house with a sheen of mottled gray ice.

So, I’m less excited to get out there and put in the miles today, but I know I need them — as do my dogs, Dragon and Freyja, who will eventually lose their patience with my lassitude. IMG_8578

For the time being, I have been reflecting on and planning for running instead. I’ve been dividing 272 by various single digit numbers — 9, 8, 7 — realizing that only 4 extra miles per day can help me complete the Long Trail in 8 days rather than 9. Is that possible, for me?

I pushed to near 40 miles for a day or two of my Arctic Trail run last August, but then I also called it quits after only half the total distance because of a stress reaction in my leg. More training? The variables in Vermont are different, the goal distance overall is shorter, but the terrain more demanding.

I’ve also never ridden a bike 200 miles in one go. I’m confident, though that the training I started in December will make that possible for me.

Every step of every run I take is so deeply interbraided with these questions, with self-doubt, as well as with the hopes, aspirations, and insights I gain from reflecting on the why of it all.

Some of that why is this:

Experiencing our full humanity requires us to attenuate our self-centeredness by enfolding it within a much wider sense of self in which we experience genuine love and compassion for all beings, both living and non-living.

This excerpt from a short essay by Stephan Harding is part of a response to the question, “What does it mean to be human?” Harding draws on Arne Naess’s idea of an ecological self — one that is larger than just our individual self that encompasses the whole of the human and non-human worlds.

I share Stephan Harding’s belief that

…the most pressing challenge for our times is to awaken the ecological selves of as many people as possible within the shortest possible time.

This is exactly why I’ve come to do the things I do —

If I can connect my footfall on the icy gravel outside my own door to my more far-flung adventures in the Arctic to conversations with middle-school students about climate change to, finally, building resilient communities, I hope that I can help awaken at least some of our collective ecological selves.

Now, time to strap on the microspikes and get out that door.






When I was in London for a few days with my son Orion after the 2016 Keswick Mountain Festival, we stopped in at the Charing Cross Road Foyle’s Books and its overwhelming kilometers of shelves. As much as I wanted half the books in the store, we agreed to limit ourselves to one book each.

My choice was The Path: A New Way to Think About Everything, by Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh. I don’t typically opt for books in the ‘self-help’ category, but this one caught my attention partly because of its attention to the idea of small, daily rituals — those things we may believe are inconsequential, pointless, or irrelevant.

Drawing on Chinese philosophers from Confucius and Mencius to Laozi and Zhuangzi and others, The Path points out that we do not need “a radical new plan for how to live and how to organize the world,” but rather, we should pay far greater attention to the “mundane aspects of daily life” and that “we create the Way anew every moment of our lives.”

It can be easy for me to lose sight of the essential role our daily routines play in helping reach long-term goals; sometimes the mundanity of the quotidian even seems to get in the way of what I want to do in the long run.

Simply making a long-term goal isn’t enough. It’s the thousands of tiny steps between here and there — the daily rituals — that can make nearly any goal attainable.

January 1st is just around the corner, and with it, an opportunity to reframe, reground, and reassess both what we plan for and what we do every day. This year, I meet the start of the new year with a renewed drive and passion for Climate Run projects, and, honestly, more than a little anxiety.

In 2018, the 4th year of Climate Run, I have my sights set on two adventures:

First, in late June, I will get on a bike at the Vermont / Canadian border and ride, non-stop, the 200 or so miles to the southern end of the Long Trail on the Massachusetts state line, and then run back up to Canada — effectively completing a round-trip of nearly 500 miles in about 10 days.

I’m stoked to bring Climate Run to Vermont and share not only stories of the experience, but also the ride and run themselves with others. Do you want to join me for a day? for a few miles? at a road crossing? Let me know! It’s been great to have the support of so many over the past 3 years, and it will be even better to see you all out on the roads and trails of Vermont!

Second, I will be headed back to Scandinavia where, just before teaching a field course in northern Norway with Sterling College, I will spend a few days in the Faroe Islands. There, in late July, and with fingers crossed for reasonable weather, I plan to summit the highest peaks on 7 of the archipelago’s islands (each over 700 meters in elevation) in a single long day — a total of more than 50 km of running and nearly 16,000 ft of elevation gain.

Super exciting to think about (& many more details to come soon!) — but knowing the work I need to do every single day to be able to reach these goals is terrifying.

My hope is that I can keep these huge goals in mind while really keeping a steadfast focus on the daily work — the rituals — they require…and through that work to collect and share stories of the many, many steps along the way.



I completed my 12th ultramarathon race last weekend — the 32 mile TARC Fells Winter Ultra Trail Race just north of Boston, MA. It wasn’t my fastest race (not by far), but I had fun, finished it in good style, and was honored to share the experience with 5 of my student athletes from Sterling, each of whom pushed themselves to meet or exceed the goals they had set for themselves. They have so much to be proud of, and had a great close to the season.

Each year at about this time, I start seriously planning the coming year’s adventures — poring over maps, reading descriptions, checking airfares. The snow has started falling in earnest, and I’ve already been out skiing nearly a dozen times with the anticipation of dozens more.

But I can’t help but think, where will running take me in 2018? 

Sometimes looking forward, though, means looking both inward and back.

When I was first hired at Sterling College in 2006, I had the honor to work with Will Wootton, the College’s President from 2006-2012, and this week I had the great fortune to attend a reading of Will’s new book, Good Fortune Next Time, which weaves together heartfelt stories of horse-packing and wrangling with the administration of small New England colleges.

Just after I left the bookshop, I turned on the overhead light in my truck and paged through the index to see if I had made it into the book somewhere, and there I was, on the top of page 198.

I was floored. I beamed. I smiled broadly to myself.

Then my heart started to settle. Deep into the pit of my insecurities.

Was I really those things? Was I still that person? Did the words of this man, whose opinion I valued so much and whose perspective I so deeply appreciated, match with the person into whom I had grown in the years since he hired me as dean in 2007?

Ambitious. That word stands out more than any other on that page. It’s also the word with the most subjective meaning. Many people look at the kinds of things I do and can’t even begin to understand the drive to run hundreds of miles at a stretch or to connect running, teaching, advocacy, and love of the wildness of far-flung places to help build some sort of climate resilience.


In its etymology, ambition refers to the ambit, the circuit one walks in order to achieve a goal (or solicit votes, support, or some distinction). Quite literally, then, endurance running is the very definition of ambition.

It’s often very easy for me to convince myself that the goals I set for myself are largely insignificant.

So, what will 2018 bring? Sharing that will have to wait. First off, I’m taking December off from training — the first extended break from active training since 2014. It feels important right now to step back and take in the larger picture and figure out how I can match my drive for doing with being the best person I can be.

Come January, I think I’ll be ready to see what ambit awaits.

What does success look like?

At midday on August 3rd, day 3 of my Arctic Trail Run, I emerged from what felt like an interminable 25 km stretch that alternated between cruising through acres of fjellbjørkeskog — forests of gnarled mountain birch, stumbling through thickets of overgrown willow canes, and feeling the bounce underfoot of sunken bridges crossing bogs nearly without end. All with the steady whine of a posse of mosquitoes always in my wake.


Leaving the forest on the way back to Norway. Day 3

This less-traveled section of the Nordkalottleden as it diverges from the Kungselden east toward Norway still wore the patchy vestments of the year’s late winter snowpack: a bridge unhinged from its moorings and scattered along a half kilometer of river bank; grasses brown and laid flat by snowfields only just melted away; snow melt coursing down sloping trails leaving traces deep with slick mud; and everywhere painted in a gradient of seasons from leaf to flower to bud to snow.

Here, in the land of the midnight sun, I am surprised by the tenacity of snow, but no longer by the countless unnamed, unmapped streams nor by the sodden ground left in their wake.

Later in the afternoon, I descend into a wide plain of lakes, rivers, heath, and bog. The trail takes me across a bridge over the Suollagajåhkå river and then sweeps across a raised plateau of arctic birch and bog. I had studied this section of trail in satellite photos and maps for hours, looking for a trail junction. I knew it would be hard to find, and under a warming sun, alone in a landscape suddenly bereft of vertical relief, I miss the unsigned, unmarked and seldom trodden turnoff and have to retrace at least 2 km until I finally manage to match the map to my GPS to the terrain before me.


The trail dissolves. Day 3.

After reversing course, I find myself, finally, fording the broad Valldajåhkå and beelining through an unmarked bog toward the first sign I’d seen in hours — a reassuring reminder that I was still headed the right way. Relieved, I stop for a minute, have a handful of cashews, put the valley behind me, and begin a long, sinuous ascent northward back and forth across the border and towards my first resupply at the end of 200 k.



A sign. Day 3.

I do not yet know that I will face an uncrossable river later that night at 11:00 pm, nor that the tingling in my left shin will evolve into a full-fledged debilitating injury over the next two days.

For the moment, I’m happy to move beyond the valley and back into a landscape of granite and snow and silence and a sun growing lower in the west.

Sometimes, I find success in these moments — traversing a bog, following an unmarked trail, finding a trail marker.

Sometimes, success is an embrace of humility and an acceptance of our limits.


“The humility of the flower at treeline opens the way up the mountain.” Dag Hammarskjøld. Day 8.

The Resolution of Experience: The 2017 Arctic Trail Run

Under a low gray sky and into a steady soaking rain at 9:30 on the morning of August 1st, I set off from the Den Norske Turistforening / DNT hut at Ny Sulitjelma, planning a run of 50k by day’s end. After climbing the 400 meters to a high pass between Norway and Sweden, I soon realized that I’d be facing not only the weather, but a snowy spring and cold summer had left behind a deep snowpack, buried trail markers, and rivers overwhelmed with meltwater.

IMG_5439 (1).jpg


In short order, I rolled up my running pants, forded two rivers of knee-deep meltwater, crossed undermined snowfields, and waded through countless shoe soaking streams.

All in the first 5 kilometers.

Conditions, I learned later, were more typical of June than August.


typical trail conditions on day 1

Nonetheless, 50 kilometers and many many wet hours later, I was setting up my tent in a slackening rain on a flat section of sodden heath on a Swedish hillside.


making camp, 11:00 pm, day 3

I knew I had four consecutive 50-65 km days through similar alpine terrain (and its associated lowland bogs), weaving back and forth across the Swedish/Norwegian border before my first resupply, but I knew at the end of that first day that this was going to be a run unlike any I’d attempted before — it was my first extended self-supported stage run, which was itself an added layer, but so many other challenges presented themselves one after another:

  • The trail-less expanses of springy heath, depthless moss and bog;
  • The miles of overgrown willow canes crossing the narrow path;
  • Suffering through 18 hours of GI distress on day two;
  • Waist-deep fords of class II rapids;
  • And, finally, and most severely, a mounting pain and swelling in my left shin that started late on day 4 and grew progressively more acute with every step.

It was this humbling, hobbling, often searing pain that eventually convinced me that 8 days and 360 km were enough when I reached my family in Abisko, Sweden.


Solitude standing: on the border of Sweden and Norway, day 3

I had set out with the intention of running the whole of the Nordkalottleden over 12-14 days, and when I considered stopping early as I ran the last 70 km along the Kungsleden, I weighed a few things:

  1. Pain was really keeping me from finishing my 50 km days in good style and was distracting me from my focus on the landscape surrounding me.
  2. I had already completed what was arguably the most challenging and beautiful section of the trail along the Norwegian/Swedish border during days 3-6.
  3. I had found what I had come to the Arctic to find. Further mileage would no doubt have added to the adventure, but as it was, the layers of experience and depth of learning were profound and will take time to understand and appreciate.
  4. The past year — and the coming months of writing and sharing stories, pictures, and video — are both as important as the run itself. I’ve already started the work of building conversation across communities, countries, and ideologies. I cannot wait to do dive in fully — this is where the essential work of Climate Run happens.

Crossing the Sieberjåhkå, day 2

Each day I continue to be more grateful to everyone I met and talked with along this journey and to everyone who has continued to be so supportive. There is so much to share and so many stories to tell. I’ll share some of them here, others in pictures on Facebook or Instagram, and still more in what is quickly becoming a larger writing project that will tie together CR 2016: Iceland, CR 2017: Arctic Trail, and many other experiences in something resembling a book.

More about that later! 🙂


Midnight sun on the shores of Sijdasjávrre, day 4


Climate Run — Here we go!

Tomorrow morning I leave from the southern terminus of the Nordkalottleden just north of the old mountain mining town of Sulitjelma. Nearly a year of preparation – physical, logistical, mental, financial – all lead to this singular effort: to run the 800 kilometers of the Nordkalottleden in good style, with reasonable speed, and without injury or incident.

You can follow my progress on my online map here.

I could not have made it this far without the support I’ve had through the past year of training and preparation. I’m grateful beyond words to so many, and I am inspired by the dozens of people running and walking along with me for the next two weeks. I can hardly wait to get back and share all the stories!

But first, there’s work to be done.

See you all soon ❤



Melt: Dispatches from the High Arctic

On our last full day in Svalbard, Orion and I made a wide arc across the ridges east and south of Longyearbyen yesterday, covering the summits of Sukkertoppen, Gruvefjellet, Trollsteinen, and Lars Hiertafjellet, while arcing across the ridge behind the glacier, Larsbreen.

The skies were the clearest of our week-long visit here, and the views were incomparable, with endless ridges of glaciated peaks and valleys newly tinted green. While our eyes and imagination were drawn to distant horizons, the one constant throughout the day was most often just underfoot — the sound, presence, and often, unfortunately, palpable cold of running water. Everywhere — under the snow, atop the hard ice of the glacier, meandering through swales of fine silty moraine — it was the braiding of these many streams that heralded the warmth of this Arctic summer day.

Melt is, of course, an essential annual event for the Arctic — allowing a few short weeks in which millions of migrating birds, resident reindeer, foxes, and hundreds of species of plants revel in the relative warmth of this briefest and most intense of summers.

One can’t help, though, but place this annual flood in the context of our warming global climate — in which for instance, between June and August 2015, in Svalbard alone, glaciers lost four and a half million metric tons of meltwater every hour, and billions of tons of glacial ice are lost each year to global warming.

Like many aspects of the Arctic, this is nearly impossible to imagine, but being here, seeing both the immutable beauty of the hard blue ice of Larsbreen and Longyearbreen and the power of their melting waters, helps to bring this imagined world into clearer focus.

Melt from Pavel Cenkl on Vimeo.

Ready? …Set? …Run!

The countdown is on — wheels up for Scandinavia on July 16th, and Climate Run 2017 gets underway on the morning of August 1st!

We’ve been scouring online and paper maps of Norway, Sweden, and Finland to make sure every one of the 800 kilometers is accounted for.

Much of the trail is visible in hi-res satellite photos, but it often disappears in low-lying woodlands and snowier highlands. Regardless, Den Norske Turistforening (DNT)Svenska Turistföreningen, and all have fantastic map resources, which have been helpful in plotting daily mileage goals.

The Arctic Trail Google map is shared and accessible, too.

Those goals right now average 35 miles per day, with a long day of 41.6 and a short day of 30.6 over 12 days. However, only ground-truthing the route will reveal the reality of what I’ve spent month planning; there are just too many variables to try to account for everything in a schedule.

Join the 2017 Climate Run! 

Support and enthusiasm for this project have really helped to motivate the long weeks of training over the past year — from the 500-mile challenge to generous donations and in-kind support — and I’d love to keep folks involved even more while I’m on the run.

I will be running for 12-14 days starting on August 1st, and I’m inviting everyone who is able to run at least a little every day that I’m on the trail.

You don’t need to run 35 miles a day (but of course you can…), but here are some suggestions:

  • If you don’t usually run, try to run or walk at least two miles a day (28 miles total)
  • If you already run regularly, try to run 5 miles a day (70 miles total)
  • If you’re a marathon/ultramarathoner, how about 10 miles a day (140 miles total)

Whatever you choose to do, just

  1. Drop a #verbal and commit to participating — setting goals and having group accountability really works!
  2. Post updates, share your progress, and let people know what you’re doing and why!
  3. Check in on how Pavel is doing 🙂

I’m looking forward to having as many running partners as I can when I set off on August 1st! 

Thanks so much to LLB for this great idea 🙂 



Field Testing

On Monday at about 5:00 pm, I took off for my first run with a full pack along the Monroe Skyline section of Vermont’s Long Trail. I followed the LT on a roughly 20-mile out-and-back section south from Appalachian Gap across some of the state’s highest peaks: Mount Ellen, Lincoln Peak, and Mount Abraham.


The Aarn Marathon Magic 33-liter pack weighed about 23 lbs fully loaded. I’ll need to add a layer of clothing or two for Scandinavia, but otherwise, everything else was accounted for:

The pack is *very* adjustable and took a few miles to get right, but for most of the 20 miles, everything fit well, and even over the technical terrain, I was able to maintain a reasonable pace.


For the first part of the afternoon, I affixed the solar panel to the back of the pack and was able to charge the tiny Go Pro camera at least a little. This will be much more effective in Scandinavia, where tree canopy will be largely absent. My plan is to charge the Recharger over the course of the day and recharge devices while I sleep — of course, the solar panel can do a fair bit of work overnight in the northern latitudes, too!


I’ve been trying out different foods, and I think I’ll stick to familiar things for the main meals and supplement with Norwegian-purchased snacks for daytime. Water is plentiful along the Arctic Trail, so dehydrated food will be one of the most efficient calorie sources, and powdered drink mix will be a great electrolyte supplement.

With only a month to go before the run, my emotional scale is tipped more on the side of ‘anxious’ than ‘excited,’ but I still feel on track and ready for the last weeks of training and planning before we leave on July 16th.

Thanks again, as always, for the support of all kinds I’ve gotten from friends old and new. This couldn’t happen without you! 🙂