Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

 

 

 

 

Goals

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.

Faroe1

What do we love?

On my morning run today, knowing I might need some external motivation, I listened to last year’s interview with Sally McRae by Julia Hanlon on Julia’s Running on Om podcast. My tired legs may have yielded somewhat slower miles on that run, but Sally’s thoughtful reflections on her Western States 100 training led me onward through my 12 miles, and brought my thinking inward to reflect on this question: what do we love?

Some answers come easily.

    

Some do not.

The more I run, the more I seem to have conversations about things like passion and purpose, goals and direction.

Most recently, I told a friend that I wasn’t yet done becoming who I wanted to be. On reflection, what I think I really meant was, ‘I haven’t yet done all I can to be the best person I can be, and I want to take my time and enjoy the ride.’

We all follow very different paths, for sure, but for me it has often been a literal path — frequently uphill, nearly always layered with soil and lichen-covered stones, under a sky that is more often than not threatening rain.

What we all share, however, is that there is a path. And even when look ahead to see what’s next (I mean, of course we do!), it is the act of being on the path — and learning to acknowledge and love every step along the way — that is essential to keep us both rooted and moving forward. To quote a dog from a book that helped me through a particularly challenging moment in my life, “that which you manifest is before you.

When I ran in the 7.6-mile race up the Mount Washington Auto Road with some of our student-athletes, staff, and friends last weekend, I could not have been more proud to see my students come up the last 22% grade to the finish line — I could see them becoming more confident, becoming more self-assured, and becoming stronger with every. tired. step.

As I start the last hard training block for my Arctic Trail run, I have to keep my eyes steadfastly on today — on this run, this mile, this training session — while also planning for the 500-mile adventure I have ahead of me. Balancing those two — the moment and the thing-that-comes-next — is, for me, one of the hardest parts of training.

But it helps answer my question:

I believe we have to love the process of becoming — whatever path we choose to follow.

The Sterling Skyrunner extended family atop Mount Washington

Always learning: lessons from students

I’ve had a couple of terrific experiences with students over the past few weeks– from teaching a two-week intensive class titled Resilience, Complexity, and Flow at Sterling College–to meeting with hundreds of students at Cannon School in Concord, NC last week.

Each of these gave me a chance to have some powerful and important conversations about what it means to be resilient, and how being vulnerable can be a way to become more powerful in the face of a changing climate and changing world.

My Sterling class ended with a conversation about perception and the precarity of balancing between self and place. We are always, the students seemed to agree, both within the world and at its margins–there isn’t really any terra firma on which to stand and assess the world, as we are bound to it, ever in flux.

This didn’t mean, for most students, that there was no meaningful path forward. In fact, the path ahead seems clearer–in a world already pushing (and even beyond) the limits of social and ecological capacity and sustainability, by better understanding the complexity our world and by embracing our own vulnerability can we begin to build a more resilient future.

IMG_0779

After my presentation to middle school students at Cannon School, I was peppered with so many questions that we ran out of time! The students were so excited by my experience of running across Iceland and seemed to be looking for ways to connect Climate Run to their own experience of the world, that I could have talked with them all day!

It struck me that this was exactly why I was doing this–not only to share my experiences of endurance running and of seeing the effects of climate change firsthand, but to continue the conversation and to share and learn more about ideas of resilience and vulnerability from everyone I talk with–whether that’s a group of a dozen college students, or a room of 75 outdoor enthusiasts at the Green Mountain Club, or several hundred middle schoolers in North Carolina.

What I learn from each of these encounters can be just as meaningful and powerful as enduring hour mile after mile of unforgiving Arctic terrain.

IMG_0059

Rainbow from the top of Kaldidalur Pass

Beyond Ambivalence: Forward from Paris

zdxe1een

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change was finalized and shared with the public last week (much to the apparent celebration of many, ambivalence of some, and criticism of others). The very fact that there is such an agreement is clearly a necessary step for our global conversation about climate change, adaptation, and resilience. And of course, with any agreement of such global scope (even if unenforceable), compromises soften the emphasis, slow the pace, and lower the overall targets–far from the immediate, paradigm shifting agreement hoped for and advocated for by many.

The Agreement has been criticized, too, for being heavy on rhetoric and light on binding action.

There are a lot of details supporting the main emphasis of the agreement, but there are two parts of the Paris Agreement I find surprisingly thoughtful and full of hope.

The first is Article 7, Paragraph 5:

Parties acknowledge that [climate] adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate.

The second is Article 12:

Parties shall cooperate in taking measures, as appropriate, to enhance climate change education, training, public awareness, public participation and public access to information, recognizing the importance of these steps with respect to enhancing actions under this Agreement.

Article 7 recommends a decision making process vastly different from the one we are engaged in here in the U.S.: an inclusive, “participatory and fully transparent” process that acknowledges the complexities of climate issues and their roots in a combined system of social, economic, and ecological practice.

Article 12, in its entirely, is dedicated to a participatory education process and demonstrating the vital role played by individuals and the diverse communities affected by climate change–and not simply those largely responsible for it.

This may well be rhetoric, sure, but as words are our principal means to communicate, then maybe we can at least take solace in language that supports collaboration, engages diversity, and sets communities on a path toward greater resilience.

Acting on these words?

Well, that’s up to us.

 

 

still winter in the mountains

A few miles on the slopes of Mount Mansfield yesterday evening…

Names and Places

With only 75 days to go before my trans-Icelandic run, I found myself in Boston this past weekend—revisiting routes that I’d walked, run, biked and driven hundreds of times over the years. I grew up less than a mile from the route of the Boston Marathon through the City of Newton—a stretch of about four miles offering a parallel one-way Carriage Road that provides fantastic and safe terrain for training along one of the most storied race courses in history.

Few Boston area runners are not familiar with the second half of the marathon route: Washington Street to Comm. Ave; Comm. Ave to Beacon Street; right on Mass Ave; left on Boylston. And although I’ve never run the Boston Marathon, the race is without a doubt in my blood. Every Patriot’s Day, my family would walk over to watch the race—from the elites to the mid-pack runners—back in the day when there were just about 2,000 competitors and through the years of Bill Rodgers, Alberto Salazar, and Joan Benoit.

IMG_4066Over the past few days, I’ve run the Newton hills several times—once during the BAA-sponsored long run from Hopkinton to the top of Heartbreak Hill, and then along the route through Kenmore Square to Mass Ave and then west along the Charles River, over the Harvard Footbridge through Harvard Yard and on to Porter Square. As much as I consider myself a solo-runner; a mountain, trail, and ultra runner who often looks for solitude atop mountains at sunrise or deep in the woods by headlamp, there is just something about sharing the Carriage Road with hundreds of other runners pushing themselves to meet their own goals—whether running for themselves, in memory of others, as inspiration, or to raise money for a particular charity. This weekend, we were all out there together—in Saturday’s snow flurries and in Sunday’s blustery sunshine.

IMG_4081My son Orion accompanied me on the first mile and a half of Saturday’s run, and, though we didn’t know it, the BAA was sponsoring a practice long run along the first 21 miles of the course. As soon as he and I turned into the closed lane on Washington Street, past the police officers stopping traffic for us, someone on the sidewalk turned to us and cheered.

“You’re doing great!” he said.

Even though we’d only been running for a few minutes, we couldn’t help but smile and pick up our pace a little.

IMG_4055

Join the Team!

In last night’s below freezing weather, my son and I used the blowtorch we have for applying nordic ski wax to warm up my truck window enough to affix this:

IMG_2859

I’m pretty excited–I think the decals turned out really well!

I would love to get some of them into *your* hands to put all over your bike, paddle board, snowboard, skis, Vespa, or anything you want! Just let me know (making a donation–over on the right there–to offset costs would be great, of course : )

Smaller #climaterun stickers and, yes, tattoos (!!) will be coming soon.

 

a good morning

I guess I’m still getting used to Standard Time, but when I finally got out of bed and looked out of our windows to the east this morning, I was humbled by the glorious sunrise that greeted me. So, although I was a bit late for a quick morning run with Dragon (we will both need to wait until just after noon), I had to take a few photos to try to do justice to the ephemeral.

DSCN3492

It takes so little to change one’s outlook on the day. Sometimes–often–it is the day itself that helps to inspire us to do better, to be better.

Today, I am grateful, humbled, and inspired.

Please help fund Kjölur Run and build Climate Resilience

Any project like Kjölur Run depends upon partners, sponsors, and friends to help with everything from logistical support to training to helping build a scholarship fund for students.

As part of the next step, I’ve launched a fundraising page for Kjölur Run on Indiegogo. Please have a look, and, if you can, lend your support.

It would mean a great deal to have as many partners as I can to help navigate the road ahead, whatever it may bring.

Thank you.

IMG_0567