In June 2015, I ran across Iceland from the south coast along the Atlantic Ocean to the north coast on the Arctic Ocean. My hope is that by bringing attention to the responsibility of outdoor enthusiasts—runners, climbers, skiers, mountain bikers, cyclists—all of us—to serve as role models and as stewards of our planet in the face of our current climate crisis.
Over more than two decades as a teacher, writer, and runner, I have taught many hundreds of students, written books, raised animals, grown my own food, traveled, run among countless mountains, climbed crags and frozen waterfalls, competed in ultramarathons across the U.S., and shared a rich and intentionally adventurous life with my wife and son. But something is still missing—how can all that I do be of use to the larger world in this era of climate change?
As I said in a recent conversation with one of my students, this time we have is not to prepare for the next thing—this is it. This is life, right now. What are you doing with it?
The route I followed is a 240-kilometer arc across the Icelandic highlands. The route follows trails, gravel roads, and faint paths among rivers, waterfalls, glaciers, thermal springs, and an open tundra landscape.
I have chosen Iceland for this project because the Arctic is among the places on earth where climate change is most apparent and most pronounced. Recent years have seen open water at the North Pole, melting permafrost in Siberia and Alaska, polar bears losing their habitat, and coastal villages imperiled across the Arctic. Iceland itself has seen some glaciers retreat nearly 1000 meters over the past twenty years.
I planned this run for June 15-17–just before the summer solstice to symbolizes both the warming temperatures across the Arctic regions and a time of hope and renewal.
My hope—through photo, video, and writing about my run—is to inspire other athletes, adventurers, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds to take the initiative to help preserve the lands that we love to explore and to find solutions to the challenges of climate change.
At the limits of ourselves we come in closest contact with the world.
And this is a world that needs us.