FROM “LEAVE NO TRACE” TO “LEAVE YOUR SIGN”
Not everything went as planned in the past few months, but the old year brought new insights and acquaintances and everything that goes with life. And a word that is becoming increasingly important to me personally took center stage: Sustainability.
Sustainability was therefore a major task for me at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Innsbruck-Stubai last year. With "Leave No Trace", we found a claim that was not only taken up by the Austrian Sports Minister Werner Kogler in his opening speech at the WMTRC, but which the Norwegian Stian Angermund and the Austrian Johanna Hiemer also made the essence of an athlete's oath and with which part of the Expo was designed: On a wall, participants and spectators alike were able to sign a pledge to "leave no trace". Mountain and trail running are environmentally friendly sports anyway, and sustainability studies also gave the WMTRC high marks afterwards. (And yes: the biggest carbon footprint was caused by the athletes' travel - but that's no surprise and it can't be avoided at global events.)
It is long overdue to thank the person who came up with the slogan "Leave No Trace". Riikka Rakic is Head of Strategy, Sustainability & Governance at the International Biathlon Union. I worked for and with her at the International Ski Federation over a decade ago - I am in contact with the FIS again, but that's another story - and I am very pleased that this professional connection has not been lost over the years.
But I digress, the topic is sustainability.
British journalist and elite ultra-runner Damian Hall has written a book: "We Can't Run Away From This: Racing to improve running's footprint in our climate emergency" will be published in German by Delius Klasing in April. In it, he defines three major areas in which runners can demonstrate environmental awareness. Hall is an environmental activist and addresses what I keep thinking: Wouldn't I like to fly to some competitions? Don't I have too many functional shirts in my wardrobe? And how could I make my diet more sustainable?
Yes: Hong Kong 100 with the "Grand Sam" (named after the runner Sam Tam, so no typo!), all those iconic races in the USA - if you meet the qualification criteria and are chosen in the lottery - or the Lofoten Ultra-Trail would be events that I would also like to take part in. My next thought is that there are so many great competitions in Central Europe alone that I haven't entered yet. And they are all (more or less) easily accessible by train and other public transport.
Damian Hall: "Most runners and outdoor enthusiasts generate the majority of their individual emissions through travel. In most cases, a train journey produces a third to a quarter of the greenhouse gas content of a plane journey. Fossil fuel-powered cars aren't much better than flights. If SUVs were a nation, they would rank seventh in the world in terms of emissions."
I still have to smile when I think about these sentences that I picked up on social media:
How many finisher shirts does a runner have in their wardrobe?
How many of them does he wear regularly?
How many is he willing to give or throw away?
When I went through my functional shirts a few weeks ago, most of them ended up back in the wardrobe. After all, I try to buy as few new items as possible and only replace shoes that are worn out. And yet, I still have ten pairs lying around... Either way, the most sustainable outfit is the one I already have and wear.
According to Hall, the clothing industry as a whole is responsible for up to ten per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions (although this figure is disputed). And then there's the wide range of environmental and ethical issues surrounding the production process: massive water use and pollution, toxic dyes and non-degradable chemicals, slave and child labour, the fact that 69% of our clothes are made from fossil fuels - the very substance we should stop using now - and the millions of microfibers that end up in the oceans, harming wildlife.
For several years now, I have been eating as healthily as possible from the beginning of the year until Easter: no fish, no meat, no animal products (so vegan), no beer, wine, no hard stuff (so alcohol-free), no refined sugar, no chocolate and other sweets (so - more or less - sugar-free: I can't avoid fructose).
Is it restrictive? Yes, of course. Does it make me feel better? Absolutely. I am convinced that this lifestyle makes me a healthier person and a better runner. Consequently, I wouldn't just have to eat this way for three or four months, but live this way for the rest of my days... Who knows - maybe 2024 will be the year of change.
Damian Hall notes in his book: "We already know that red meat can be linked to some of the worst diseases and it's not really animal-friendly. It's also not good for the planet. Meat and dairy products are responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gases. Beef is by far the worst offender - the planet pays for the production of one kilo of beef alone with emissions of 99 kilograms of greenhouse gases. This is incredibly inefficient and these figures were ultimately the reason for me to go vegan."
I can't and don't want to give up everything I enjoy doing. But I want to do my best in the three defined areas, and I want to get involved in sustainability and environmental projects. "Leave No Trace" will not be my slogan for 2024, it should rather be: "Leave Your Sign".
(Because I realize that everyone has their own opinion on this, I'd like to add a disclaimer. I'm not a prophet or a missionary; everyone is free to do as they please. In any case, it is clear to me that I too must (and will) make a personal contribution if climate targets are to be achieved and the impact on the environment reduced).
Check this out:
Competitions I would like to attend in 2024: in January: La Corsa della Bora in June: Dolomiti Extreme Trail in July: Gornergrat Zermatt Ultra in July: Grossglockner Ultra Trail in September: Transalpine Run in October: Trebon Nature Marathon