46-year old Pavel Cenkl of Craftsbury, Vermont, is running a race like no other. In 2014, he undertook a semi supported solo run, named Climate Run to cover the 240-kilometer stretch across the western Icelandic highlands. He ran past glaciers, thermal springs, and waterfalls of Iceland’s Kjölur Plateau to gather evidence the impact that global warming is having in the Tundra and Arctic regions.
The goal of the run was to bring attention to the relationship between endurance athletics and the broader ecosystem that they share. Initially the project did focus on the ways outdoor athletes could change their habits to lessen the global ecological impact. This meant buying locally sourced equipment, reusing and recycling, and being mindful about how to access the outdoors.
However, over the course of the run he realized that the small individual choices, though very essential, distracted the athletes from the bigger picture of engaging with one another within the community. Utilizing his position as a professor at Vermont’s Sterling College Cenkl started giving over 20 odd presentations and workshops to groups ranging from middle schoolers to outdoor professionals. He has successfully build up partnerships with gear manufacturers, retailers, and non profit organizations to spread the mission of Climate Run. Many have been inspired by Cenkl’s feats and now integrate ecological thinking with sports.
It’s been 4 years since the inception of Climate Run. On Cenkl’s recent expedition that he undertook between August 1 to 8, 2017, where this time he managed to complete a run of 360 kilometers along the Arctic trail from Sulitjelma in Norway to Abisko in Sweden. The aim still remains the same – to create resilience instead of resistance to global warming and creating an awareness that endurance sports and maintenance of ecological balance go hand-in-hand.
During this run he clocked an average of 50-65 kilometers a day and was self-sufficient enough for several days as he rationed his own supplies. This run proved to be a far departure from his 2015 Climate Run as the terrain was more mountainous and remote. Another way that Chenkl is contributing is by collecting water samples for a study by the Adventures and Scientists for Conservation, over the three weeks before and after the scheduled run.
For the 2014 Climate Run he collected ASC microplastics water samples from five locations in Iceland—from the southwest urban center of Reykjavik, to the isolated Westfjords in the northwest, to the harbors of the north coast. Although the coastline ( with the exception of a few cities and large towns) in Iceland is remote and sparsely settled, Cenkl’s research proves that it is not immune from the ebb and flow of global commerce and our carbon imprint of the oceans and coastal regions.
Besides his main goal with Climate Run, where he wants to bring to attention the relationship of outdoor enthusiasts with the climate change, he also firmly believes that this community can serve as role models and stewards of the planet. The dread of global warming is even more pronounced in a place like Iceland as it has seen some glaciers retreat nearly more than half a mile (1,000 meters) in the past 20 years, and the island nation loses more than 10 billion tons of ice annually. Cenkl plans to keep running to create awareness and intends to return to Scandinavia with students on a Sterling College field course, possibly in 2019.
Feature Image Courtesy : Vermont Sports