I have a piece of writing published in this month’s Runner’s World. It is part of their ‘My Favourite Run’ series, where contributors write about a run that has some personal significance.
I had a pretty easy choice: the run – or a variation of that run – taking me from my front door in Edinburgh to the summit of Allermuir Hill in the northern Pentlands. I run over pavements, through a park, along a litter and graffiti-strewn alley, cross a road, meet a golf course, then climb – as I have so many times before – up a ramp of grass and mud bordered by grey and brown heather to a wind-blasted summit.
It is the simplicity that is so appealing. No time wasting, no transport, the gratification of high places without fanfare or fuss. Sometimes I scarcely observe the view; the experience of running up and down a hill is enough.
The image of Nick Butter, ‘The Man Who Ran The World’, adorns the front cover of the Runner’s World that contains my piece. Butter is the first person to run a marathon in each of the world’s 196 countries, spanning a period of 675 days. In the doing, he raised more than £100,000 for charity and ensured the project was ‘carbon neutral’ by offsetting the carbon generated by his air travel.
It is this juxtaposition – a bloke who gets a kick from stepping out of his front door to run up a hill to another who crisscrosses the planet in search of a further 26.2 miles – that is a microcosm of a wider debate raging just now.
It is January 2020, a month dominated by news of Australian wildfires, of David Attenborough prophecies, of Veganuary. I feel like I should do something, but what?
As a runner, I am not alone in understanding this. Ultra runner Damian Hall has been outspoken about his environmental concerns. Champion hill runner Finlay Wild has pledged not to use air travel in 2020. The unlikely pursuit of plogging has become a thing. Tim Budd has memorably written about the terribly logical notion of continuing to use kit that is still perfectly useable. Louis Waterman-Evans has explored the options for ‘responsible’ outdoor gear. Race organisers are finally getting the message that runners do not want the glorified junk of a goodie bag.
And I’ve got an even simpler mantra for 2020. It requires no further elaboration.
It’s a small step, but it’s something.