I remember it quite vividly, after going through my usual breakfast routine I had sat down with a pot (yes a whole cafetière) of coffee and opened my emails…
Oh S**t. To be quite honest, I don’t actually remember registering for the HURT 100 or why I did so; I have always had some desire to run the big American and European ultras; think Leadville, Hardrock, Western States, Tahoe, UTMB and of course… HURT. I don’t exactly know why, we have amazing ultras here in the UK, but the world is a big bloody gorgeous place and I am in my twenties, and thus the urge to explore is strong.
Perhaps I registered in one of my late night can’t sleep UltraSignup scrolls? Or maybe after one of those runs where it feels effortless and I imagine myself floating along like Kilian Jornet (both infrequent and ridiculous)? Despite being unsure of when or why I registered, I was happy that when in August 2021 I had been placed a neat 12th on the waitlist after the lottery, a decent chance of getting a place but by no means guaranteed – surprising high seeing I had no Kukui Nuts (think UTMB points but infinitely much cooler). Life and training for the inaugural Dartmoor Way 100 quickly took my mind elsewhere, as any 100 miler should do, and I soon had forgotten of my wishful Aloha thinking that email slapped the coffee out my mouth.
The HURT (Hawaiian Ultra Running Team) 100 is a bastard. 100 miles, 27k ft of elevation gain and loss. 5 20 mile loops with out and backs, with only 13 miles of unique trail and 20 river crossings. When I say trail I actually mean roots, mud, and wet rock; extremely technical terrain requiring constant mental attention, so no switch off and cruise, The course is climb, descend, repeat – no flat running. It is known to be one of Americas toughest ultras; “I have met many ultra-runners that have finished Badwater, but can’t manage to finish this one” – Ben, Yassine Diboun, 3-time finisher and 3rd place at 2016 HURT ranks the race first alongside UTMB in regards to difficulty, above his Western states and over 90 various ultra-finishes. The race has aggressive cut offs and often sees a 50-65% DNF rate. Uhhh, I had been ultra-running for only about a year.. but the difficulty of HURT was not my dilemma… I was ready for the training and pain to come.
My Dilemma? Let me explain, I am a founding member of the The Green Runners and I have just taken this from our website: “How you move How we travel has the greatest impact on the environment. 98% of the carbon footprint of races come from runner travel, with air travel having the most impact. As Green Runners, take the time to follow these steps and minimise your environmental impact.
Before you book a race or trip, stop and think:
• Will you need to fly to get there?
• Is there an equally cool/suitable race you can do without flying?
• Will you be spending enough time there to warrant the trip, or just out and back?
• Can you give yourself more time and go by train?
• If you need to fly, offset your carbon footprint with a genuine offsetting program
• Each year, can you halve the amount of times you fly to races and focus on making each trip more worthwhile?”
Well… Simply put, am I full of shit? Am I, dare I say, a hypocrite? I wish I could say that I debated internally and was torn apart before eagerly typing away my credit card details, but it was only after I was in receipt of my HURT 100 confirmation email that these questions hit me like a brick wall. Guilt. That’s what I felt, but should I be feeling guilty? As Green Runners and by extension, environmentally conscious people life often presents us with opportunities and circumstances that we know have an unnecessary carbon footprint. Not just races; that long-awaited family holiday, the car, the weekend away at that annoying distant family members wedding, I could go on. You get the point – the western world is unsustainable and society is carrying on as if nothing is wrong, it therefore presents us with opportunities with avoidable and unavoidable carbon footprints.
My dilemma was a simple one; I either forfeit my place at HURT due to the carbon footprint involved in my travel to and from the race, or participate in the race and find reasonable ways to justify doing so. I chose the latter. So how can I justify my decision? First of all, I aim to use my participation in the well-known event as a platform to raise awareness for the cause and hopefully empower some people in the process. Oddly this has also had the secondary effect of motivating me during a hard training block – the thought of coming out of nowhere to compete well at HURT and use whatever exposure and publicity I can get to raise awareness helped get me out the door when it was cold, wet and windy outside. Secondly, I am self-aware, honest and acknowledge the carbon footprint; I have therefore embarked on a genuine offsetting program to offset my carbon footprint, now offsetting is not perfect, but it’s the best I have and I’m trying.
This involves giving up my personal car for 2022 and beyond, switching to a renewable energy provider, changing my banking to a greener bank provider, planting trees, being plant based, and doubling the trip as a long overdue holiday with my partner to prevent a possible plane trip in the near future. My choice of airline was also carefully considered with the above in mind, this resulted in me flying the US domestic portion of the journey with JetBlue, who say “We’re getting even more serious about reducing our impact on the climate by offsetting CO₂ from the fuel used for all domestic JetBlue flights”. Although I still factored these flights and their emissions into my offsetting I could rest assure knowing that I wasn’t the only party trying. It is important to give positive feedback to organisations who are making sustainable changes even if they are far from perfect, especially when these changes are not in their short term business interest – JetBlue certainly does not get much back from their offsetting program, not financially anyway, so their good natured efforts during a hard time for aviation should be appreciated. If we don’t give kudos (with constructive advice of course) for trying a little, corporations sure as hell aren’t going to try hard. And they need to try hard.
After my internal deliberating and getting over my DNF (yes all that fricking way for a DNF!!!!) I would like to share something with you; it is okay not to be perfect, please do not limit your personal progression, all you need to do is try and send the right message. For example, what point is there limiting my opportunities as a young athlete when I could use them to lead by example and raise awareness for something far greater than myself? Individual improvement is valid and a worthwhile pursuit when reasonable, but we can’t be constantly striving for individual perfection at our own cost, perfection is not achievable in a society and system that is inherently unsustainable from design. Leading by example is noble and I strongly believe in this, but most of my admittedly handful of mates think like I do so they don’t require much convincing, and my other associates/family would not listen to anything that isn’t spouted by a middle aged white journalist on Good Morning Britain (other hateful fear mongering news programmes are available).
The change needed to save the planet from the climate catastrophe is far bigger than every one of us; the change must come from society as a whole, from big industry, from Government and from the 1%. As mentioned above, personal improvement in being greener is great –but our efforts must also be focused in speaking out; lobbying those in power that can make the real widespread change that is needed, this requires empowering one and other, raising awareness and possibly dare I say, some activism. We live in a world where 3 billionaires can spend fortunes on ego fuelled trips to space (that lasted less than a day), money that could largely fund Europe’s renewable energy needs, and no one seems to be that bothered. So if you want to take your family on holiday, do it, I will certainly be returning to HURT – but use your voice, because if enough of us shout we can get loud! “When it comes to the Climate Crisis you are either a hypocrite or an arsehole. The time has come to decide which you’d rather be.” – Jonathon Pie “This is not about just telling people to change their light bulbs or to buy a hybrid car.
This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries, and governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action.”- Leonardo DiCaprio
I have attached below some useful resources that helped in my carbon offsetting: https://switchit.green/ https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/ https://www.carbonfootprint.com/plantingtrees.html https://www.nomeatathlete.com/vegetarian-diet-athletes/