As we grow more aware of the climate crisis, more and more people are uniting in their attempts to create a cleaner, greener Earth. The Green Runners are a global community comprised of hundreds of runners, united by their love for running and their love for the planet, claiming to be ‘‘Runners who love the environment and Environmentalists who love to run.’’ They are mostly based in the UK, and were originally founded by a small group of runners joined together in a WhatsApp group by Damian Hall.
If you’re not really sure what #thegreenrunners is about, here’s a short video to explain our mission.
We are growing our community. 💚@Cop27P @runnersworld #Sustainability #ClimateCrisis #actionbasedpledges #NoPlanetB #reducereuserecycle #runners #LowCarbonRunning 🌍🌎🌏 pic.twitter.com/KRgbKYuvKY
— TheGreenRunners (@TheGreenRunnerz) June 30, 2022
I recently interviewed two of the group’s co-founders, Darren Evans and Jasmin Paris.
In the interview we discussed the ‘‘overwhelmingly positive surge forward’’ that The Green Runners have experienced in the past year. Darren explained that the highlight of his journey with the group so far has been ‘‘the impact that we’ve had in such a short time… an idea on a WhatsApp group suddenly grew into a community and within 12 months we’ve grown that community to hundreds of members.’’ He said that ‘‘growing a community’’ is ‘‘what it’s all about.’’
The group encourage members to make pledges based on the ‘Four Pillars’, which Darren described as ‘‘fundamental’’ to the heart of the movement.
The Four Pillars that sustain the movement
The Four Pillars are described on their website:
The first pillar, ‘How You Move’, relates to travel, due to the fact that over 90% of an event’s carbon footprint comes from a runner’s travel, with air travel having the most detrimental impact. It is suggested that as a Green Runner, one should aim to avoid flying when possible, to try to carpool if driving is involved, and aim to use public transport when this is manageable.
The second pillar, ‘How You Kit-up’, encourages a more climate-conscious approach to the acquisition of clothing and running gear. Due to the carbon emitted and the amount of water wasted in the production of race t-shirts (one t-shirt requires around 2500 litres of water to produce, according to Water Footprint Network), The Green Runners have collaborated with Trees Not Tees to encourage runners to plant a tree rather than collect a t-shirt at the end of a race, and in general this pillar suggests that runners question every new purchase and take good care of what they already own.
The third pillar, ‘How You Eat’, urges runners to keep trails clean and litter-free, and to reduce their consumption of meat, due to the fact that meat production has a greater impact on the environment than a plant-based diet.
The fourth pillar, ‘How You Speak Out’, invites Green Runners to help spread the word. Some ideas provided on the website are sharing pledges on social media, talking about the movement in running clubs or getting in touch with event managers to encourage them to make sustainable changes to their races.
Darren told me that the way he chooses to exercise this fourth pillar, about speaking out, is through writing odes. He described it as the ‘‘best way I can express myself.’’ In fact, his ‘‘Runner’s Ode to Climate Change’’ first enabled a group of environmentalist runners, such as Jasmin Paris, Dan Lawson, Jim Mann, Damian Hall, Sarah Ryan, Taz Babiker, Finlay Wild, and Charlie Harpur, to come together as a group at the end of 2021.
The runners performed the ode as a video, in a variety of different locations. The ode described the horrific impact of climate change, and urged the world leaders at COP26 to take proper action for the planet. It states that ‘‘after years of neglect and overconsumption’’, ‘‘we need world leaders to be acting much faster.’’ It then makes the direct address: ‘‘this is your chance to make changes now.’’ The video was released just before COP26, and in addition to the production of the video, several runners went to Glasgow in support of some of the protest groups.
Although disappointed with the outcome of COP26, the runners decided to form a community in time for COP27 and beyond. This was the beginning of ‘‘The Green Runners.’’ The group was officially launched on World Earth Day 2022, the 22nd of April.
One question that arises is why is running such a good base for climate activism? After talking with Jasmin Paris and Darren Evans, it became clear that their love of nature was ultimately what united their identities as runners and environmentalists.
‘‘Running is my escape, it’s my free time; my chance to go to the hills and experience nature. It’s really important, fills a hole, and just makes me happy…
For me, it’s really important to have that link to nature, exploring the wild places, that’s what gives me a buzz…That’s why it’s never really a chore, because it’s such a joy to be there.’’
She explained that even throughout both her pregnancies, staying active was imperative for her, despite the exhaustion and physical toll that her second pregnancy had on her:
‘‘Especially in the first third of my second pregnancy, when I felt really bad and really tired all the time, I still actually tried to get out, for at least half an hour with the dog in the morning, even if that meant I was walking some of it on the flat, I considered it still a win… And I always came back feeling better and feeling more able to eat something.’’
Even on the difficult days, Jasmin said that she could still run up a hill or swim in the reservoir near her house, because above all, her great passion was getting out into nature and staying active.
The Green Runner movement is also about connecting and bonding with people, as well as connecting with nature.
Darren told me that his son Alfie, who is 10 years old, has been ‘‘the biggest influence’’ on his journey as an environmentalist, especially because of their shared passion for ‘‘plogging’’ (picking up litter whilst jogging). He said:
‘‘As part of the beach cleans we became part of a group called Plogolution about three years ago, and we did plogging…We would go out and just be us, have our little jog and do our litter picking, and that was really nice because it was our thing.’’
‘‘When he was 7, [Alfie] started asking questions about the environment, which made me start thinking about things as well.”
Yet although the positive influence of his son helped him to grow, Darren explained that he was impacted by the negative comments from other people in his life as well. He explained:
‘‘You also have family members who are not on board with it, so it creates that debate and that challenge about what you’re doing.’’
Darren described how the challenges from other family members made him question whether or not he was doing the right thing, and ultimately made him more grounded in his beliefs, due to him having to explain them to others. He concluded: ‘‘Alfie has been very influential in my journey but it’s also good to have that debate with other family members as well.’’
What I liked the most about The Green Runners was their emphasis on community. In our interview, Darren said: ‘‘If we can grow a community full of lots of people making small changes, then we’ll end up being a huge change.’’ The beauty of The Green Runners is that the movement progresses through individuals doing different things in their own unique way to help the planet.
Green Runners Making History
Jasmin Paris in particular has received a lot of media attention recently, due to her athletic achievements, but also due to her work for the planet. In August 2022 she ran the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) with no brand and no sponsor, and claimed to be running solely for The Green Runners, wearing her Green Runners badge with pride. The Green Runners website describes this badge as ‘‘not just as an emblem of membership and community but as a mark of action’’, adding that Jasmin’s mission is ‘‘to inspire others to take action too.’’
Her pledge to only fly to one race in 2022 meant that she had to undergo an 18 hour journey on public transport (train and bus) from Edinburgh to Chamonix in order to compete in the UTMB, and although the race did not go as she planned, she received media attention due to her commitment to participate in the race in a climate conscious fashion.
I asked her in our interview about this journey from Edinburgh to Chamonix. She stated that: ‘‘There are advantages to getting there by public transport. You see the land that you’re passing through, so you have much more of a connection to the places, and to the journey.’’
She also argued that specifically as a runner, there are real advantages to travelling by train, saying that ‘‘you can get up and walk around a train, you can stretch your legs…On a flight, you sit there and there’s the risk of DVT and everything else, if you’re dehydrated.’’
So overall, it seems that despite the time commitment, travelling by public transport is not only much better for the planet, but it is also an advantageous option for most runners.
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In her blog, Jasmin wrote ‘‘I’m grateful and happy that my attempt to run UTMB in a climate conscious fashion received a share of the public and media attention this week, and I sincerely hope that it will be a catalyst for action in the running community and beyond, towards a fitter planet for all.’’
Now in 2023 she is making history in the Barkley Marathons. In the notoriously gruelling ultramarathon trail race, runners have to complete five loops of a 20 mile course, running a total of 100 miles, and the race is stopped after 60 hours. The Barkley Marathons are famously difficult to finish, and only 17 individuals have ever completed the race since its creation in 1986.
No woman has ever finished it. Yet Jasmin Paris made history this year when she became the first woman to complete four loops of the course, comprising 80 miles. Her tweet about the race expressed hope for the future of women’s running, stating that ‘‘I still think a woman can finish 5 loops’’.
but I gave it my best effort and I’m proud of that. I still think a woman can finish 5 loops, although I suspect Laz will make next year even harder 😁. 2/2 📷: Howie Stern pic.twitter.com/4QI47wPTG3
— Jasmin Paris (@JasminKParis) March 18, 2023
When I asked her about her future plans as a Green Runner, Jasmin explained:
‘‘I’m excited to try and continue to learn and to do my best to represent the Green Runners in the future. I would like to see the movement continue and grow, I would like to do my best to represent it. I feel like I’m constantly learning from the people around me, the other members, and also the people that criticise [the movement]. It makes me question myself, and read more and learn more, it’s a really positive thing all round, that discussion. I’m really excited to see the Green Runner movement grow, to have more people take on our four pillars.’’
As the public begin to notice Jasmin Paris and The Green Runners, the question arises: is sustainable running the inevitable future of running? I think that the answer to this question lies in Darren’s beautiful ‘‘Ode to Climate Change’’:
‘‘Our numbers are growing, our passion is strong…
We won’t stop running ‘til the battle is won.’’
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Man running, silhouetted against mountains. Featured Photo Credit: Pxfuel