Life Cycle Analysis of a Sustainable Runner

from In the Arena with Bridget


As a runner why do I care so much about Sustainability?


Growing up, my summers were spent almost entirely outside and barefoot in the backyard of my rural Ohio home. In the morning, we were expected to help with chores such as mowing fields, weeding, picking up rocks in the garden, or splitting firewood. The afternoon, however, was ours to build forts in the woods, practice our dives into the pond, shoot hoops, or come up with our own silly outdoor games.  We didn’t have cable or expensive toys because my parents were always saving money for our next travel adventure. It was important to them that we got out of our little corner of the state and saw the country in all its splendor and beauty.


Never a dull moment in the Franek backyard- the Ultimate Slip and Slide!
The garden….
….and its fruits!
The swimmin’ hole
The concrete pad of ENDLESS possibilities!!


Each excursion not only brought us closer together, it also brought us closer to nature; in part because we were always traveling on a tight budget but also because these were the types of vacations my energetic parents preferred. Camping in the canyons of Utah, kayaking in the Everglades, backpacking in the Alleghenies, mountain biking down the mountains of California, or body surfing on the coast of North Carolina….these were not the plush beach resorts many families posted up at on their weeks off.

Pacific Coast Adventure







Needless to say, on these trips nature’s elements taught me a lot about being uncomfortable and making the most out of every situation. But I also learned that despite cold, wet nights and blistering hot, mosquito-y days, the moments I always remembered clearest were those of the beauty, the complexity and the diversity of the landscape, geography, weather, flora, and fauna.  The intimacy at which I was experiencing these things grew and strengthened a relationship that I would carry with me into adulthood.


Now as a runner, I feel so blessed to continue to get opportunities to still spend a lot of time outdoors in beautiful places. Whether I am traveling to compete in some far away country or running a long run just a few miles down the road from my home in Eugene, OR, I often find myself in places inaccessible by any means other then foot.  These are the places I love the most- there is a certain solitude, beauty, peace….but then, there is also a very present vulnerability.


Lace up your shoes….Where will the path lead this time??








You really can’t turn on the news without hearing something about climate change and global warming but over the last few years I have seen it in action first hand. Hiking Mt. Rainier with my family we missed out on seeing a glacier because it had receded much further than it ever had. One of my favorite running trails, usually impassable with snow until May, was clear and dry this March and we consistently went several weeks at a time in Eugene without rain through the winter months. Even when it seems to be working in my favor, it is terrifying to think about the likely progression over the coming decades.


Still not close enough!

We all seem to be in different places in our thoughts about climate change and I think that this is why more is not being done. Some people still deny that it is even happening. To me, it’s a reminder of how powerful the human race really is. I believe we are completely responsible but I also believe that we can and will adapt. I have no idea what the future holds but at this rate, I do think that there will be many casualties to nature and the environment as we know it no matter what ends up happening. There are probably a lot of people that could really care less about a few species dying off or losing some coastline or farmland to rising oceans and drought but it kills me to think about what might be left to show my kids. And even more selfishly, what will be left for me to see personally- there are still so many places that I have heard of and seen in movies that I have not seen in person. I realize how much my easy life with all its modern conveniences is contributing, even when I try to do as much as I can to live responsibly and respectfully. I appreciate progress and technology as much as anyone and there is plenty that I don’t want to give up. But I also believe that this does not have to be a matter of complete sacrifice. If humans were smart enough to develop all these crazy chips, devices, operation systems, and machines, then we are certainly smart enough to come up with solutions and alternatives to the way of life we have grow attached to. We just have to believe that the need is really there and want it bad enough.


I still don’t know what I will be doing or where I will be going when I hang up my spikes, but I definitely plan on positioning myself to make a difference in peoples mindset and impact on the environment. I am not an engineer, or a politician, or a corporation executive (careers where I see the largest potential to contribute positively to the cause) however, I am hopeful that I can be helpful in some way and I plan to find out how. Even over the past few months, I have been searching for a way to begin even while I am still running. If/when I find a way, you will most likely be hearing about it! Until then, I hope that learning more about me and why I love and care about the beauty in nature surrounding all of us helps you to put some thought into the impact you are making through your everyday lifestyle and choices. Remember, you can make a bigger impact than you think with very simple changes. The best way to motivate yourself and gain a better understanding of the issues at hand is through education. Take some time in the coming week to read an article or listen to NPR/PRI. You may be surprised at what you learn!

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