I’ve heard running called "self-centered," and indeed it is usually a pursuit that one takes up for one’s own satisfaction and health, not for the greater good. I, for one, feel like I’m giving myself a treat when I head out for a run—quite a different state of mind than when I attack a pile of dirty dishes or a backlog of e-mails.
So I say thank you, Will Harlan, for adding a dimension of noble altruism to the self-centered pursuit. Harlan—who edits the locally-produced Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine—is one of these crazy-person ultramarathoners whose runs sometimes take more hours than most of us are awake on an average day. This summer he ran 72 miles along the Appalachian Trail in Great Smokies National Park and set a speed record doing it (just under 17 hours! Good Lord!). More importantly, he wanted his run to make people more educated about mountaintop removal mining (MTR).
You can read an account of the run here, and while you’re at the site you’ll surely notice that Harlan is asking people to donate their own miles—whether run, walked, or hiked—toward a goal of one million miles to end MTR.
Why? Harlan explained in an e-mail: "Many hikers, walkers, and runners have no idea that over 500 mountains have been blown up, and another 79 are slated for mountaintop removal in the next few years. Since a lot of folks don’t have money to donate right now, Miles for Mountains enables them to donate their miles—miles that they probably would have covered anyway. It gives meaning to their miles and purpose to their pain."
Hear, hear. When the goal of a million miles has been reached, Harlan says he plans to trek by foot from the coalfields of southern Virginia to D.C. to "deliver the miles to Congress and the White House." I can see that being a powerful message: all those miles covered by average citizens, two or five or 10 at a time. I’ll happily donate mine. Who else is in?
Photo courtesy Miles for Mountains.