The trail running community is rallying around an important issue concerning the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), but I’ll get to that in a second.
Ever since a bad case of Achilles Tendonitis sidelined me for many months, I stopped running on pavement and switched to trails. My “no pavement” rule has kept me generally injury-free and taken me to spectacular off-the-beaten-path places, typically inaccessible by road. I’ve run trails and participated in races throughout the US and internationally that showcase the rugged beauty of our wildplaces.
I love trail running—my weekends are usually spent either running a race or training for one, but the future of certain trail races could now be in jeopardy. Thanks to Candice Burt for bringing the PCT issue to the attention of the trail running community.
The Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA) is currently lobbying and advising the US Forest Service to limit trail running events on this historical trail. If they succeed, no new trail running events or growth of existing events would be allowed on the PCT and existing trail races may not receive future permits.
The PCT stretches over 2,650 miles between three states (California, Oregon and Washington) from Mexico to Canada. The PCT includes designated Wilderness areas that are protected and managed by the US Forest Service. Trail running events are not allowed in Wilderness areas; however, the rest of the trail is public and is where current trail racing events take place. The Forest Service goes through rigorous efforts to make sure that events held on the PCT meet the needs of the trail, its users, and are organized responsibly.
There’s many well-known trail races that run on the PCT—Western States 100, Waldo 100k, Angeles Crest 100, Cascade Crest 100, and Pine to Palm 100, just to name a few. Many trail running events require participants to do a set number of trail maintenance or volunteer hours, and it’s not uncommon for races (and the runners) to donate money to the organizations maintaining the trails. Trail races are often held in smaller towns, providing economic value and other positive benefits for our running communities.
There’s of course always two sides to the story. The PCTA has publicly stated that they are “very concerned about the increasing rate of requests to hold new racing events on the trail. If left unchecked, it could soon reach a point where those taking their precious vacation time to have a tranquil experience on the PCT would instead find themselves swimming upstream, on more than one occasion, against hundreds of racers.”
Those who are against the PCTA’s stance are not supportive of a so-called “free for all” on the trail, but instead are advocating for responsibly-organized and permitted events—events that take into consideration the trail’s capacity, have environmentally sound waste practices, and necessary medical care, among other things.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Learn more about the issue: Read Candice’s article on the American Trail Running Association website
- Spend 20 minutes and listen to Candice speak about the issue on a podcast with Trail Running Nation (I also encourage you to listen to PCTA’s counter viewpoint)
- Sign the petition on Change.org in support of trail running events on the PCT
- Contact Beth Boyst, PCT Administrator for the US Forest Service at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 562-8881 to express your concerns
- Stay updated on the issue by following the Pacific Crest Trail Running Association on Facebook (not affiliated with the PCTA)
- Pass these important links on to your friends and outdoor enthusiasts and share them on social media
I’m a steward of our environment, trail running ambassador, and self-described tree-hugger. I pick up trash left behind on trails, often ending runs with pockets or large bags of trash. I volunteer at races and cheer for my fellow runners. I pace and provide crew support for friends who take on 100-mile or longer races. I love being a part of the trail running community and want to continue participating in trail races that take place on the PCT and on other trails. We need to work together to preserve our trails and the activities we are passionate about doing on them.
It’s great to see the trail running community coming together around this important issue. As new information becomes available, I will provide an update.