The two organizations, alongside with other international institutions, promote the 'Green Trail Concept' project with the aim of developing measures to reduce the environmental, social, and economic impact of trail running events."
Mountain races have experienced a spectacular boom in the last ten years. This sport, practiced by millions of people worldwide, promotes a healthy lifestyle through physical activity while allowing participants to enjoy the breathtaking landscapes offered by nature. The explosion in popularity of this sport is reflected in the increasing number of trail running events. However, this trend also has consequences for the environment in which it takes place: nature.
Aware of this situation, the Kilian Jornet Foundation and the Ecoserveis Association have launched the 'Green Trail Concept' project. The initiative aims to reduce the impacts generated by trail running by improving the organization of these activities with more sustainable environmental, social, and ethical actions. It also seeks to raise awareness among the trail running community about their practices to encourage behavioral changes in nature.
When discussing the impacts caused by the development of this sport, we mainly refer to the environmental effects. Erosion, waste production, disturbance of animal species, and transport emissions are some of the impacts that can result from the development of this sport. However, the consequences go beyond environmental concerns, and the project also considers social and economic aspects, such as inclusion, gender equality, and synergies with local communities and economies, to assess the negative effects of an event like trail running.
The project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union (EU), and it involves the participation of other international organizations that support the Kilian Jornet Foundation and the Ecoserveis Association, as well as experts from various fields, such as GRID-Arendal from Norway and ADP Sport Events AB from Sweden.
When races are held in protected natural spaces, such as in Spain or Catalonia, there is usually some regulation in place that helps to minimize their impact", explains Laura Viñals, a member of the Kilian Jornet Foundation. "However, this is not always the case, and currently, there is no consistent set of actions to ensure a sustainable practice in mountain races," she adds.
One of the main lines of work for the project is the creation of a EU sustainability certification system to plan, analyze, monitor, and evaluate the organization of mountain races, providing an assessment of their sustainable performance and a guide with possible improvements. "The idea is to define a set of indicators based on the three pillars - environmental, social, and economic - that support a guarantee of sustainability when these events take place", Viñals points out.
Desire for Change in the Trail Running World
The current context of climate and ecological emergency has led many people, especially those connected to nature, to be more sensitive to these issues. Therefore, Viñals explains that there is a willingness for change within the trail running community to make these events more sustainable. In fact, the project received support from various organizations, including the International Trail Running Association (ITRA). Additionally, the Pro Trail Runners Association, which works to have a united voice, also advocates for making these events more sustainable.
"Race organizations are also open to making these changes because they are necessary", Viñals believes. "It has been seen that if we continue with this negative impact trend, in the long run, the environment will suffer, and these events, which also have a positive economic impact on the surroundings, will no longer be able to take place," she explains on behalf of the Kilian Jornet Foundation.
In Catalonia, some races are already focusing on this aspect, such as the Klassmark events, which place a strong emphasis on sustainability, reducing carbon footprint, and compensating for the inevitable CO2 emissions from the event, among other measures. "The ultimate goal of the 'Green Trail Concept' is to standardize all these good practices at an international level," she concludes.
The values of Kilian Jornet
Kilian Jornet is one of the most renowned and admired athletes from the region. The values he embodies, such as respect for nature, resonate worldwide through his sporting achievements and the passion he demonstrates for his work. With the impetus of the Kilian Jornet Foundation, an entity that aims to protect mountain areas from climate change, the Catalan athlete shows a strong awareness of the current context of climate and ecological emergency.
"After traveling extensively and witnessing firsthand the changes happening in the environment and their implications for sports, the idea is to work towards reversing the situation or, at least, collaborating to be part of the solution," Viñals states. "He is deeply involved and contributes to be a part of this new paradigm. In fact, when he participates in a race, he is highly aware of the impact it has, so he chooses his events carefully, and that is a message he also tries to convey," she adds.