Climate Connections: Running for clean air, climate solutions
Tackling air quality and climate issues is a mountain of a challenge. That’s why this Saturday, over 120 people will be climbing Mt. Sentinel all day long to raise money and awareness for Climate Smart Missoula at Running Up for Air (RUFA) Mt. Sentinel.
Missoula is no stranger to air quality issues. This winter you may have noticed some “air stagnation” warnings. In the summer, wildfire smoke can be even more pervasive and unhealthy. Despite the tremendous access to outdoor spaces and wild places, Missoula’s air quality frequently suffers. In addition to bouts of poor air quality, Missoula is also already feeling the negative effects of climate change.
For a community defined by its amazing access to public lands and exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities, it’s not surprising that poor air quality and a changing climate strikes fear into the hearts of even the hardiest of Missoulians.
Nobody wants to be laboring up the steep flanks of Mt. Sentinel while inhaling a big gulp of wildfire smoke or pollutants trapped by a wintertime inversion. A love for the outdoors, clean air, and community led to the creation of RUFA Mt. Sentinel five years ago. This event sends people to the summit of Sentinel for 3, 6, or 12 hours as they raise money to address challenging air quality and climate issues.
Runner’s Edge, our local running store, puts on RUFA Mt. Sentinel. But the event is part of a larger movement, the Up For Air Series, which started in Utah and spread throughout the Wasatch Range and into Colorado, Washington, and Montana over the past few years. All of the events ask participants to rise to the occasion and climb a literal mountain, while also tackling the figurative mountain of air quality issues. For 3, 6, 12, or 24 hours, participants scale a local peak in February, climbing it as many times as possible in the given time limit.
Here in Missoula, our local winter conditions have improved over the decades, thanks to crucial air quality standards and helpful government assistance (but please do your part - no idling cars and do jump on Mountain Line to reduce car congestion!).
Unfortunately, climate change is increasing the duration of wildfire smoke season and the intensity of western wildfires and poor air quality. It’s easy to feel helpless when faced with smoke-filled skies, but trail runners and hikers in Utah, Colorado, and now Montana have found a constructive, fun way to fight for clean air.
Runner’s Edge is excited to bring back our own RUFA event, RUFA Mt. Sentinel! Join us on February 10th, 2024 to ascend Mt. Sentinel and take a stand (and many steps!) for clean air in Missoula. All proceeds from the event will go to Climate Smart Missoula and their initiatives to address climate change, provide vulnerable individuals and groups with portable air cleaners, and help implement Missoula County’s Climate Ready Missoula plan.
Whether it’s your first time up Sentinel or your 100th, join us for a wintertime lap (or two, four, or ten) on Missoula’s favorite mountain. Casual hikers/runners trying to summit the mountain once can rub shoulders with those running and walking for 12 hours. Families, solo enthusiasts, groups of friends or colleagues - all are welcome! All events will finish at the same time (6:00pm) in a celebration of clean air and time well spent outdoors.
And if this kind of activity just isn’t your thing, you can still take part by supporting participants! Head to the website to donate easily online.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re fast or slow, climbing or cheering from the base: what matters is that our community comes together to take on the task of keeping the air clean in our community.
Tackling air quality issues is an incredibly challenging endeavor. Climbing a mountain in the winter is too. Join us on February 10th for a hard, fun, and rewarding day on the trails of Mt. Sentinel to support clean air in Missoula, both inside and out.
For more information visit runnersedgemt.com/events/rufa
Jeff Mogavero is a Runner’s Edge employee and RUFA Mt. Sentinel race director. Climate Smart Missoula brings this Climate Connections column to you two Fridays of every month. Learn more about our work, support our efforts, and sign up for our e-newsletter at missoulaclimate.org.