I've been a runner for over 20 years. I got into trail running in 2010 and instantly loved it for the community and the peace and challenge of the trails and being immersed in nature. That first year I began trail running I also began doing trail work. A local Race Director organized regular trail work. Every year I've run trails I've worked on the trails.
I quickly became a big part of the trail running community organizing races myself and founding a number of trail running clubs. Over the years we have received grant funding for trail work and signage. Trail work has always been an important part of the trail running culture.
I run professionally for a number of companies including Altra Elite, rabbit trail elite, and LEKI. I also organize 10 events throughout the year (it's my main work) including the Triple Crown of 200 mile races: Bigfoot 200 Endurance Run, a 200 mile point to point run through the Cascade Mountains; Tahoe 200 Endurance Run a 200 mile single loop run through the Sierra Nevada Mountains that fully circunaivates Lake Tahoe; and lastly the Moab 240 mile Endurance Run a single loop trail race through Moab, Utah, two mountain ranges and past Canyonlands and Arches National Parks. In addition to those events I have a number of other events.
Trail running and stewardship are my life. I organize an annual work party in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest working on trails that aren't maintained by any land management - they would cease to exist without volunteer work. We have revitalized over 30 miles of trail. It's particularly exciting because these trails were historically Native American trails.
Additionally, I require 8 hours of trail work per participant for my 200 mile races, contributing over 5,000 hours of work each year. My company has donated over $20,000 to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association for building and maintaining trails. I have a scholarship for students studying Land Management at Utah State University. I'm always interested and engaged in coming up with ways to give back and contribute to my community.
You can imagine that when I read the offensive article by Marc Perruzi a few days ago I was shocked. I have no issue with asking user groups to do more to give back. That's an excellent message in and of itself. However, this article was not so much a call to action as it was a full on insulting diatribe aimed at my community. Name calling, stereotyping, divisive rhetoric... all adding up to a lot of hating on the trail running community.
Some might say why not ignore this increasingly irrelevant publication? I'll tell you why Mike. Because this article was written with such vile rhetoric and negativity that I felt it needed a response. I felt the urge to stand up for the people who inspired me to do trail work and for my peers. Beyond what I do for the community, there are many, many more individuals that do a lot more than I do. You, your team and Marc have insulted these good people and their hard work. You are irresponsible and plain wrong in publishing this kind of barely researched anecdotal evidence (no evidence) based article.
I know what you will say, "Well Candice this is meant to be humor." I know you will say that because I have seen what you have written to others in this community. It is not humor. And if it was it failed to hit the mark. You wouldn't have an entire community of runners angry at you, Marc and Outside if it was funny. I can appreciate humor. Set the bar higher if you're aiming for humor and make it funny.
Here's what I would like to see: an article encouraging all trail users to give back more with trail work and monetary donations to trail maintenance organizations. Give people real information. Do real research. If you're not going to give facts in your articles then make the accusations and name calling less severe - or better yet don't be divisive at all.
I'd like to end with a plea to you and Outside: be responsible with your voice and responsible with your power with words. Use it for good. Use it to bring the community up, not break it down. I'd like to see an official apology from Outside and the original article pulled from the online site. Replace it with a real call to action, one that asks all users to contribute with tangible ideas and contacts for people so they can get involved in trail work. Be the vehicle for change. Be bigger than insults and stereotypes. That's easy writing. Dig in.
You can send a letter to the Editor of Outside at email@example.com or to general firstname.lastname@example.org
I refuse to post a link to the original clickbait article here.
Please stay tuned for an article from me with real insights on how to get your own trail work party started and permitted or join a local group.
Lastly, I'd like to add that we can all do better. We can all do more. I do not have any issue with asking user groups to do more. I support all calls to action to contribute to our trails. We can all be kinder to each other and the environment. I will also stand up against name calling and lies.