In addition to the hundreds of brands and thousands of run and outdoor specialty retailers who will be walking the aisles of the Austin Convention Center during The Running Event and Switchback at TRE, a number of advocacy groups whose mission is to spread the word on how the industry can do well by doing good will have a significant presence both in the education program and on the show floor.
Running Insight reached out to three of those groups to gain some insight into how TRE23 attendees can benefit from partnering with them:
Kathleen Baker, Managing Director, Runners for Public Lands (RPL)
Nancy Hobbs, Executive Director, American Trail Running Association (ATRA)
Peter Murry, Corporate Development Manager, Leave No Trace (LNT)
The Elevator Pitch …
Runners for Public Lands is the national organization dedicated to connecting runners to environmental protection and advocacy. We lead the largest human-powered recreation group in the United States to advocate and activate for equitable access to outdoor recreation, the protection of public lands and climate action.
American Trail Running Association was founded in 1996 and the mission is to represent and promote trail running, mountain running and ultra-trail running. ATRA’s theme in 2023 is Celebrate Youth on Trails. Each year ATRA focuses on content related to the present theme and also continues to provide programs and services related to past themes..
Leave No Trace is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing programs, education, training and outreach in all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Utilizing the power of science, education for all and stewardship to support and protect nature, Leave No Trace is on a mission to ensure a sustainable future for the outdoors and the planet. No matter where or why you get outside, it’s yours to protect.
The Most Pressing Issues …
RPL: As runners, we don’t require a lot to pursue our sport. However, there are inherent barriers to entry for many, especially for those from marginalized communities and those with challenges related to accessing outdoor spaces. Access often comes at a cost and at RPL we prioritize breaking down the barriers to ensure equitable access to running for everyone. RPL’s mission is to build inclusive running communities dedicated to protecting the environment. We recognize that this isn’t just a social issue, but one that intersects directly with how people connect with and care for the natural world around them.
ATRA: The sport continues to expand its reach, change and thrive and ATRA stays alert to the pulse nationally and worldwide. Opportunities continue to grow and the welcoming nature of the trails (literally and figuratively) abound. With that comes the need to be good stewards and work with like groups to coexist on trails that are bursting with users.
LNT: Our most pressing issue is also our most significant opportunity for positive stewardship: the increase in outdoor users. At a foundational level, everyone deserves to be accepted, welcomed and seen in the outdoors. With increased outdoor recreation, many outdoor areas are feeling the impact of being loved to death. While this presents challenges in protecting these areas, it also creates a huge opportunity for positive impact. If, by welcoming new recreators to build relationships and love for these spaces, we can convert new users to life-long stewards, the net positive impact will be much more significant than the short-term impacts seen in high-use areas.
Changing Challenges/Opportunities …
RPL: Diversity in leadership is necessary to be successful in protecting our environment. As we work to make outdoor recreation and nature more accessible, we also recognize there are impacts that result from more runners using trails and accessing public lands. RPL sees this as an opportunity. The more runners we can empower to protect the land they use by getting involved in local-level service opportunities and advocacy issues, the bigger impact we can have as an organization.
ATRA: Like many other nonprofit organizations, funding is always at the forefront of planning and often dictates what programs are added or modified. ATRA will continue to welcome all trail runners to the sport and celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion through its programs.
LNT: As many know, there was a massive influx of users into the outdoors during the pandemic as many turned to socially-distant outdoor activities. While this increase has slowed slightly as we have learned to live with COVID-19, we still see outdoor recreation numbers at a much higher rate than pre-pandemic. That is why we see it so necessary to continually create and evolve our education to be applicable and accessible for all outdoor users, something we call Training for All.
Retailer Connections …
RPL: Last year RPL launched the RPL Brand Coalition, which provides tailored opportunities for brands and retailers to connect and collaborate with us on varying levels. Brands that are currently partnering with RPL include Hoka, Patagonia, Kahtoola, On Running, Gu, Trail Butter, rnnr and Topa Topa Brewery, as well as a number of high-profile races and run clubs. Through our Coalition we curate opportunities for collaboration through RPL Programs such as the Everyone Runs Fund, the RPL Ambassador Program, the Race Director Resource Hub or through involvement in our advocacy and educational initiatives. We take great pride in creating lasting partnerships and ensuring alignment in priorities, goals and vision.
ATRA: Check out ATRA’s website at www.trailrunner.com, include trail running events (camps, film nights, races) in ATRA’s comprehensive online calendar (no charge for inclusion) and direct their constituents to Trail News for current and archived content.
LNT: As individuals, we recommend you take advantage of our new free-for-all online course, Leave No Trace 101, at Learn.lnt.org. This course represents the current Leave No Trace — a Leave No Trace for all outdoor users. As retailers and vendors, we encourage you to use your brand and platform to promote and partner on meaningful and impactful causes. Not only will this help to elevate your brand in an otherwise busy market, but it will help to lead with good. We are always excited to partner with and support like-minded brands in everything from social media and event collaborations to large-scale brand integration.
Benefits To Brands/Retailers …
RPL: A relationship between RPL and a brand or retailer is mutually beneficial. If a brand is investing in our programs they become part of our larger goal to create inclusive running communities dedicated to protecting the environment. With the support of a coalition of brands and retailers, RPL can provide the framework needed to organize and amplify independent efforts and resources to create an impact greater than the sum of its parts.
ATRA: A variety of content and resources on our website, knowledge of our board and ATRA team’s expertise on all things trail running, a voice for our sport. ATRA also enjoys featuring retailers and brands in press release or interview form in Trail News or on social media.
LNT: First, it is fair to assume that most of us have a vested interest in protecting our outdoor areas. By financially supporting nonprofits you allow us to continue creating meaningful and impactful education. This education helps keep our outdoor spaces beautiful and open. Open trails benefit you as a user and your brand, because without trails, trail running shoes lose some significance. There is also a significant benefit to your brand image. Consumers are more attuned now than ever before to where their money is going. Simply making high-tier gear is no longer enough. You must demonstrate to your consumers that buying from you brand supports impactful and meaningful causes. By partnering with nonprofits like Leave No Trace, you are helping to tell that story and build your brand as more than just a company.
The TRE23 Agenda …
RPL: We are excited to meet new outdoor industry reps, retailers, race directors and runners. Join us at the panel discussion presented by the Low Impact Alliance “The Impact of Events: Hosting Zero-Waste Events.” This event is scheduled for Tuesday, November 28 from 2:15–3 p.m.
ATRA: Reconnecting with existing partners, members and brands and pursuing new connections.
LNT: What I look forward to most at The Running Event are the conversations that are sure to be had between fellow outdoor lovers. Events like The Running Event help connect and provide a meeting place for our community’s extraordinary and impactful energy. The conversations and brainstorming sessions with like-minded brands on ways to work together to protect our outdoors give me the fuel to come to work every day.
Plans for 2024 …
RPL: 2024 will be a big year for Runners for Public Lands. Through digital campaigns, the collective organization of inclusive local running communities and partnerships with like-minded organizations we will bring the diverse voices and perspectives of the largest human-powered recreation group in the U.S. to the environmental protection movement. We are excited to strengthen our current programs, especially the RPL Ambassador Program, which will expand our presence.
ATRA: Announcing a theme for 2024 and facilitating programs, messaging and content that responds to that theme and also continuing to support past themes to supplement and fulfill ATRA’s overall mission.
LNT: Our primary focus, as always, is to continue expanding our education and brand to represent all outdoor users, from the backcountry skier to the monthly hiker to the neighborhood picnicker — as we like to say, from the backcountry to the backyard. We plan to do this in a variety of forms, from in-person activation events like our Spotlight Program to creating more online and free resources.
American Trail Running Association: www.trailrunner.com
Runners for Public Lands: runnersforpubliclands.org
Leave No Trace: www.LNT.org