Pickleball was the fastest-growing sport in America in 2023. Everyone knows that. But right behind it, according to the Outdoor Industry Alliance’s 2023 Outdoor Participation Trend Report, was running — in total, 65 million people in the United States identify as runners. And as the desire to run continues to grow, we become more aware of how our sport is directly impacted by reduced access to public lands, climate change, sustainability practices and the lack of equitable access to nature. 

Yet unlike many other outdoor recreation groups in the U.S., road and trail runners have not yet organized themselves as a national group to influence policies and promote recreation norms aligned with today’s environmental movement. Runners for Public Lands (RPL) was founded to give runners a seat at the national outdoor advocacy table. 

We endeavor to engage, educate and mobilize runners to have a collective impact on policies and the values that will greatly shape how our sport grows in the future. RPL believes that by activating runners and sharing their voices with policymakers, industry leaders and other nonprofits, we can make an impactful and influential contribution to the environmental movement and protect the people and places we run with. 

Based out of Ventura, CA, Runners for Public Lands is the nonprofit that represents runners in protecting the environment and it is celebrating its fifth anniversary on Earth Day 2024. 

While our vision to build inclusive running communities dedicated to protecting the environment remains the same, we are excited to unveil a new 2024-25 Strategic Plan that focuses our efforts and increases our mission-driven impact by educating, inspiring and empowering more runners to:

• Protect the lands run they run on.

• Promote environmental and social justice.

• Advocate for local and national-level policies that support equitable access to nature, the protection of public lands and climate change mitigation efforts.

• Encourage event organizers to raise the bar and work to support the evolution of social norms that prioritize belonging and environmental responsibility at running events.

Runners for Public Lands works to make runners more aware that access to running spaces is not guaranteed and provides collective tools that promote positive change.

Engaging Runners

Our programs empower runners to learn more about the people and places they run with and become active in caring for the environment, developing and retaining running opportunities for more diverse communities and working to ensure outdoor recreation and nature are accessible to all. 

RPL’s key programs educate, inspire and activate runners to:

• Volunteer for service days and become active recreation stewards in their community through our Trail Work Series. 

• Support and inspire diverse communities of runners through the Everyone Runs Fund, our grant program that reduces barriers for underrepresented runners by providing funding, gear and support.

• Learn about ways to protect the people and landscapes by using RPL’s Environmental Toolkit and our advocacy work on issues that impact our ability to run now and in the future.

• Support race directors and running club leaders through RPL’s Race Director Guide for Community Building and Environmental Stewardship and other event resources.

Run Specialty Opportunity

As outdoor recreation and the sport of running continue to grow, we expect the demand for gear, footwear and apparel to grow right along with it. According to the data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis in November 2023, outdoor recreation accounted for $1.1 trillion in gross economic output in 2022 and 2.2 percent of total gross domestic product in the United States. While more consumers are seeking products to help them pursue their recreational activities, we hope that they are also becoming more aware that their purchases impact the environment.

RPL takes great pride in partnering with outdoor industry brands and retailers that prioritize sustainability as well and are committed to strong environmental and social justice values. In 2024 we are seeking to build lasting relationships with new brands through the RPL Brand Coalition. 

Through this coalition, RPL provides tailored opportunities for brands and retailers to connect and collaborate with us and our alliance of organizations, on projects, programs and mission-level initiatives, elevating both brand values and RPL’s impact-driven work.