In October 2022, Tina released a podcast episode called “I Felt So Lost.” At the time, she knew she wanted to combine running with sustainability, but she wasn’t quite sure what direction that would take. Now, just a little over a year later, she says, “I feel like I’ve got my path; the train track is in front of me and I can see it, and I feel very excited about where it’s going.”
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One element of being a sustainable runner is being part of a running community. That can take many forms, but for Tina, over the past year it meant attending the major industry conferences and connecting with people there. The first was The Running Event in Austin. “That, from what I get the gist of it, is primarily for the brands to show their upcoming models that are coming out in the next year. So it’s kind of for the brand side of it. And also the running stores go to see what they want to sell in the store in the coming year. So that’s a very interesting one for me to be at. I get to look at who is putting a priority on sustainability, who is doing the work in terms of their efforts towards minimizing their impact.”
Besides the brands and the stores, The Running Event is geared towards influencers, like Kofuzi, whom the brands pitch to and court with exclusive parties. So, Tina says, “To me, The Running Event is a bit of an old boys club, but changing. I really did enjoy it. There’s a lot of people at the leadership level there now who are making change in a good way.”
Next up was The Boston Run Show, which Tina describes as “an expo without the nervous energy. So I really loved it there. There were a good amount of people that I knew, but it was mainly for runners just wanting to wander around and get to meet some of the brands. So the brands were there with what they had to offer, talking about things that they were working on, and then runners were walking around having conversations. I loved being there with HydraPak and seeing the curiosity and the interest in sustainability or doing your part.”
The final one, which took place just last week, was the Running USA Industry Conference. Tina is a member of the Board of Directors of Running USA, but admits, “A year ago, I didn’t know what Running USA was. I thought it was the website where you typed in your location and it came up with races in your area. Spoiler alert to those of you who also thought that, it is not the same thing. Running in the USA is where you look up races. Running USA is a nonprofit that provides support to races, to organizations, to people in the running space who want to take their reach, take their opportunity that they have to connect with the running community, to the next level. It’s kind of a hub for races and for people who want to grow in the sport.”
It was very surreal, she says, to see “essentially the biggest fish in the running industry” all together in one place. And, she continues, “I loved being a part of supporting the emerging leaders. Some of my friends, many podcast guests. Carolyn Su has been on the podcast before. Verna Volker has been on the podcast before. And then we had Andrea Lytle Peet, Yaku Moton-Spruill, Tiffany Martin, and Liz Rock, also a previous podcast guest. These emerging leaders were brought in; they were given the opportunity to speak in front of the whole conference. They were also given the opportunity to host a breakout session and it was really cool watching them thrive and I really, really love that.”
Tina may be one of those speakers in the future, having been named the Sustainability Lead for the World Road Running Championships to be held in San Diego in 2025. “That is an elite race. The one I participated in myself in 2016 in Cardiff. And it’s also a one mile, a 5K, and a half marathon, what they call the people’s race. So where you as an everyday runner, recreational runner, would get the opportunity to run, essentially, in a world championship.
“We are intending on making this the most sustainable race there has ever been. We are being bold and brave with the initiatives, and I have some amazing friends that I’m calling the ‘Avatars of Sustainability’ that I’m bringing together to support me in this and I really feel optimistic of what this can be. So my primary focus for the next few years is crushing that. I know I’m not going to be able to achieve everything, but doing the absolute best I can with the opportunity that I have.”
Tina has worked with other races on their sustainability initiatives, including the California International Marathon, the Peachtree Road Race, the New York City Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, and the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. She recognizes though, that many races want to be more sustainable, but find it difficult without the budget or the staff of the big races. For them, she’s creating quarterly webinars and tools that they can use to advance their sustainability objectives with minimal expense and effort.
“They don’t have a full-time sustainability person. And so for me saying to them, ‘Go send out this email; send an email to your participants about sustainability,’ they’re going to be like, ‘What do I even say?’ Or if I say to them, ‘Get compostable cups,’ they’re going to say, ‘Well, where do I get them from? What one should I do?’ So what I’m creating is giving them the tools. ‘Here’s the email to send; tweak it as you may. Here’s the copy to put on your website; tweak this part and this part. Here are the three companies I would recommend and here’s why I recommend each.’ So I’m giving them the tools to make it as easy as possible.”
The year is still young, and there are already exciting things happening at Running for Real. Tina and the team are looking forward to bringing them to fruition.
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