jason koop many steps cleaner air

Taking (Many) Steps for Cleaner Air

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By Jason Koop
CTS Coach, author of “Training Essentials for Ultrarunning

I’m giving up my Subaru.

Like many Coloradans, I own a Subaru Outback. I love my Outback and it’s easy to see why so many Coloradoans and other adventurers own them. They are a good value, practical, fuel efficient, reliable, and have all wheel drive and a host of other features that runners, climbers, skiers and cyclists all can appreciate. I love my Outback so much that when it rolled over 100,000 miles, I stopped, pulled over, took a picture of the odometer and took a few minutes to reflect on all of the adventures I’ve been on in that car. My Outback has carried me to too many trailheads and mountaintops to count, rescued lost dogs and runners, been a support vehicle for camps and been a roof over my head many a time. As much as I love this car and love driving it, I’m giving it up for the month of November.

As a coach, inspiring athletes is one of my primary objectives. Sure, I write a lot of training, look at files, and discuss workouts and race strategy and keep up with the latest sports science. But above all, I try to inspire athletes so they pursue great accomplishments. I believe inspiration can be a catalyst that drives an athlete to achieve more than simply the sum of their fitness, confidence and internal drive.

In turn, and likely unbeknownst to the athletes I work with, they inspire me. They inspire me with their dedication, eagerness to take on challenges, and their ability to be vulnerable and humble even when they succeed. Most important, they inspire me with something outside of the field of competition: their values.

Dean Karnazes

When I worked with Dean Karnazes on the Endurance 50—running 50 marathons, in all 50 states, in 50 consecutive days—the most poignant thing he taught me was that inspiration was a two-way street. On a daily basis, people told him how inspired they were by what he was doing. The runners we encountered all had incredible stories. Some had lost copious amounts of weight; others were in recovery from drug and alcohol addictions. Some even ran their first marathon, and then a few more, in a row. In turn, Dean was inspired by each of them and the effort they put forth to show up and go for a run.

In a recent Ultrarunning Magazine piece, Dean argued that the number one issue facing the sport of Ultrarunning is simply the air we breathe. He values the clean air that is necessary for him, and all runners, to breathe, run and enjoy the trails. He values that so much that he ditched his car in an effort to make the air we all breathe better. That inspires me.

Dakota Jones

Earlier this year, Dakota Jones won the coveted Pikes Peak Marathon. He did so in dramatic style, taking over the competitive field on the downhill portion of the race. He pushed hard, utilized his strengths and took some risks in order to win. And he even ran the fastest downhill EVER on the course en route to the win. His race inspired me.

What doesn’t show up on the results sheet or a Strava Segment is what he did to get to the race. He rode his bike. Wanting to make a statement on climate change and raise some money for Protect our Winters, he rode his bike from Silverton, CO to my house in Colorado Springs. The trip was more than 250 miles over 4 days, all in the last 2 weeks of his Pikes Peak Marathon training.

To be crystal clear, a ride like Dakota’s is a terrible idea if you want to win a competitive trail race. Riding a bike for several hours a day, sleeping on the ground, and then repeating for three more days – all in the critical ramp up into a very competitive race – is not what any rational coach or athlete would consider ideal. But he did it anyway. And he still won. His values, prioritizing a statement about climate change over his own race performance, inspires me.

Now it’s my turn

So now I’m going to give up my car for the month of November (and who knows how long after that). Sure, I’ve got an office to get to, groceries to buy, errands to run and even travel to various parts of Colorado, Texas and California during the month. I even have to make a trip to the ballot box and (ironically) renew my driver’s license. But I’m going to do all of that without my beloved Subaru. I’ll bike to the office, run to the grocery store, take public transportation to any errands and run to the airports (which I already really enjoy doing). Why? Because it’s important. Dean is right, we as ultrarunners depend on the air we breathe.

As a coach, my livelihood depends on athletes having clean air in order to train. That air is getting worse and worse every year through wildfires, climate change and pollutants. In my 20-year coaching career, I had only needed to alter an athlete’s schedule because of poor air quality a handful of times, until this year. In 2018, over half of the athletes I work with have had their training altered because of poor air conditions. This is unacceptable. It is also preventable and I will do my, albeit small, part to make it better.


Inspiration is a two-way street. Dean and Dakota have made an impact on me. I hope they can for you too. I hope that all runners take some pause during the month of November and ditch their cars or at least drive a little less. The change is easier than you might think. All you need is a little planning and a good pack. If you do, join me and tag your run to the office, ride to the grocery store or other car-less activity with #NoCarNovember.

Even if leaving your car in the garage for a month isn’t feasible for you, I hope you’ll still participate in #NoCarNovember. How? Commit to not driving your car for a certain number of days per week during the month of November. Why? You don’t have to be perfect to have an impact. There is value in doing something even if you can’t do everything.

And who knows, you just might inspire someone else in the process.

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Comments 14

  1. Awesome !!! I am not using a car for same purpose for my entire life 🙂 There are some small inconveniences but on the bigger scale you run more, you walk more, you meet more people and yet you don’t use your own car and don’t impact the air quality. Air here in Sofia Bulgaria is terrible, most people use 20 years old cars without any cleaners and you simply can’t run on the street.

  2. Pingback: Jason Koop on Coaching Competence and Smarter Training | Strength Running

  3. Thank you for sharing this. This is a good idea, here in New York we just walk, going to the office, to our errands. Most of the time I don’t have time to workouts and going to the gym and for the meantime, I exercise at home with my mobility bar. And you can try this also. Please refer to this link: https://www.probarmobility.com/

  4. Fun idea, I’ll try it too.
    Dean has written a book on the endurance 50, and it was really interesting! I forgot you helped him out. You both are great 👍.

  5. Pingback: Ultramarathon Daily News | Friday, Nov 2 | Ultrarunnerpodcast.com

  6. What inspirational ideas!! Got me thinking about how I can drive less. November is difficult month as full time faculty at community college. Carry lots of stuff to and from school. Will explore bus, maybe commit to one or more bus days per week. I run and walk dogs on local and USFS trails. Clean air is sooo important. P.S. I ❤️❤️❤️ my Subaru.

  7. Thanks for the article, and the inspiration. I’d like to plug for EV option explorations for everyone. I live near Portland OR, have a 13 mile each way commute, and have had a Leaf for the last 4 years. There have been times of “range anxiety “ which is most people’s primary reason to not own an EV. Ive has it about once a year. I’ll be trading up when the 150 mile range Leafs arrive, expected in 2019. The Bolt has longer range than that now, but no Adaptive Cruise Control/Automatic Braking, which is a must have for me.
    Running, walking and biking are great options I use too, and I’m fortunate to afford Green Electricity at home.
    The biggest impact we all can have is being politically engaged: voting and supporting responsible policies and people. Sorry so long.

  8. Good points Jason, inspiration sure can go a long way. I commend you on giving up your car for Nov!
    Did you know Subaru is coming out soon with a Crosstrek Hybrid, which is mated to the very reliable Toyota elec motor, (I have 145k on my 08 Prius)? Hopefully, this will carry over to their other models.
    One big issue here in the SoCal desert area is many people leaving their car & trucks idling while they use their car for an office, instead of going inside a coffeeshop, etc. Many even have 2 sets of keys & leave cars idling, (very polluting) while they do their grocery shopping, or other errands.
    Calif. has anti-idling laws for big trucks, but not cars.
    At least municipalities are helping here, as were beginning construction on a 50 mile multi-use path, The CV Link, (to include EV’s that travel up to 20mph, which helped w/ grant $). It will be wide enough for multi use.
    The Coachella Valley has had some hydrogen buses for years here, and we have 3k+ windmills & solar, but LA’s smog still pushes into our area at times.
    I’ll bet Dakota had some sore legs for a few days after that race!

  9. Your post comes at an interesting time. For the same reason; an abundance of dirty air on the front range of Colorado, our family is seriously considering moving toward an EV. However, due to finances and the desire for a Nissan with longer battery life, we may just forego one of our cars for a year until we get to that point. I opeate my business out of the home. For me, a car is a convenience, but I can walk, ride my Honda scooter, or cycle to do the things that I need to here in Broomfield. Thanks for the motivation to implement these changes in November.

  10. Jason, Darn it…You pushed my button. I have to put my work aside for a minute and reply. I was in your neighborhood for the Cheyenne Mtn Half and your intrepid Pikes Peak route of discovery on Sunday with your college roommate and my son in law. The front range traffic mass (mess) is incredible and no amount of global cooling will ever reverse this train wreck. #NoCarNovember is commendable and you will not suffer given your fitness level. But don’t stop there. Maybe its time to recycle the Suby into a cleaner ride and justify the loan or lease as an overt effort to environmental change. Suggestion – all the new diesels, not the mass of VWs south of town, have exhaust filtration where the exhaust is often cleaner than the downtown Denver air. Imagine cleaning the air while you drive. And the electric hybrids charged from your abundant solar should all be considered, especially by runners. That way when curious folks ask us why we run (suffer) we can direct them to a more sustainable and clean living justified for everyone, wild and domesticated. And maybe once a month cars could be restricted to the bike lanes and bikers would be permitted to _______________________________________. Be nice. Nah.

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