As a professor of environmental humanities at Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vt., Pavel Cenkl encounters evidence of irreversible climate change every day. This summer, Cenkl went the distance to raise awareness for climate change—150 miles to be precise—by running from one coast of Iceland to the other.
After deciding to commit to the run in the fall of 2014, Cenkl built a workout regimen on his own and began planning his route. Iceland, like much of the east coast here in the United States experienced heavy snowfall last winter that lasted into the spring. Even when Cenkl and his son Orion arrived in Reykjavík in June, many of the highland areas and trails were still closed due to heavy snowpack, forcing him to adjust the route. Cenkl started his run at 6:30 a.m. on June 15, running 50 miles that first day. Family members acted as a support team and waited with food and a car for him to sleep in. After sleeping four hours, he took off on another 45 miles.
All around him on his run, he saw evidence of a changing climate. The island loses about 11 billion tons of ice every year and some glaciers have disappeared completely.
Along the way, Cenkl collected water samples as part of a study by the Adventures and Scientists for Conservation. Even in the most remote areas of Iceland, four out of five samples showed trace amounts of microplastics – small quantities of plastics from clothes, packaging and even soap that find their way into the environment.
Since this summer, Cenkl has given presentations on his run and its connection to climate resilience in Vermont, North Carolina and Ohio. Next year, he plans on running the Leadville 100, a in the Colorado Rockies. He’s also contemplating an adventure in Greenland.
“The conversation we’re not having is how we as athletes and outdoor recreation folks connect with the outdoors,” he says.