The Origins of Running Up For Air

The Origins of Running Up For Air

  • Posted by Kaleigh
  • On January 25, 2018
  • Comments

We at The Front are super lucky to claim Salt Lake City as our home base. The valley gives us warm summer nights, mild winter temps (especially this year!) and unrivaled access to world-class skiing and climbing. This is one of the only big metro areas that makes it possible to get in a good amount of climbing after a 9-5 job. Unfortunately, the challenge of our lovely little valley bowl is that air can sink in and stay, creating unhealthy air conditions that plague us in the winter and more often in the summer. Enter local athlete Jared Campbell (pictured), who knows a thing or two about challenges. Don’t take it from us, “Jared is indeed the best athlete many people have never heard of. He’s not on Facebook, but has heli-kayaked in New Zealand, climbed over 50 5.13 routes, biked, climbed, run, and canyoneered all over, and he’s the Lead Engineer at a high-profile firm; instead of talking about himself on social media he spends quality time with his family, and he designed, built, and lives in a Net-Positive House: it produces more energy than it uses for all its heating, lighting, and even transportation requirements.”*

We first heard about Running Up For Air through some of our Front employees who love ultra-running and have followed Jared’s impressive and modest pursuits for years. Our eureka moment came this December while staring out at our worst inversion, and we contacted Jared to see if he would allow us to start a companion event in our gym on the same day as RUFA.

With this addition, RUFA athletes can stretch their endurance challenge by starting with Climbing Up For Air at The Front. If you aren’t able (or willing) to summit Grandeur Peak several times afterward, CUFA will be plenty to both challenge you as well as help you contribute to the cause.

Because of its impressive growth and inspiration, we sat down with Jared to learn a little more about how RUFA came about.

Tell us a little about you and your partner. We hear she won our Deadpoint Advanced category comp this year (!!). Are you both avid climbers?
Mindy and I met climbing at Rockreation many years ago. Our early trips together included Potrero Chico and the Red River Gorge (RRG). She’s an incredibly talented climber who loves to boulder and sport climb. She’s a crimping machine. Paired with her fantastic endurance and love of the sport she’s typically the life of the party at the crag. One of my favorite early memories of her was during a trip to the RRG, she was about 25 feet up a route and it started to completely downpour. She laughed her way to the top and successfully sent the route clipping the chains completely drenched!

I started climbing when I was about 12 (26 years ago) and climbed religiously for about 12 years. I grew up climbing at most of the iconic places across Utah and surrounding states and was also fortunate to take a number of trips at a young age to Europe, Thailand, and New Zealand. At 20 years old I shifted some of my focus to big mountain linkups like the Grand Traverse (Tetons), Cirque of the Towers Travers (Wind Rivers), and Evolution Travers (Sierra Nevada Mtns). From there it was a natural progression to endurance mountain and ultra distance trail running which seems to have captured my attention for the past 15 year or so.

How did your endurance mountain challenge, Running Up For Air begin?
RUFA began during the winter of 2011/2012. I needed a 24hr training day for a race I was doing in early April and wondered if I could put that day to use and raise money to combat the air pollution problem we have in the Salt Lake Valley. As a runner, breathing is fairly important and training in the winter gives a profound awareness of just how bad the problem is. After some research I was connected with Breathe Utah as they were described as the non-profit that would do the most with every dollar I could raise for them. I declared (to the running community) that I would try to do 10 laps on the west side of Grandeur Peak (~34,000’ of ascent) and encouraged folks to make a “pledge” grant for every lap I did. They didn’t have to pay unless I did all 10 laps. Folks joined me throughout the project, but it was a pretty lonely and tough experience through the night. I pulled off 10 laps and raised about $5K in the process. I am proud to say that it has grown into a unique winter race that the participants really look forward to.

Why did you pick Breathe Utah for your non-profit partner?
A good friend of mine told me that my donated dollars would go the furthest with Breathe Utah of all the non-profits in the valley. As I got to know this small group of remarkable and dedicated people it became apparent how they are able to have such a positive impact. I am thrilled that RUFA now plays some small part in helping them continue the successful fight against poor air quality.

Now that The Front is starting a partner event, Climbing Up For Air, what would you like to see this event become in the next few years?
I would love to see RUFA turn into an “Up For Air” series that involves running, climbing, and skiing. In 2019 I’m considering staggering the events so that one could participate in all three events. It would be a truly exhausting but fun weekend. RUFA is spreading to Colorado as well and in 2018 there will be a RUFA event in Evergreen, Colorado. A portion of the proceeds will come back to Breathe Utah.

Any advice for outdoor lovers on novel ways to help the air? Or is it really as simple as drive less, idle never?
I strongly encourage folks to visit breatheutah.org. The website has great information about the problem, most importantly the health impacts of poor air quality. Additionally, there is clear and simple information about how to adjust your own lifestyle to help and also how to become involved in the fight, whether it’s through volunteering, teaching, legislative participation, etc.

How did Patagonia get involved and how have they helped RUFA grow?
Patagonia jumped on board when they learned that RUFA was created to address an important environmental problem. It is incredible to me that a company would be moved by what we’ve done with RUFA and actively seek to be involved. One of their employees had just left Salt Lake City to move to their headquarters in Ventura, California so he has a visceral understanding of just how bad the air can get here. Patagonia has been instrumental in spreading the word to their broad audience, and they continue to support the event financially, with gear, and the use of their outlet store for our pre-face educational meeting on February 2nd.

*Source: Ultimate Direction Blog: Who is Jared Campbell?

« Participate in the first annual Climbing Up For Air to help support Breathe Utah on February 10th at The Front! The first 150 people to register will get a CUFA/Front water bottle.