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Plant a Tree

A conversation with ultra runner Sophie Power

Sophie-Power-Runner

Sophie Power is an ultra-running mother of three and social impact entrepreneur. Since a photo of Sophie breastfeeding her 3 month old during a 106 mile race went viral around the world, she’s dedicated herself to empowering other women to get active.

Sophie is an advocate of Trees Not Tees, demonstrating on Instagram how the obligatory race tees don’t always fit and that participants should be given a choice to plant a tree instead! We caught up with Sophie to chat running, climate change and everything in between…

What’s your proudest or happiest moment as a runner?

I’ve run harder races, but I can’t get away from running down the finishing straight at UTMB with my 3 month old in my arm, and holding my then 3 year old’s hand.  It was a celebration of a journey – proving motherhood will never hold me back from my dreams.  But even more so it was seeing how happy Donnacha was – he’d waited all week seeing other children run with their parents finishing the other races and he was so excited to run through the streets of Chamonix with me (even if I had to tell him to slow down!)

Where is your favourite place to run and why?

I love running in spectacular mountains like the Alps and the Dolomites but my favourite place has to be close to home.  I live right on the North Downs in Surrey next to this beautiful hilly wood which is always changing – from carpets of bluebells in May to the shower of autumn leaves I ran through today!  I love the feeling of being so connected to nature and I always arrive home calmer and happier.

How concerned are you about the climate crisis?

I’m becoming more and more concerned about the planet that my children will inherit so have been looking more carefully at how we can meaningfully reduce our impact.  We try and walk (or run) everywhere, so limit personal transport and we’ve just bought our forever home so I’m fitting smartmeters to bring down our energy usage.

I’m also very conscious about our consumption – buying products that last and are made in an environmentally conscious way – or even better preloved (I’ve bought some amazing running gear from ReRun). 

I was shocked to find that clothing produces more carbon emissions than international flights and shipping combined – as well as being the second largest consumer of water. 

– Ultra Runner Sophie Power on Climate Change

Do you think the running world is doing enough about it?

I think trailrunners have been ahead of the pack in taking steps to protect our environment on races – banning plastic and promoting shared transport for example.  Our sport is so closely connected to nature – perhaps in a way that road runners are not – and its great to see larger road races follow the lead and become more sustainable.

There are also races that have a positive impact such as Impact Marathon Series, which runs amazing races where you also connect with local communities in places such as Guatemala, Nepal and Jordan (with all flights offset).  I received the Jordan race course for next year and spent time in one of the projects runners I will visit called Greening the Desert.  It teaches sustainable living and permaculture as well as empowering women and has had a real impact on how I think about water consumption and food production.

What appeals to you about Trees Not Tees?

One area where the running world creates a huge environmental impact is in race t-shirts.  Now I do love to wear some of my race t-shirts with pride.  But what frustrates me is the waste that many cause:  they are usually poorly made so have a low life expectancy and are not made in a sustainable manner.

Often tees are not even wanted by the runner – when we’re playing t-shirt top trumps if you’ve run a 100 miler you’re not going to wear a 10km race t-shirt!  

– Ultra Runner Sophie Power on Trees Not Tees

But even more so for women, they usually don’t even fit in the first place so don’t get worn at all, increasing the negative impact on the environment, as well as our feeling of marginalisation in the sport.  

I love Trees Not Tees as it not only helps remove so much of the waste from races (and of course plants trees which benefits the planet) but really highlights the environmental impact of running kit.  Having to opt in to have another t-shirt hopefully makes us think about whether we need one – or question if we really need to stop wearing our running shoes after just 500 miles (which for an ultra runner isn’t exactly a long way!).  And if we do (really) want one, raising awareness will hopefully nudge race directors to source high quality well fitting apparel that we can wear again and again with pride.  

What’s next for you running-wise?

I’m most excited about Lakeland 100 next summer.  I spent my holidays there as a child with my grandmother so it feels like home and will be very special to run the course (even if I have to stop to pump along the way!)

Special thanks to Sophie for sharing her story and championing Trees Not Tees. Congratulations on the arrival of your beautiful baby girl!

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