Running Challenge: How Janji is Preserving Thirst for Adventure

What is the purpose of every running challenge, big or small?

It’s a question I often ask myself. 

We run, run, run.

And for what? 

Actually, for many reasons...

  • We run for longevity, heart health, weight maintenance.
  • We run to boost our mood, refresh the mind, find clarity.
  • We run to mourn, celebrate, pray, escape, find inner peace.

Recently, adventure-apparel company Janji gave me another running challenge + compelling reason to run.

The Janji Follow the H2O Running Challenge invited runners the world over to research the source of their drinking water and to run to or near it. 

I was in. 

  • The requirements: a minimum $5 donation to Isla Urbana and a social media post.

Love for water

I grew up along a thriving natural resource, the Youghiogheny River (Yough for short). 

Nine years ago I returned to my hometown along the Yough with my husband. Now we are raising our sons here and instilling in them:

  • Environmental awareness
  • How to be stewards of the earth
  • How to play amongst it. 

We recreate almost daily by white water kayaking, swimming, rafting, fishing, or by simply biking, hiking, camping or running along and near the Yough and its tributaries. 

One can say that love and respect for water is a family value.

Furthermore, my husband is the Youghiogheny Riverkeeper, part of Waterkeeper Alliance

As a Riverkeeper, he advocates for improved water quality and conservation. 

When I learned of the Follow the H2O Running Challenge, I immediately consulted him. 

First, he told me that Indian Creek, a Yough tributary, is the source of the water we drink at home. 

Well, I have already biked and run along and even kayaked parts of Indian Creek.

I wanted something new. 

“What else?” I asked him. “Is there something more I could do?” 

“The headwaters,” he said. “You can run amongst the water that feeds into Indian Creek.” 

At that, I asked him to create a route for me for this running challenge adventure. 

The research (by Eric Harder)

Our drinking water is supplied by Indian Creek Valley Water Authority (ICWA). 

Service area. Their service area includes a portion of the Laurel Highlands located in southwest Pennsylvania. 
Community. Communities including Ohiopyle Borough, Donegal, and Westmoreland townships are located within its boundaries.
Size. The ICWA serves a 140-square-mile service area. 
Customers. There are approximately 2,600 customers who depend on ICWA for water.  Additionally, there are hundreds of thousands of visitors who use this water when enjoying Ohiopyle State Park.  

Our drinking water originates from two types of sources: 

  1. Groundwater
  2. Surface water.  

The surface water intake is only used when seasonal flows are low or in drought conditions.  The water is withdrawn from Mill Run Reservoir, treated, and pumped into the supply lines that serve our area. 

Groundwater. The majority of our water comes from groundwater.  ICWA utilizes three groundwater sources: the Neals Run Well, Pritts Spring and Grimm Spring.  The water supplied from these sources originates in areas with low or no development and primarily heavily forested, which means that the water is exceptionally clean in its original state.

A Janji Follow the H2O duathlon

This was a running challenge, but I threw a twist into it and added mountain biking, turning it into an off-road duathlon. I ran the Laurel Highlands 50k trail race just 13 days before undergoing this challenge and wasn’t quite ready to tackle the almost 17 miles on foot only.  


Ride then run. Brynn Cunningham turned the Janji Follow the H2O Running Challenge into a duathlon.

The nearly nine-mile mountain biking route started at the main stew of Indian Creek and followed the headwater streams to the divide between Indian Creek and Shafer Run.  

Shafer Run serves as a source of water for users of the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail (LHHT) and flows into Laurel Hill Creek, the next watershed over from Indian Creek.  

This route followed the flow of surface water that feeds our drinking water.   

The first leg of the challenge included a nine-mile mountain bike ride from Indian Creek, following the headwater streams to the divide between Indian Creek and Shafer Run.

I biked the entire Mountain Streams Trail (MST) in the uphill direction, starting at the far left side of the map, and then came out onto Tunnel Road. 

  • There, Eric and our sons were ready with a fresh hydration vest and my favorite Janji shorts
  • I swapped vests and changed shorts and then biked one final mile on the dirt road to the point where the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail crosses. 
  • Eric retrieved my bike, and I set off on foot. The blue line at the far right bottom of the map is where I began running, at about the 32.5 mile marker spot on the LHHT.


After mountain biking nine miles, Brynn Cunningham set out on foot, running on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail.

The running route was on the LHHT, going past Hidden Valley and through Seven Springs Resort, with a final stretch on Pritts Distillery Road.

Research by Eric: Pritts Distillery was a large distillery once operated by families who still live in the area today.  

  • The distillery was in a prime location.  
  • It had lots of cold spring water, dense Appalachian mixed hardwood forests and close proximity to buyers during the prohibition era.  
  • The Pritts Spring is now one of the major sources of groundwater for ICWA.  
Brynn Cunningham ran about 8 miles on the Laurel HIghlands Hiking Trail, ending a a sand filtration facility and storage tank for drinking water.

The purple line at the top indicates biking, where I ended the ride, and the blue line indicates running. 

I traveled south on the LHHT for about 6.5 miles until Pritts Distillery Road, when I turned right and ran down the dirt road for about 1.2 miles to the finish. 

The route ended at the sand filtration facility and storage tank, which supplies clean drinking water to our area.   

Finishing at the sand filtration facility and storage tank. My sons, ages seven and four, were waiting and ran the final yards with me. (Photo/Eric Harder)
Brynn Cunningham celebrates finishing the Janji Follow the H2O Running Challenge with her sons.
Adventure-apparel company Janji inspired Brynn Cunningham to create her own Follow the H2O Running Challenge.
Brynn Cunningham covered about 17 miles on bike and foot to complete the Janji Follow the H2O Running Challenge, and help protect the environment and local drinking water sources.

Keeping the love alive

Love for water is in my blood. I was born and raised loving it, and It’s what led me to the river in the southeast, where I met my husband, who shared my passion for water. 

Water is what brought us together, and in a way, it’s what keeps our love alive. Our date nights are not at restaurants or bars; they are on rivers, kayaking, or on trails, biking and running. 

The Follow the H2O Challenge was made for us. 

Here’s to finding your love for water and putting meaning behind your running. 

The gear & clothes

How I fueled

15 ounces of beet juice and tart cherry juice (biking)

Four squares of my favorite organic dark chocolate (transition from biking to running)

15 ounces of coconut water (running) 

Hydration reservoir of plain water in each vest

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Brynn Cunningham
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Trail runner, ultrarunner, white water boater, cyclist (mostly MTB), swimmer, triathlete, cross country and backcountry skier...


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