It’s a question I often ask myself.
We run, run, run.
And for what?
Actually, for many reasons...
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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 The water is withdrawn from Mill Run Reservoir, treated, and pumped into the supply lines that serve our area.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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
La Sportiva Lycan I trail running shoes
Patagonia Lightweight Performance Merino Crew Socks
Janji 3” AFO Middle Shorts (for running)
Patagonia Women’s Capilene Cool Daily Tank Top
Buff Pro Run Cap (for running)
Salomon ADV Skin 12 Running Vest (for biking)
Nathan Vaporhowe 4 Liter Women’s Race Vest (for running)
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