Of course I run for many of the reasons we’re told to run. Running helps keeps me fit, and for someone who loves to eat in general but who particularly loves ice cream with hot fudge (and passes Ben & Jerry’s on the way home every night) I need all the calorie-burning help I can get. Running helps manage my stress — my family and my colleagues at the Conservancy can tell the days when I’ve exercised and the days I haven’t.

But another reason I love to run is it is great way to see the world, including the natural world. I have had the chance to run in some remarkable places over the years — including the Eastern Steppe of Mongolia, the largest intact grassland in the world, where I saw huge herds of Mongolian gazelles and the first wolves I ever saw in the wild. I’ve run in the Peruvian Amazon, where I could see the dramatic impacts that a new road from the city of Iquitos to the town of Nauta is having on the tropical forest (I do recommend running before sunup in the Amazon, as I didn’t quite make it back by sunrise and as a result wasn’t sure I was going to make it back at all, as my water bottles were drained). And I’ve run through the Ecuadorian Andes, where condors were flying over mountain passes that were so high half my run was ascending, the other half descending (I took a bus back).

Here in New York I’ve run through the woods around Boreas Pond in the Adirondacks, part of a 175,000 acre project, the largest ever undertaken by the Conservancy in New York; I’ve run on the Mashomack Preserve, where the Conservancy has protected a third of Shelter Island from development and helped restore shellfish in the Peconic Estuary; and I run right here in New York City, where I saw my first bald eagle in New York, flying a few feet above the Hudson River along Riverside Park as ice floes passed downstream beneath its wings. Running gets me out into the world, wherever I am. It’s a way to see and experience the natural world in a more intimate way.

For someone who had only lived in New York City a little over a year at the time, running the ING New York City Marathon last year was a remarkable experience. Starting over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and running through all five boroughs, to the cheers of more than two million spectators, it was a way to experience the City in a way that few do. So I will run again this year. By running the marathon I stay fit and manage my stress, but I also support The Nature Conservancy. And by supporting the Conservancy I help keep all those special places where I run in New York and around the world as they are, for people and nature.

— Text by Bill UlfelderCool Green Science Blog, part of The Nature Conservancy. Bill Ulfelder is the director of The Nature Conservancy in New York. On Nov. 6, he’ll be running the 2011 ING New York City Marathon as a member of Team Nature. You can support his efforts by making a donation on Crowdrise!
Why I run in nature
Running outside in nature can improve your mental health and also introduce you to the natural world.