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SALT LAKE CITY — More than 100 runners are taking part in a 24-hour marathon that climbs one of the Wasatch Front's steepest peaks multiple times on Friday and Saturday. They're calling attention to Utah's pollution problems and raising money for the cause.
It's called the Up For Air Series, and when they say up, they mean to the top of Grandeur Peak, elevation 8,299 feet. Today, the series is a collection of endurance events created to amplify air quality issues and raise money for organizations working on solutions. But, it all started with one runner in search of clean air on his workouts.
"When we are running hard, we're respirating something like five times the amount of air that you do when you're sitting still," said Jared Campbell, founder and organizer of the Up For Air Series.
Clean air is critical to Campbell because he's an ultra endurance athlete. Ten years ago, in the midst of bad pollution, he was training for a springtime race.
"In the winter months, when most people are skiing, I needed to be out running up and down the peaks to try to get fit for it," Campbell said.
In the valley, you cannot always tell how bad the pollution is.
"For a lot of people, if they head up to the ski resorts, that act of coming out of the pollution, and then at the end of the day jumping back down into it really makes you realize how bad it is," Campbell said.
So, he turned his training into a fundraiser for air quality advocates and picked up pledges for the 10 laps he did on Grandeur Peak that year.
"We ended up raising a couple thousand dollars doing it," he said.
And the Up For Air Series was born.
This year, they are raising money for Breathe Utah and Utah Clean Energy in multiple events. Proterra, an event sponsor, is shuttling racers in an electric bus, to reduce the emissions from the event. Runners will lap Grandeur Peak from Millcreek Canyon as many times as possible in 24 hours, and on Saturday climbers will lap a wall at The Front Climbing Club. Nearly 250 racers will participate in the events.
"It's really meaningful that this little event that started with a few people has turned into this event that for some people it's their favorite event of the year," Campbell said.
All racers are registered for this weekend. But, you can still donate on their website, upforairseries.org, and find out about upcoming events.