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Athletes

Jun 26, 2017

2017 Mission: Race 717 km at 17 Marathons to raise $17,000

Chris White has raced 8 marathons over the last couple of months.

WRITTEN BY

Adelina Storkaas

With his eyes set on raising $17,000 for diabetes and heart disease research, the running coach will take on another 9 marathons before the end of this year.

“I have always said to people that if it doesn’t scare you slightly, then it’s probably not the right challenge for you. It needs to be something that makes you a little bit nervous. Excited. Makes you plan. Makes you react differently,” says Chris White, determined to tackle 17 marathons in 2017.

Despite an impressive pile of medals, the British running coach hadn’t taken on more than two marathons in a year’s time before embarking on his 17 mission: “I could realistically see myself doing 12 marathons, but with 17 I thought ‘oh’. That scared me a bit,” he admits, recalling contemplating this year’s challenge to explore a variety of running events around Australia.

Completing the Great Ocean Road Marathon (in under 3 and a half hours), and the Ultraman Australia’s run in Noosa in May, he also just completed the Surf Coast Trail Marathon from Torquay to Faihaven this past weekend. Even though he was not one of the 50 triathletes taking on the entire 515 km Ultraman challenge in Noosa, he paced one of his mates at the race and approaches his own mission with similar preparations.


Previously, when he trained for Ironmans and half Ironmans, he noticed the benefits of complementing his running with swimming and biking. He became stronger, fitter and less injured.

Now, Chris trains almost like a triathlete, but for running events. He focuses on endurance, flexibility, and strength. He keeps swimming and a bit of biking in his routine and adds pilates and yoga to move his body in different ways, to get to know his body better and break the monotone training in the running tracks.

He hopes this varied training will keep him from getting injured and give him indications if he is about to: “My tips [to runners] would definitely be to cross train and start to listen to your body. It doesn’t really lie that much,” he laughs. “It is just us, ignoring the signs.” For example, if he is cramping a lot in the pool it means that his calves are really tight from running. A signal that he should address.

But on racing days, he better switch off and ignore some of the body signals that inevitably come when pushing the body to its limits: “You get to maybe 30k 35k and you kinda want to stop,” he says “Your body is telling you: ‘Look it hurts. Your body is aching, your feet are aching. It is time to stop this, we need to go home’.

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As he pushes his own limits, he gets to know his body better: “I think that the learning that I’m getting from it [the 17 mission], is kinda like pushing the fast forward on my learning as a running coach and also runner,” he says and encourages people to do some funky challenges, that they don’t think they can do: “Do the research and speak to other people about how to do it,” he says and stresses “But don’t be afraid to try, because it teaches you so much that you didn’t even expect.

“I’m currently trying to manage the emotional ups and downs from running all these marathons and the spaces between them. I knew that might be an issue, but it hits me quite hard,” he admits.

He wants as many people as possible to join him on his mission to raise $17,000 for diabetes and heart disease research, and to learn from his experiences along the way: How he eats, paces himself on the marathons, recovers, and train.

Even though he is only a few months into the challenge, he already tunes into his body more: “I think that if I fast forward to January 2018, when I’m finished, I think that one of the biggest learnings that I’ll have is that I will be able to trust my judgement on what is going on with my body and notice the signs a lot earlier.

“Even as a running coach, you feel pressure to do similar things or copy people,” he says, adding “People that I have talked to have said: ‘You must be doing 100s of K a week’ and that is just not the case.

“I’m definitely one of those people who believes in cross training, rather than just running, running, running. I tell the guys I coach: ‘It makes me nervous, if you just run’”, adding from his own experience: “When I’m training for a half-marathon, a marathon, or whatever, and I concentrate purely on running, I get injured.

“What is appropriate for me is actually to do the swimming, the pilates, the stretch and all of that, rather than going out running lots and lots of Ks. Even though most of the people I know are doing lots and lots of Ks. So it’s actually to trust yourself, know your body and listen to it. Do what is appropriate for you, rather than copying everybody else.”

“Your body doesn’t really lie that much,” he says, adding with a laugh “It is just us, ignoring the signs.”

Acknowledging these signs will be vital for him. If he gets injured, the whole 17 mission will stop. A mission that seemed far away when he set off on his first 20K race in a baggy cotton T-shirt and Newcastle United soccer shorts in Brussels.

Back then, becoming a serious runner had never crossed his mind: “I trained and trained and trained. And I was useless. I was slow and I was really self-conscious. And I was really nervous about the whole thing,” he recalls.

Five years ago, when he moved to Melbourne, referred to as the sporting capital of the world, he got more serious about running: “Melbourne had an instant impact on me. I started running more, signed up to races and all our friends became runners,” he says. “You can’t help get influenced by all this activity that is going on.

“I never set out to be a runner. My dad probably instilled in me the initial spark and interest. And then Melbourne has probably given me the push and the motivation and environment to do it more seriously.”

He has worked as a running coach over the last two years and recalls how it all started. He was 12-year-old and joined the old man and mates on their weekly Sunday run: “Even if it was snowing, if it was raining, sunny, whatever. These guys would meet up and they would go for their run. I always remember that I thought that was really cool and I was quite impacted by these guys running,” he says, adding “I used to go on bike with them.”

This year as he takes on his 17 mission, it won’t be on two wheels. You can follow his journey on Facebook, Instagram and Gorunaustralia’s website.

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Boulder

Sep 17, 2018

“Frack”-tured Community: Colorado’s Proposition 112 to Direct Future of Natural Gas Drilling

The grassroots initiative, which Boulder voters will see on the ballot come November, would mandate a state-wide, half-mile “buffer zone” of fracking wells from occupied buildings.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

Hydraulic fracturing, known colloquially as “fracking”, has been controversial since it became the widespread method of shale gas production over the past decade. The technique involves pumping millions of gallons of highly-pressurized water and chemicals into deep shale formations to proliferate cracks and free gas for extraction. On Colorado’s crowded Front Range, where land is a premium, active wells operate within arm’s reach of houses, schools, and other occupied structures.

Fracking proponents say that the practice has drastically increased U.S. natural gas production, lowered energy prices, and reduced carbon dioxide emissions via displacing coal burning in electricity generation. Opponents of fracking cite many potential health and environmental hazards of the practice including methane leakage, groundwater contamination, radioactive wastewater, and well fires.

significantly more likely to have a low birth-weight baby

According to Colorado Rising, a grassroots non-profit committed to exposing fracking’s health and safety concerns, fracking’s toll on public health outweighs the economic benefits. Research from the Colorado Public School of Health indicates that proximity to fracking operations poses serious risks to health and safety. Among these risks include exposure to cancer-causing toxins such as benzene and air pollutants. An analyses of public health research at the University of Chicago examined correlation between prenatal health and proximity to fracking wells and found that mothers living within a half-mile radius of active wells were significantly more likely to have a low birth-weight baby than mothers who lived farther away. This half-mile radius, incidentally, is the amount of buffer the ballot proposition would require.

The research is preliminary, however, as it cannot definitively prove point-source contamination. To date, no double-blind studies have ever linked fracking directly to low birth weights. But according to spokesperson Anne Lee Foster of Colorado Rising, “Weld County is the most fracked county (host to over 23,000 wells) and has twice the still-born rate of other Colorado counties”. She claims the spike in still-borns occurred in 2009, after a 2008 influx in natural gas drilling. But the list of environmental hazards does not end with carcinogens. The Colorado Rising report also condemns fracking’s environmental toll. Their briefing states that because of methane leakage, “…fracking, transporting and burning natural gas for electricity is likely as bad as or worse for climate change than coal or oil”. The jury is still out on this claim. Granted, fracking is energy-intensive and petrochemical-dependent, but burning natural gas emits half as much carbon dioxide as burning oil or gasoline. Methane leakage in drilling and pipeline transportation is minor, though Colorado Gas & Oil industry officials and public health activists like Colorado Rising disagree on the amount and impact of leakage.

Despite its controversy, there are approximately 50,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado, many of them concentrated in Boulder and Weld Counties. Under current legislature, fracking operations can take place 500 feet from an occupied home and 1,000 feet from a school building.

do Colorado residents share Foster’s precautionary mindset, or are the economic gains too good to forgo?

Public demand for an expanded mandatory buffer zone from occupied buildings compounded after a 2017 incident in which an open gas line from an operating well leaked into a Firestone home, causing an explosion that killed two. Colorado Rising wrangled over 172,000 signatures for their “Safer Setbacks from Fracking” initiative, which was subsequently approved for November’s ballot. The regulation would underscore the burgeoning research on detrimental public health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing—research that Colorado’s oil and gas industry might call inchoate and inconclusive. It would increase the mandatory buffer zone between oil and gas wells and occupied buildings to 2,500 feet—a move that the Colorado Petroleum Council has deemed “job-killing” and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association has said risks “more than $1 billion in taxes for schools, parks, and libraries, and our nation’s energy security”. And Weld County, situated on potent shale, has benefited from the incursion of jobs and money brought by the industry’s presence in the area.

The future of Colorado’s oil and gas sector is up in the air, and the proposed initiative would significantly reduce the amount of viable drilling land in populated regions of the state. As Anne Lee Foster summarizes, “the general consensus is that negative health impacts are possible, and it’s best to err on the side of caution”. November’s vote will tap into the metaphorical shale deposits of public sentiment towards fracking; do Colorado residents share Foster’s precautionary mindset, or are the economic gains too good to forgo?

Special thanks to Anne Lee Foster, who was interviewed for this piece. The Colorado Oil and Gas Board did not respond to request for commentary.

Cover photo courtesy of Brett Rindt.

Resources and Further Reading: A Denver Post report on fire and gas explosions, political commentary by Colorado Politics, a public health report by Colorado Rising, The Colorado Rising website, A Popular Mechanics article on 10 Most Controversial Claims About Natural Gas Drilling, A New York Times article,

https://coloradopolitics.com/setback-initiative-ballot/ (comments from COGCC)

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1594bLT2U9nGsnWSSA4C5EAT3XZV-vDkB/view (public health report by Colorado Rising)

https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/g161/top-10-myths-about-natural-gas-drilling-6386593/ (information on fracking misconceptions and research)

Interview with Anne Lee Foster of Colorado Rising on 9/5/2018

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/31/us/colorado-fracking-debates.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/09/business/energy-environment/colorado-activists-submit-petitions-for-referendums-on-fracking.html?action=click&module=RelatedCoverage&pgtype=Article&region=Footer

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