As a writer living in Arkansas nearly a decade ago, Zoё Rom (MJour’18) was frustrated with the lack of variety in climate-related stories in the news.
“Climate change stories were just preaching to the choir,” she said. “I wanted to bring environmental writing to new people. I wanted to take seriously their concerns and their desires and their passions.”
She decided to hone her skills and jump into environmental writing full time, which brought her to CU Boulder’s environmental journalism graduate program within the College of Media, Communication and Information.
At CU, she was exposed to an intellectual community who brought knowledge in areas ranging from snow leopards to fire ecology, she said, but also pushed her to challenge her perspectives on things like environmental ethics, justice and racism.
“They’ve all become such a part of my DNA of how I approach things,” said Rom, who moved to Aspen after she graduated from CU Boulder to cover the environment and ski industry for NPR.
After leaving NPR, Rom moved to Carbondale, Colorado, and decided to continue telling stories in the endurance sports industry as she could weave in environmental angles while writing about athletes in areas like running, climbing or skiing.
Today Rom is the editor-in-chief of Trail Runner magazine, managing editor for Women’s Running magazine and a contributing editor and writer for Outside Run magazine. She’s written about how hotter temperatures affect the Olympic marathon; how climate change has forced new climbing routes in mountaineering; or how gear companies are turning to bizarre technology to adjust to changing weather (a cooling race vest from Nike, for instance).
During the pandemic, Rom — who is a trail runner — drew the attention of Tina Muir, CEO of Running for Real, which uses the stories of top runners to spur social and environmental change. The two originally connected over a tweet about composting, but then forged a friendship centered on environmental activism.
“Zoë puts in the time and diligence to make sure she has considered all variables, all perspectives in a situation,” said Muir, who lives in St. Louis, Missouri. “She knows that words matter, and she puts forward a lot of energy to make sure what she is sharing is impactful and accurate.”
Muir suggested the duo write a book. They spent the next two years conducting interviews and research to craft Becoming a Sustainable Runner, which caters to runners of all levels and is a solutions-focused guide to climate advocacy. The book was released in August.
“A primary challenge I found in interviews was that many people didn’t see themselves as ‘activists’: They didn’t want to go vegan, they didn’t really want to stop flying,” said Rom. “So we just wanted to head-on address those concerns in a compassionate and evidence-based way.”
“I’ve been waiting a long time for a book that puts running in the broader context of our bodies, our minds and the world around us,” he said. “Becoming a Sustainable Runner is that book.”
Rom hopes the book inspires people to become politically active in their local communities and generate curiosity about where they can make the most impact. And while the book aims to draw attention to larger climate issues, it focuses on the importance of self care, too, Rom said, who finds solace in her own mountain runs and quiet connections with nature.
“It’s necessary to care for your community and planet in the same way it’s essential to care for yourself,” she said. “And on the flip side, I wanted to demonstrate for folks who already are doing a lot of climate or community work that it’s important to take that time to take care of themselves and sustain themselves as well.”
Photos courtesy Zoё Rom