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Ultra runner Stephanie Howe Violett gets her hands dirty with ONDA

Posted by Barksdale Brown at May 09, 2017 12:40 PM |
Bend resident and The North Face ambassador Stephanie Howe Violett is a world-class endurance athlete, whose Nordic skiing and ultra running has taken her all over the world. Before racing in the prestigious Western States 100 – the oldest 100-mile race that that starts in Squaw Valley and finishes in Auburn, California – Stephanie had to contribute volunteer hours to qualify. She spent them in the field with ONDA.
Ultra runner Stephanie Howe Violett gets her hands dirty with ONDA

Stephanie Howe Violett

Bend resident and The North Face ambassador Stephanie Howe Violett is a world-class endurance athlete whose Nordic skiing and ultra running has taken her across the globe. Stephanie is racing in the prestigious Western States 100 – a 100-mile race that starts in Squaw Valley and finishes in Auburn, California – this June. She has to contribute volunteer hours to qualify, and this year she spent them in the field with ONDA.

As a trail runner, spending time in the outdoors is a big part of my life. Last year alone, I ran 3,960 miles over 567 hours, with the majority of it on public lands or protected areas in Oregon. That’s a lot of time to spend in one place. I think it’s fair to say that these places are very sacred to me.

However, the ability to access the outdoors is a privilege that should not be taken lightly. As a trail runner, I am much more aware of the importance of protecting our lands. I could not imagine a world where I’m not free to lose myself in the beauty of the wilderness as I frolic down the trail. I’m able to be fully present and use all my senses to experience this wonderful kind of moving meditation.

Stephanie Howe running
Endurance sports have long been a core part of Stephanie Howe Violett's life. Image courtesy Stephanie Howe Violett
It’s such a simple joy that, at the present moment, anyone can experience. And yet, if we don’t take action to protect and conserve these areas, they could be pulled out right from underneath us. And that is not something I could live with.

So, in light of this and recent political outcomes, I made a goal to be more active. Actually DO something that might actively help the land. I started my action steps by becoming a member of various conservation organizations… aka giving money to support their work. I felt good about this, but I really wasn’t doing anything besides writing a check. So, I searched for some local groups and opportunities I might get involved in. And at the top of the list was the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA). I’d been interested in this organization and the work trips for quite some time. I decided there was no time like the present. So I started poking my nose around their website.  I became a member and penciled in some of the work trips on my calendar. TBD, I told myself.

Fast-forward a couple months.

One of the races on my calendar this year is Western States 100. This is a race that means the world to me, and I’m thrilled for the opportunity to toe the line this year.

This also means I’ll be spending many hours running on trails to prepare. YAY!

Stephanie Howe WS 100
Stephanie Howe Violett at the Western States 100 finish line. Image courtesy Stephanie Howe Violett
But that’s a separate story. The reason that ONDA and WS 100 crossed paths for me is because WS 100 requires all entrants to complete 8 hours of service prior to race day. I love this requirement, because it facilitates an opportunity to protect and conserve the land we as trail runners use. In the past, I’ve worked at races to fulfill this requirement. It’s always great to be around race day energy and help with pre- and post-race trail duties, but didn’t fully transcend all levels of connecting to the land for me. 

So this year, I decided to complete my service requirement in a way I felt would really come full circle to protect the lands I love so much. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the ONDA trip to Denny Jones Ranch, where we planted about 1600 saplings to restore the land after years of ranching. To say I left the trip satisfied was an understatement. I was so thankful I had the chance to really connect, to get my hands dirty (literally), and do something good for the Earth.

Stephanie Howe Violett 2
Stephanie Howe Violett plants trees on an ONDA stewardship trip this past winter. Image courtesy Stephanie Howe Violett
It’s easy to feel disconnected and overwhelmed by the messy situation of our current politics. I’ll admit, at times I find myself numb to the daily blows or so disheartened that I feel helpless. But, I’m not. Every small action adds up to something bigger. There are opportunities to do something good every single day. And we have organizations like ONDA that provide us with opportunities to make a bigger impact in our community and greater Oregon. So when I’m down about the state of our nation, I think about how I can fight back. And getting out in the field, digging in the dirt and planting trees seems like one of the best ways to take action. Thank you ONDA for providing these opportunities to help us protect, conserve, and restore our lands.
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Oregon Natural Desert Association
50 SW Bond Street, Suite 4,
Bend, OR 97702
Tel: (541) 330-2638
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