Change makers

Airinum X RUFA – a partnership in the name of clean air

Airinum X RUFA – a partnership in the name of clean air

Airinum X RUFA

Welcome to our insightful interview with Leslie Keener, the dedicated Program Director at Running Up For Air (RUFA). Living in the heart of Park City, UT, Leslie has transitioned from a collegiate/professional soccer career to becoming a fervent advocate for clean air and outdoor sports enthusiast. Despite facing personal health challenges due to air pollution, Leslie's resolve has only strengthened, leading her to champion the cause of air quality through RUFA. Join us as Leslie shares her journey, the mission behind RUFA, its collaboration with Patagonia, and a new partnership with Airinum aimed at safeguarding the health of outdoor athletes. Dive into the conversation to learn about the impactful work RUFA is doing to combat air pollution and the exciting collaborations that are making a difference.

Introducing Leslie Keener

Leslie Keener is the Program Director at Running Up For Air, residing in Park City, UT, where she indulges in her passion for mountain sports such as trail running, nordic skiing, and novice skimo/ski touring. Her transition from being a collegiate/professional soccer player and coach to embracing the outdoor lifestyle in Utah in 2003 has been marked by extensive outdoor coaching and training. However, Leslie's active lifestyle faced unexpected challenges when she began experiencing breathing and cardiovascular issues. After a series of consultations, she was diagnosed with lung disease, a condition attributed to the severe inversion and air pollution in the Salt Lake City valley—an issue that was largely overlooked at the time.


This revelation prompted Leslie and her husband to reconsider their living situation, particularly with the thought of raising children in such an environment. Deciding to prioritize health, they relocated to the mountains, living at an elevation of 7,500 feet, where air quality concerns due to inversion were mitigated. Despite moving away from the valley, the worsening condition of air pollution and its impact on her husband's work and their friends' lives in the valley propelled Leslie to dedicate her efforts to raising awareness about air quality issues. Through her leadership at Running Up For Air (RUFA), Leslie has committed herself to not only bringing attention to this critical environmental challenge but also actively contributing to the solution by supporting the series aimed at advocating for cleaner air.

What is RUFA and why was it founded?

RUFA was founded as a result of the horrible air pollution that exists in the Salt Lake City area. The area itself is home to many outdoor recreationalists as there is amazing snow sports, rock climbing, and trail network for running and mountain biking. Exercising outdoors in this pollution has extremely harmful repercussions, and the founder felt that this issue was not being discussed enough publicly. So, RUFA was created to raise awareness of the issue amongst the endurance athlete community and raise funds for local nonprofits working on the air quality issue.

Could you please clarify the connection with Patagonia?

Patagonia has been a long-time supporter of the Up For Air Series, providing products for runners, as well as featuring us in marketing efforts. In 2020, Patagonia piloted hosting a RUFA in Chamonix, France, along with a virtual event which saw over 58,000 people participate. Due to this overwhelmingly positive response, Patagonia will be hosting a Global Day of RUFA in early June 2024 (stay tuned for more details!). A film about RUFA, also produced by Patagonia, will also be released in the next few months.

How did you decide you wanted to collaborate with Airinum?

Part of our mission is to educate people on what they should do/steps they can take to stay safe when air pollution levels are poor. Due to this, we knew we wanted to find a mask that endurance athletes can wear when they are exercising. We tried a number of types of masks and ultimately, loved the fit and science behind Airinum's product. It is wonderful to have products that we feel confident recommending to keep our runners/friends safe when they choose to exercise outdoors when air quality is not ideal.

What are you expecting from this collaboration?

We are excited to work long-term with Airinum. As a start, we are eager to get Airinum masks on as many of our runners as possible and have a quality product that we can direct our participants, friends and family to use.

Thanks to Leslie for joining us in this interview. We're really excited about working together for a long time. It's clear we both care a lot about clean air, and we can't wait to start making a difference together.

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