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Photo by iStockphoto.com/skynesher

Ever since it was founded, the Sierra Club’s mission has been to both protect and enjoy. Some folks come to the Sierra Club because they love to hike or camp, and some get involved because they’re passionate about conservation and environmental issues. And many, many people appreciate both facets. After all, it’s only natural to want to protect what you love.

For sure, I put myself in that last category, which is how I came to experience what’s called “type 2” fun.

Maybe you’ve heard of the “fun scale” for activities. Type 1 fun is flat-out enjoyable while you’re doing it — like a Little League game or taking the kids for a hike in the redwoods. Type 2 fun is challenging and perhaps even painful while you’re doing it, but retroactively qualifies as fun — to the point where you’d consider trying it again. Classic examples might be doing a triathlon or scaling a mountain. Your sense of accomplishment somehow softens the memory of how hard it actually was. And type 3 fun? That’s something that purports to be enjoyable but, after experiencing it, you never, ever want to do it again. Depending on the person, type 3 fun could be anything from a polar bear plunge to finding yourself in the middle of an arts-and-crafts fair on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

Now, if you’d seen me cross the finish line at the Yosemite Half Marathon last month, you might have thought to yourself, “Type 3 fun, for sure.” I’ll admit: I was hurting at the finish, thanks to a cranky calf muscle that started civil disobedience at mile 12. But in spite of how tough that race was for me, within minutes I felt great, and not just because I’d successfully run 13.1 miles at altitude in the beautiful Sierra Nevada. What really made it special was that I ran as part of Team Sierra, which is all about type 2 fun — with the bonus of helping our planet.

Anyone can join Team Sierra — the only requirements are having fun and doing good. At the Yosemite Half Marathon, about 30 of us had some serious fun while also raising more than $40,000 through pledges from friends and family to support the work of the Sierra Club.

In just a couple of years, Team Sierra participants have raised more than $600,000 to support clean energy, make the outdoors accessible for everyone, and protect our water and air. If you’re a runner, cyclist, or triathlete, Team Sierra has a calendar of upcoming events like the one I did — from a century ride in Denver to a marathon in Berlin. But you can also create your own personal challenge. Thirty arts-and-crafts fairs in 30 days? Go for it (and better you than me)!

As for me, I’m already thinking about my next challenge, because Team Sierra is a perfect mashup of two things I love — getting outdoors and protecting the planet. Now that I have a half marathon under my belt, I’m wondering how much farther I might run with the support of my team. You know, I hear that Berlin’s weather can be pretty nice in September….

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