A RELAY run along the River Exe on Sunday, September 24, World Rivers Day, will highlight the epic migratory journey of the Atlantic Salmon and explore what it can teach us about the health of the river and climate change.
Salmon Run – which includes a 50-mile ultra run, a 50-mile relay and a 5k fun run – is a community celebration of this remarkable but endangered "king of fish", its physical endurance and its ecological and cultural significance for our rivers.
Ultra and relay runners will set off from Exmouth and run through Lympstone, Topsham, Exeter, Brampford Speke, Thorverton, Bickleigh, Tiverton, Exebridge and finishing at Tarr Steps on Exmoor.
They will pass a symbolic hand-crafted salmon icon from hand-to-hand as they follow its journey from sea to spawning grounds. Runners will swell in numbers in Exeter’s Riverside Valley Park, with one 5km leg of the relay open to people of all ages and abilities.
In the past, thousands of salmon completed an epic trans-Atlantic journey up the Exe to spawn.
So plentiful were they that the original name for the Exe (Isca) meant “river of fish”.
Now numbers of returning fish are drastically reduced (global populations are down 70 per cent in 25 years – Atlantic Salmon Trust) and the species is "at risk".
Weirs, the changing climate, loss of species diversity and pollution all have their impact on these iconic fish.
Salmon Run has been created by Tidelines, a community-led organisation that engages people through arts, science and citizen-led research in the changing Exe estuary and coast at a time of environmental and nature emergency.
Tidelines has worked with experts at RAMM (Royal Albert Memorial Museum), the University of Exeter, The Westcountry Rivers Trust and others, including anglers, to learn about Exe salmon, the challenges they face and what can be done to welcome the salmon back.
Salmon Run animates the salmon’s story through a blend of art, design, science, performance and running!
Jo Salter from Tidelines, says: “Salmon are the ultimate wild adventurers! They undertake feats of extreme physical endurance and adapt their breathing as they move across different terrains in seas and rivers from deep, cold salty oceans near Greenland to muddy estuaries, through the city, and overcome many barriers to make it up to the shallow, shaded freshwater gravel beds they need for spawning.”
Tidelines has created a podcast which runners listen to in advance before their run so they can feel this story in their heart, head and bones!
Tidelines is working with Ceri Rees from Wild Running, specialists in adventurous outdoor events as run director.
Tidelines has found common cause with Ceri who is passionate about bringing more environmental consciousness to outdoor adventure sports and trail running.
Ceri said: “Salmon Runners take the Salmon baton from the sea and carry it across different terrains - off road, on road, gravel paths, fields, and through urban settings. This year we are trialing a Salmon Run Ultra as we had people ask if they could run the whole 50-mile length.
“We want to create an event where people could sensitise to the environment and physically empathise with these remarkable creatures by running alongside them.”
Salmon Run has funding from Westcountry Rivers Trust and RETA (River Exe Tributaries Association).