By Haley Colgate
Over Spring Break, I volunteered at the finish line of the Ogden Winter Racing Circuit in Utah. As one race in a series of races building up to the Ogden Marathon, the circuit is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon. While serving food and clipping off time chips, I noticed the wastefulness inherent in the event. While running is touted as the sport that anyone can do anywhere and which does not require special gear, running events are far from eco-friendly.
Thousands of paper and plastic cups, wrappers, and race bibs littered along the sides of roads, and zip ties from timing chips strewn about both roadways and wilderness areas mean the environmental impact of a marathon is immense. However, there are changes race organizers and runners can make to help reduce this impact. The next time you race or volunteer at a race, look for these opportunities when choosing which races to run and how you approach the event.
Fuel yourself efficiently.
Buy your snacks in bulk to reduce packaging, then use reusable containers while on the go. Reuse plastic water bottles or, better yet, invest in your own. Avoid disposable cups; if you must use them, find or make them made of smart-sourced ingredients with low environmental impacts. If you have no other option, recycle them after you’re done. Finally, use local ingredients to reduce the output of pollution in transportation.
Reduce travel emissions.
Run local races if possible to reduce your carbon footprint. If you’re traveling far, carpool or use public transportation to get to the starting line. In addition, when choosing trails to train on, take advantage of the trails near you.
The production of running gear tends to have high environmental impacts. Look for companies with ecological focuses, search for lightly-used gear online, or try to create what you need. When you are done with your gear, rather than throwing it away, donate it to homeless shelters and the like. While last year’s shoes may not be of use to you anymore, they might be what someone else needs.
Choose eco-friendly races.
Pick races that are making strides towards being environmentally conscious. Efforts include using sustainable fibers in race shirts and goodie bags, donating to environmental causes, using biodegradable cups and locally-sourced foods, handing out medals made from recycled materials, and disposing of trash responsibly. Sign up online to reduce the amount of paper used in registrations. Some races have been certified as environmentally and socially conscious by organizations like the Council for Responsible Sport.
For example, the Boulder Ironman and the Snowmass Ragnar Trail Relay are certified in Colorado, so give preference towards these races. Last but not least, look for races that donate to environmental organizations or have methods to offset their impact—one race in Oregon even gives finishers seedlings to encourage eco-friendliness.
Consider not racing.
The sport of running in and of itself is not inherently wasteful and the adage that it can be done by anybody anywhere holds mostly true. So, consider racing against yourself or just enjoying a scenic jog. After all, life is not about the competition and the ways in which we exercise need not be either.
Think about your footprint.
It is easy to forget how our love for recreational sports such as running can cause detriment to our environment; what’s important is that we recognize the negative impacts we are making and take steps to reduce them in any way we can.
These are just a few tips that can make a big difference before and after crossing the finish line – keep them in mind as you prepare for your next race!