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What’s ailing the Boston Marathon?

April 19, 2011

Yesterday I ran the Boston Marathon. As my second marathon and first one in Boston it was an incredible experience. There were over 20,000 people who ran and close to 4,000 “bandits”–people who didn’t register but jumped in anyway. I saw people dressed as hamburgers, Lady Gaga and Sonic the Hedgehog! At Wellesley the students had signs that said, “kiss me I’m from Nepal,” or “kiss me I’m blond” as is tradition down the Wellesley kissing aisle (more commonly known as the Wellesley Scream Tunnel). And when I crossed the finish line I felt ecstatic.

But despite the jovial atmosphere one thing plagued me–the amount of trash generated during the race. At nearly every mile volunteers handed out cups of water and Gatorade. Runners grab the cups, chug, toss the cups onto the street and keep going. It’s a great system for runners who don’t want to slow their pace, but generates an unbelievable amount of trash.

Surely this can’t be the only way. There have to be races that use biodegradable cups or encourage runners to bring their own water bottles and there are: I did a little research and learned about the Blue Sky Marathon in Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s a trail race that takes place in the hills of Horsetooth Mountain Open Space so it’s all on dirt trails and completely exposed. Their sustainable practices are impressive, here are just a few race rules:

At each water stop (there are over 15) paper cups pile up as runners drink and then move on

  • Staff will provide composting before and after the race
  • No cups are offered, everyone must bring their own water bottle
  • Post-race meals come with compostable tableware
  • T-shirts for runners are made from organic cotton, recycled polyester or bamboo
  • At least some of the snacks provided will come from local sources

It’s one race in one state but it’s a great start. And while these rules may be too strict for elite runners who are competing for world records, for the other 98% of us, I say bring it on.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 19, 2011 8:12 am

    Congratulations both for finishing the race and for this great post! I’m not surprised that you can think about conservation and environmental responsibility even while RUNNING A MARATHON 🙂

    • lhoshaw permalink*
      April 22, 2011 11:48 am

      I was so focused on taking photos of trash that it slowed my time down! Completely worth it!

  2. Geoff permalink
    April 19, 2011 9:01 am

    Don’t the cups become mush as people step on them?

    • lhoshaw permalink*
      April 22, 2011 11:46 am

      Yes actually! Since a lot of the cups were still filled with water they became a pulpy mess on the streets and the volunteers had to scrap everything up with shovels!

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