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How I Failed a Cupless Race

All right, I’m just going to come out and say it right here.

I failed my first cupless race.

Meme - rabbit saying Noooo

Yes, me. Mister Zero Waste, owner of an event sustainability company and decrier of our current throwaway society. Here I will confess all, so you can learn from my sad experience and avoid similar shame.

To be fair, I did not fail the actual race, just the cupless part. If you’d like to, you can read about how my race went on my personal blog (RunBikeThrow) at this link.

The Potawatomi Trail Races take place every April at McNaughton Park in Pekin, Illinois. The runners follow a ten-mile loop along the park’s trails, which feature some lovely steep climbs, quad-killing downhills, and a couple of creek crossings for good measure. You pick your poison – from 10 to 200 miles – and then run the appropriate number of loops within the 72-hour race window (Thursday through Sunday). I was there to run the 50-miler and find out what I could do to help the event go Zero Waste.

The day before my race I volunteered at the base camp aid station and introduced myself to the director of volunteers and the race director, who were both interested in making the event more sustainable. In fact, for 2019 they were trying two waste reduction ideas for the first time.

For one, the race was cupless! Every runner got a flexible silicone cup to take along on the trail. Most trail runners carry their own water bottle or hydration pack, so the cup was for when they also wanted soda or an electrolyte drink. This way the aid stations didn’t have to put out and throw away hundreds of waxed paper cups.

Runner filling a reusable cup
Doing it the right way: filling a reusable silicone cup from a “fast fill” jug. (Photo from Vacation Races.)

In addition, a City of Pekin recycling bin had been set up at base camp next to one of the trash cans. It was clearly marked, but some non-recyclable material had been tossed in, and some recyclables (water bottles, etc.) had been put in the trash. I sorted it out.

Potawatomi Trail 2019 - Base camp before 50 mile start
Base camp Saturday morning before the 50-mile start. The recycling bin can be seen on the right.

A bit later I met the guy who’d arranged for the recycling bin. Like me, he wanted to help the race reduce its trash, but he didn’t have time to supervise the bin, and no one else knew what belonged in there. I made a sign listing what was recyclable, and kept the bin sorted while I worked the aid station. But after my race on Saturday I noticed it was gone. The race director told me the bin had been too contaminated. Something they can improve for next year.

But I failed as well. I hadn’t intended to. I carried a handheld water bottle, and the electrolyte drink they had doesn’t agree with me, so I brought Gatorade to drink at base camp after each loop. With those bases covered, what did I need a cup for? So I left it at base camp.

Oops.

During the race I developed stomach trouble. Ginger ale sometimes helps, and the aid stations on the trail had some. Problem was – I hadn’t brought a cup for it. Fortunately, they had a few waxed paper cups under the table for this kind of situation. Feeling guilty but grateful, I accepted one, drank my ginger ale, and threw the cup away. This happened twice more before I finally got smart enough to fold up the waxed cup and put it in my pocket for future use. (Sigh. Either ultrarunning messes with common sense, or lack of common sense leads to ultrarunning. Not sure which.)

But as the race will improve its sustainable practices, so will I. That silicone cup will be in my pocket at my next trail race, which is also cupless. And I’m working Zero Waste at it, too. Must set a good example so I can scowl disapprovingly at those who don’t.

 

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No Scare Here! The Legend Run 2018 Sustainability Report

Another beautiful day for trail races at Sleepy Hollow State Park, and while the Headless Horseman was nowhere to be seen, there was another terrific Zero Waste result. Continue reading “No Scare Here! The Legend Run 2018 Sustainability Report”

Peace, Love, and Zero Waste: Run Woodstock Sustainability Report

Billed as, “a weekend of peace, love, music, and running,” Run Woodstock is the largest RF Events race of the year. It also generates the most waste of the year, with enough work to keep the Zero Waste team busy from setup on Thursday through takedown on Sunday.

In 2016 we achieved 88% landfill diversion and filled a 40-yard recycling rolloff to the top. How could we improve on that? Read on to see what we did, and if it worked!

Continue reading “Peace, Love, and Zero Waste: Run Woodstock Sustainability Report”

Don’t Just Toss Those Old Race Clothes!

Look, I get it. I’ve run plenty of wet, sloppy trail races. You expect a mess, so you bring along an old pair of shoes you intend to “retire” immediately after the race. You cross the finish line, change into clean and dry clothes, have a celebratory banana and beer, and then into the trash go the shoes, and your socks too, and maybe even your shirt.

But once they go into the trash, the opportunity to reuse them or donate them to a worthy cause is likely lost forever. Unless the event has a Zero Waste team, and they have time after sorting food waste and recyclables to search though the trash, and they feel so inclined to retrieve the dirty, soaked clothes.

“You mean you really want them?” I heard you asking. Well, actually, yes.

Here’s some friendly, and I hope useful, advice to any runners reading this who wonder how clothes that are wet, muddy, torn, or otherwise rendered undesirable can be salvaged and sent to a better place than a landfill.

Continue reading “Don’t Just Toss Those Old Race Clothes!”

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