Open Letter to Runners: Cut the Crap and Toss the Crap

Water stop at the Berlin Marathon (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Dear Runners, We, as a community, are awesome. We register for races and support the best of causes in the process. We support the small, untimed, fundraising fun runs at local schools. We participate in events that raise money for individuals suffering from cancer and other ailments. We raise tens of thousands of dollars for non-profits and worthwhile entities each year. We are also lucky. We get to race along the coast in places like Cape Lookout State Park, watching the waves crash into a cool Oregon beach. We are allowed the priveledge of racing in Silver Falls State Park and running past (and behind) 10+ waterfalls. We are allowed on the trails of Smith Rock State Park, racing alongside each other as Monkey Face approaches in the distance and the morning sun bounces off the cliffs. With all that awesomeness and luckiness that we are exposed to, how is it that we can be such jerks?

I felt complelled to pen this post following my recent Sunriver Marathon for a Cause, though it has been bubbling for a while. As the mist from the chilly morning slowly started to rise off the golf links, and Mt. Bachelor looped mighty in the distance, I took a deep breath of crisp morning air, felt truly at peace in my surroundings…and then proceeded to see dozens of water cups and a handful of gu packets littering the ground around me.

At this year’s Rock n Roll Half Marathon in Portland, there was one aid station that had literally hundreds of cups within a 15 foot radius of a giant, mostly empty, trash can.

As I was running through the gorgeous Rogue Hopyards during the Independence Day 10k, there were energy packets hastily deposited on the fertile soil, even though the race was only a series of 5k loops.

I am not sure that anyone would be able to convince me that they have an excuse to just carelessly litter like this while racing. I don’t care how fast you are, I am not seeing how holding onto a cup for a few hundred meters (or even a couple of miles…gasp) is going to slow someone down enough where tossing a cup to the ground is necessary (we’re not bloody Olympic marathoners).

I also understand that there are volunteers out there whose “job” it is to take care of things like this. But is it really necessary for someone freely contributing their time and energy to have to clean up after people, especially when there is a can right there?

And by God, we spend hundreds (thousands?!) of dollars on running gear each year. You can’t tell me that there isn’t a pair of shorts with pockets or a running belt or a water pack that doesn’t have the ability to hold your trash. I mean, you had to carry your Gu packet somewhere with you during the race, right!? And even if you don’t use any of that gear, you have two fantastic inventions that seem like they were just made to carry things – hands.

All I’m saying is that it is really disheartening and sad to see stuff like this going on, especially when we are so awesome and lucky. We are better than that. Let’s add mindful to that list too.


Lost in a Sea of Water Cups (and sadness)

About Matt Rasmussen (1599 Articles)
Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching the Olympics, sampling craft beers, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010.

2 Comments on Open Letter to Runners: Cut the Crap and Toss the Crap

  1. Hmm. Here’s the thing. Trail races, by their very nature…being out IN nature…are very good at educating their runners that if they leave a trace they’re disqualified, and several trail runners will pick up other’s trash if they see it. So, while I agree that leaving trash on a race course is not necessary (I never have a problem swerving toward a cardboard receptable to toss my cup)…it’s not a problem with all runners at large. Instead, it’s just been allowed for so long on road races. If it’s ever going to change, it would have to be a policy stated and enforced by the race directors/organizers. There are often no rules against it. Many large races have street sweeping vehicles (not just volunteers with brooms) to clear up the roads after the race. Those who put on these events allow it and plan for it. Should people be more considerate? Sure. But is it an accepted practice on a road race? Kinda, yeah.

  2. I agree – leave nothing but footprints. I run Vacation Races National Park series and they have ‘cupless’ races. Their water stations have the large water jugs with FAST pour spouts! Simple put your bottle under the spout and push – take less time than grabbing a cup from a volunteer and then tossing the cup. Also you get to determine how much water you want. They even have a special ‘cup’ that comes with your race registration that works wonderfully with the system. AND it cuts down on the number of volunteers that RD have to find.
    Yes, it takes some time to train ourselves but it is doable. As for the Gu packets and other food packaging – put it in your pocket. If any gets on your clothes – it washes out! I know – I do it all the time. My $.02. Thanks!

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