Developing a Cupless Event

Developing a Cupless Event

There are a couple of mis-conceptions:

  1. Paper cups / compostable cups are better than plastic cups (all depends and you will need to read my post on Plym Trail Marathon)
  2. A cupless event means the runners bring their own water in their own water carrying device

Whilst the second point is something that self-sufficient ultras might make their participants do, this is not the case. Most ultras and road events have frequently provided participants with everything. Road running participants can also act quite spoilt, throwing the disposable cups and bottles on the floor without regard for their fellow runner who might come along and skid/trip on the object that has now been placed at their feet. Purely from a safety point of view, road events MUST enforce runners to put all their items into the bin, including those nasty gel packets. Additionally runners will waste water provided in the cups / bottles.

Additionally using 1.5 litre bottles to dispense water often sees caps disappearing down drains or left in the grass as well as water wasted as partly used bottles will mean emptying out the contents of the bottle. So what can an event do to create safer events and to provide hydration to its participants? Here are some ideas.

Firstly get the participants to raise their own game and carry their own bottle. It’s always good if you can ensure they acknowledge this requirement at registration. Participants can now plan hydration points and in hotter climes, you can encourage them to BYOB to reduce cases of dehydration.

Wearing 3 different ways to get a drink: Cup, Bottle, Bladder

Before “running cups” came along, I used camping cups (plastic and metal) that would clip to my harness. Now-a-days “running” cups & bottles are more sophisticated. They collapse so that you can stuff them into a pocket and weigh next to nothing.

For events with longer distances between hydration points, I use a water 2 litre water bladder. I used to have a running bottle (picture below) that I could clutch easily but when I lost it, I got a device to hold a normal bottle that could be easily clipped to my harness (picture above)

Saturn Running have a great set up. They are a multi-lap event and use reusable collapsible cups that come with lids, water dispensers and jugs. They also ask their participants to BYOR. This is a great initiative as they can provide reusable cups to participants who have forgotten to bring their own. As it is laps, the organisation set it upon themselves to provide an additional service to ensure participants had the drink they wanted.

Water dispensers and jugs. Tap water in the UK is clean and drinkable
Red Arrow: pointing to different types of bottles + a collapsible bottle (circled)
Green Arrow: pointing to different types of cups + collapsible cups (circled)

So you don’t want to look like me and want to use a resuable cup in an event? See how Max and Silia are carrying their cups below.

Max (LHS) with a collapsible cup clipped to his running belt
Silia (RHS) uses a pink bum bag to stuff her collapsible cup

Water sponsors want their brand to be seen. Well using 1.5 litre water bottles will be seen as backward and different setups can be done. Pumps or gravity dispensed water from 20 litre water bottles can be used and set up at tables. What will be important at the hydration tables are that there are also water jugs to dispense the liquids by volunteers into runners who want to move faster through. Slower participants can dawdle and use the gravity fed / pump dispensed water containers.

Cheltenham Challenge has successfully implemented a totally cupless event with all participants BYOR cup/bottle/hydration device.

Gravity water dispensers with reusable water containers (Photo from Green Nudge)
Photo from Green Nudge
Drinks dispensers at forefront, gravity water dispensers behind

It really is easy and every road event can truly create events that are cleaner and safer for the participants and better for the environment. A win-win-win for all. If as organisers you feel guilty for spending less on disposables and less on cleaning then please donate to my cause; and if sponsors find they are providing less water they can also donate to my cause; additionally if volunteers feel guilty because there is so little cleaning up they can also donate to my cause:

So what’s stopping you?

If you are a 10K event, the fast runners will only need water at the end, the slower runners can BYOR. For 1/2 or full marathons, contact me if you fear retribution from the running clubs for stepping up. I would be happy to hear them out and ask them why they think carrying a cup/bottle/hydration device will affect their PB (Cheltenham Challengers know a secret here) and why they feel they are unable to achieve a PB whilst being responsible for our environment that affect all of us.


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