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#68 or #69 2XU SG Ultra Marathon: Trash Runners

Tring and Runners trash

Event Type: Had entered the 50 km solo event (there were 100km, 21km and 10km events at the same time)
Timing: 50Km solo began at 5pm in the afternoon
Route: Gardens By the Bay, Marina Barrage to the East Coast Park along the Park. Turn around point is just before Aviation Park Road.
Weather: Started at 27 degs C, cooling down to 25 degs C in the evening. Torrential rain fall at the start.
During: Water + energy drink; bananas; one checkpoint used twice with bread, biscuits, sweets, peanut bars
At the End: Medal, t-shirt, bananas, energy drink, water for the 50km runners
Pre-Race Pack: T-shirt, reusable bag, timing chip
Website: https://www.sgultramarathon.com

Overview

The inaugural 2XU-Sg Ultra event was a good event: there was a baggage holding area / plenty of toilets at the start / signage was well placed / u-turn points were well manned & timings checked throughout / there was a feeding station that was used twice (out and back) & plenty of water / isotonic drinks at the aid stations.  Roads were closed for the Marina Barrage & the rest of the route was on the PCNs.  Below are some iconic scenes you can expect to see in this event that I found on the web.

GardensByThe Bay

Night time view

Singapore is generally very well lit

East Coast Park

The Disconnected Runner

Our world is one we share with all species and we as “outdoor” people should want to respect and integrate with our natural environment. I love the nature runs because the surrounding plants emit peace & kindness to the eyes. Concrete buildings on the other hand emit cold heat & a feeling of disconnect and disharmony.

Ultra runners all round the world generally will boast they are respectful of the environment and to other users of the trail. However having now run in a number of ultra & marathon events, the only runners who truly respect their environment are the ones who are self-sufficient and get it! “It” being we have a duty to our natural world to integrate with it.

In my first marathon (Singapore 2006), I was shocked at runners (local and foreign) deliberately throwing their cups, bottles, trash on the floor, sometimes in front of runners. Their selfish actions had little consequence for them, and their focus was on achieving a PB (Personal Best) regardless of those around them. Having continued to enter other marathons and ultras – New York, London, Rome, Race to the Stones, Pilgrams, etc – all have the same, shameless tossing of trash on the floor, trash that sometimes cause those behind to slip on, or are washed away into the waterways, or eaten by an animal. Even after a “litter sweep” there will be a percentage of litter that escapes a clean up. Have seen this repeatedly, more recently in the Windsor Half Marathon. The gel tabs are big offenders especially when thrown into the grass or bush.

I grew up in Singapore, learning that littering is anti-social behavior and unacceptable, yet why do we accept runners & cyclist throwing their “crap” on the floor as if it is the normal thing to do?

SuckyRunnerPoster

There is a nagging feeling that has grown in me with event after event. I know there will be readers of this post who have felt it in their consciousness and have turned a blind eye to the anti-social behavior of “tossers” (UK derogatory expression for an obnoxious person)….or even a sucky tosser (one who sucks gels and is obnoxious). I’ll use the terms here to refer to runners who deliberately toss their trash on the floor.

Convenience?

Just like banning CFCs in the 1990s because we had a chance to saving our atmospheric ozone, we are at a point where we can stop the plastic rot in our environment, in our waterways. I can no longer turn a “blind eye” to our superficial convenient lifestyle and call this progression. It is backward as it denies our need for nature. We the amount of trash many of us generate: stop & think how this affects the local landfills, the global waterways. Reconnect with your natural world.

Trash Man

Rob Greenfield wore the trash he generated in a month.

2XU SG Ultra

Time to see if ultra runners were really better than shorter distance runners.

My buddy Marinna joined me in this event to be a back runner litter picker.

Marinna Bin It

Marinna Encouraging Runners to Bin their Trash

Of course accidents happen and we were interested how much “accidental” trash would happen. Prior to the event an appeal was made to the participants to keep the trail clean and to BYOR (Bring Your Own Reusable cup or bottle).

As the event started, the heavens poured out its heart onto the participants. Despite the torrential rain fall, we were in high spirits believing ultra runners are respectful to their environment and we did not expect to pick up much rubbish. We were one of the last to cross the start line and ran in the puddles like excited kids enjoying the warm tropical rainfall. It was glorious and cool for hot humid Singapore where temperatures can hit the 30s (degs celcius) and humidity can cause you to melt in minutes.

The Runners Trash Drops

50km Route of Profiled trash

Profile of runner’s trash and two sucky desperate runners’ gel addiction

At 2-3km,  Marinna and I parted company as I needed to take advantage of the wetness to move Tring quickly on. I soon caught up with Samantha at the 5km aid station, which was the start of the East Coast park (ECP). We would run a lot of the first ½ of the route together.  The ECP is generously lined with bins placed about 10-20 metres  apart for approximately 12km of the route.

10km in, a runner had clearly thrown a cup from an aid station into the grass, 5 metres before a bin. Soon after tops of gel packets appeared on the ground. We gave the runners an excuse & blamed gel manufacturers for having made it too easy for tabs to be torn off completely and dropped as a sweaty tired runner “sucked” in their chemical loaded short-lived carb.

Why Gels?

Am amazed that long distance runners are conned into sucking the stuff every 30 minutes (as is stated on the package).  I have tried gels and found they took me on a “high low high low” journey that I did not appreciate and found better ways to stabilize myself with breakfast bars and protein. My ammunition was two protein bars & a sandwich to see me through this event plus a top up of two banana from the aid stations.

Additionally I have seen  people “bonking” in ultras despite taking the gels at the prescribed time. Later I would read that is because of the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin to cope with the sugar overload provided by gels. I wonder how many regular users of gels will suffer from diabetes & bad teeth?

Back to the Event

18:30-19:00 darkness was settling in, however this is Singapore, and all of the route except one small 500m part of the route was well lit, enough to see the gel tabs on the ground. As I wandered left and right on the path picking up gel tabs, Martin, a friend who came to support a short distance, ran with me amused. I would later find out Marinna also picked up a load of gel tabs & gels along the path after me from returning runners.

Gel manufacturers really need to come up with a different design to reduce this nuisance plastic litter that can be easily missed and washed into our waterways.

Trash Collected By Marinna

Marinna’s trash pick up

As the big golden orb (the moon) rose from the sea, I reached for my phone to take a picture, and had a quick panic. I had dropped my phone about 10km from my current position. I quickly rationalised there was no point in panicking and hoped that the phone would be fine.

Thus had to forgive the couple of gel packets found on the Tanah Merah Road on the way to the u-turn point as accidental droppings. Past the 24.5km aid station, it became more obvious that the runners’ actions were deliberate, as tossers had chucked cups about a couple of hundred metres from the aid station and some bottles were placed by a police sign! Amongst 248 runners who were completing the 50 km and the 100km duo, there was a small group of a***holes.

Returning back on the Tanah Merah Road, had left Samantha and was joined by Siva back to the feeding station at 33.9km. Three gel packets at regular intervals had been tossed into the grass. As we overtook a pair of 50km runners, I complained to them about the High 5 and GU tossers and the body of water that was close by. They coined the term “sucky runners”.

Siva righted the world with me and we berated about selfish sucky runners until 33.9km.

After the feed station at 33.9km more participants obviously were no longer caring about their actions as sweetie wrappers, bottles, cups  were picked up along the route as if this were a normal road marathon. Picked up six bottles in total and slung them into the bin.  The small trash bag I was carrying was already full from picking up 13 cups previously.

As I headed back to the ECP, my phone appeared on the wet floor. It was still wrapped in a plastic glove that I had found and used to protect it from the rain. The screen was a little damaged but it was still working. Ironically guess because it was wrapped in a plastic glove, everyone avoided it.

The callous sucky High 5 tosser irked me as he chucked his gel packets close to drains, drains that channel run off water into the sea.

RunnersTrashCollectBy TL

TL’s trash pick up

My first “period” day is normally a day to feel exhausted, however the litter focus fueled my mind with thoughts that runners need to grow up. My legs were still firing with energy to move Tring along, overtaking runner after runner and still picking up trash dropped by a***holes.

Along the last 4 km after the last aid station, six cups had been thrown into the tree lined area.  Again when did it become a social norm for runners to chuck stuff on the floor because they can’t be bothered or because it allows them to get a PB? Friggin’ tossers was my last thought.

Tossers & Sucky Runners, in future events, your trash will stay there as your ugly legacy & you can delight at the fact that your trash might even become micro-plastic or animal food. Please grow up and become #ResponsibleRunners

AnimalsEatingPlastic.JPG

When you next go out for a run/walk challenge yourself to pick up at least 5 pieces of trash (#5ThingsClear) to make your environment a better place.

It should be noted this is an issue that happens in events around the world in cycling or running events. Society may think this is normal. Nature does not!

Final challenge to you all:

PlasticChallenge

Resource: Plastic Ocean or Drowning in Plastic

Look forward to hearing about you being fantastic using less plastic

Nets Card

I picked up someone’s NETS card along the Tanah Merah Road. It must belong to a 50km or 100km runner. It has about $18 left on it. Contact me and I will post it to you. Also happy to post back gel packets dropped by the sucky tossers.

Finally, James (my biggest fan) has made me aware that I still have to complete the Race To The Kings write up…..it will be completed before the end of this month….Hence this ultra might be considered marathon #68 if I fail the RTTK.

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