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Cheltenham Challenge: Boldy Going Where Non-Ultra Running Events Are Scared To Go

What if every event in the world – whether it is a cycling, running, music, an outdoor festival never generated any rubbish and all it took was for organisers to stand their ground and enabled participants to raise their level of responsibility? And what would the effect be on participant’s times if they were forced to go cupless?

Imagine there’s no event rubbish
It’s easy if you try
No cups or gels to pick up
No rubbish on the ground

Imagine all the runners
Bringing their own bottle
Woo hoo hoo

Oh they say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
Yeah Cheltenham Challenge has gone cupless
And hope more events will do so

….Cheltenham Challenge knows that Zero Waste events are possible. Not repurposed or recycled waste, but ZERO WASTE.

Who knows what happens to the words we speak and the visions we share with others? Who would have thought a conversation in 2014 with the water sponsors and thereafter an email to the Cheltenham Challenge organisers once a year to encourage them to re-examine their waste would really have turned into anything…..4 years on:

Reuse Reduce Recycle

Reflections

Many ultra events have been going cupless for the last couple of years. On the otherhand, the non-ultra running events (such as 5K, 10K, half and full marathons) have been too scared about upsetting runners to ask them bring their own bottle (BYOB) to reduce the amount of single use plastic generated by the event. Additionally the water sponsors can provide water containers that are not single use!

Becos We always done it

There are a number of facts that are constantly being waved in front of organisations that many events refuse to acknowledge:

  • The inadequate recycling of single-use plastic in any country (29% of plastic is recycled in the UK with some portion of that going outside of the UK to process).
  • Not all runners’ rubbish is actually picked up such as wrappers and gel packets tossed into the grass, drain and bushes.  No running event can guarantee all the litter is picked up even when employing professional cleaners due to the irresponsible tossing of rubbish by runners.
  • There is a huge issue with plastic in our oceans. Many major marathons are close to waterways and rivers. It has been observed that “running tossers” have chucked their rubbish into the water ways, or the winds have blown their rubbish into the water ways.

The World Wildlife Fund released that 1 million birds + 100,000 marine life die a year from plastic consumption. There has not been an account for land based animals, but it has been noted the deer in Richmond Park have been consuming the gel packets from cyclist. See report here: http://www.frp.org.uk/pdf/news/1397_Press_release_Ride_London_2016_monitoring_v5.pdf. Similarly cows & sheep (for trail runs), squirrels and other animals can consume gel packets tossed into the grass by runners.

  • A good proportion of “serious” runners are irresponsible and will continue to be so as they feel it is their right to toss their rubbish on the course, regardless of where it lands as the pursuit of a PB (Personal Best Time) is far more important  because that’s what events are all about…..They do not care about the safety of the runners behind them.

We always done it this way

Setting The Benchmark

This year I had the privilege to be involved and see Cheltenham Challenge develop a cupless event. Of course a small portion of “serious runners” were disgruntled but the organisers stood their ground, working hard to ensure the first cupless event for 1,600 participants would be a success.

Environmental Statement

 

The team at Cheltenham Challenge delivered what has to be the cleanest and safest event, I have seen so far that is not an ultra marathon. A very well executed event that hosted 1,600 participants running 5K, 10K and 21km events.

Normally an event village is a trash festival with rubbish left by participants. On this occasion the event village at the end had about 10 disposable cups left around, mainly on tables that came from a coffee stall, + presumably two accidentally dropped gel packets…….and that was it! The area was surprisingly clean!

It’s All About the Trash

As the event’s Waste Reduction Ambassador, thought I’d do a bit of plogging in the 5K event to observe how the hydration points operated. The event had provided some emergency paper cups in case there were still unprepared runners.  I picked up some general public plastic trash along the route + 2 paper cups after the last check point. The hydration points I saw were extremely well run.

Following the 1/2 marathoners, the tail runners picked up 1 small carrier bag of runners’ rubbish.

Last year, 2 large black bin bags of rubbish was picked up by the tail runner + 2 white transit vans of rubbish was collected by the end of the event. Noticeably  the event village was littered with trash in 2017.

What Was in the Bins?

At the end of the event, the large water containers will be refilled by the sponsors of the water and the rest of the waste will be sorted by PrintWaste and recycled. Any waste that cannot be recycled will be sent to the energy recovery furnace. If the cardboard boxes were removed, the waste generated from this event would fill less than one 660 litre bin. The majority of the waste came from the stall that sold coffee, tea and cakes. Next year, hope to see them using reusable cups and separating their coffee grounds / non-plastic tea bags into an organics container that someone can take away to use in their compost!

Some comments from 1/2 marathoners I spoke with

  • I thought it might be uncomfortable to carry a bottle, but it was all fine. In fact I didn’t even notice it (runner who carried his water bottle on a belt)
  • We always carry bottles in events
  • It was really easy, and the marshals were on hand to help fill my bottle
  • It’s a no brainer
  • I could drink when I wanted to, great initiative

Speed Comparison: 2016 vs 2017 vs 2018

The final part is did stopping to fill water cause the 1/2 Marathoners to have a worst time than previous? (Check previous results here). So here participants raised their game, took responsibility for carrying their own hydration device for water and produced the fastest set of times since 2013!

So whoop whoop and a brilliant start to Cheltenham Challenge’s journey to developing a zero waste event where the fastest set of times were generated and everyone still had fun and sufficient hydration!

Cheltenham Challenge would be happy to help other organised events go cupless to move events away from using the traditional old fashion waste generating methods!

…And if you’re looking for a PB, perhaps you should consider BYOB

Becos We always done it- caveman

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Achieving Beyond a Best Time

A personal record or personal best (frequently abbreviated to PR or PB) is an individual’s best performance in a given sporting discipline. It is most commonly found in athletic sports, such as track and field, other forms of running, swimming and weightlifting.

Source: Wiki Definition: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_record

Let’s not beat around the bush here – the majority of runners who enter a marathon or ½ marathon or 10 km run are doing it for the personal challenge. Less than 1% will actually put in the time and effort of an elite runner: that is training twice a day, doing 100-160 miles a week.

For professional athletes, a best time is nice to achieve but it is not the total measurement of how the athlete performed.

Yet if you talk to many non-professional runners, you would think the time element of a PB is the only component that defines a PB. Runners’ can be upset for days recounting the story of how they could have beaten their PB if they just ran that bit faster, or runners’ depression sets in when they haven’t seen sight of a best time for days, weeks or months.

Parkrun (a worldwide free 5K event that happens every Saturday) sets out some performance elements:

  • Personal best time
  • Personal Parkruns you’ve completed
  • Number of times you have volunteered to help the Parkrun community

Defining a Personal Best in a Run

If a PB = Best Performance, then a PB can relate to a culmination of many aspects, that can be treated like milestones. In addition to time, you can have a PB in your preparation, conduct and effort.

Preparation

This means you can have multiple PBs in an event:

  • How much preparation did you really put in?
  • Were you able to put in more than your effort on the day?
  • Have you PBed in your conduct? ….”Hmmmm” I hear you say…

Conduct

Your preparation should have included reading up on the rules of conduct for the event. Follow the guidelines below and you can say you PBed in your conduct. These are some typical rules of conduct:

  • For road events, keep on the inside close to the curb unless you’re over taking. In places like the UK & Singapore, keep on the left, unless overtaking on the right.
  • Drop all trash into a bin to keep the course clear and safe for other users and to prevent “run-away” trash.
    RunnerPutInBin

    • Dropping your trash on the floor can cause other runners to slip/skid/trip causing them injury

BananaSkin Slip.JPG

    • Dropping your trash on the floor can create “run-away” trash:

Run-AwayTrash

  • If you run past the bins, then hold onto your trash until you come to a checkpoint. There are several bins there to deposit your rubbish.
    • TyreLadyBelieve me, you have the strength to carry a couple of grams to the next checkpoint….I drag a 10kg tyre! It just takes a little more effort and 1km is short compared to the distance you will achieve! In the Singapore Marathon there are bins about every 20 metres in the ECP area.
    • If it is a gel packet, then put it into your short’s pocket/underwear or for women put it into your bra top. For the “euwwers” out there, you are smelly and sticky anyway, or carry a small bag for your trash.SuperHeroVolunteer
  • Thank the volunteers for their time and help. They’ve been out longer than you, setting up and then waiting to help & encourage you. At the Singapore Marathon, many will have been setting up checkpoints since midnight, and then waiting for runners from 04:30 onwards. Give them energy and they will give you energy back.

 

  • Look out for each other. You are an immediate hero when you help someone.

Effort

The effort you can expand will depend on both your physical and mental preparation.  On the saying “90% mental, 10% physical” Ross, a sports scientist, says:

An athlete who lacks talent is exposed, as a junior in many cases, and never reaches the Olympic Games.  An athlete who has abundant talent, but lacks the mental edge, may fade into obscurity because they don’t have the drive or discipline to train, or because they don’t compete well.

The athlete who lacks confidence or self-belief stands out among the crowd eventually – they reach the “highest level of insecurity”, if you will, before being exposed, often spectacularly.  On the other hand, the athlete who lacks talent often disappears into the middle of the pack and obscurity.  Perhaps this is why we have identified mental aspects as so crucial, the source of the 90-10 principle?

Source: http://sportsscientists.com/2010/02/the-mental-edge-thoughts-and-opinions/

And finally an element that very few seem to spend time on is visualization. This can be done in bed some days before an event. This can help you go so much further than you expected as it can keep you positive throughout the event.

So next time you talk about your PB, remember you can PB in other areas other than time.

 

Tips for Runners at the Singapore Marathon

  • Use rehydrating salt (@ 60cts a pack in the pharmacy). Found every 2 hours is good enough for me.
  • SwelteringRunner

    Sung to the melody of Eurythmics “Here Comes The Rain Again”

    If you are a 4 hours onwards marathon runner, the sun will suck out your energy.

    Carry a water bottle that you can refill at the hydration stations. You will be thankful you had one when 1.5km to the next checkpoint feels “forever” long after 30km in the hot blazing sun on the open road…and as you’re pouring water over your head to cool yourself down, you will overtake gaunt faces wishing they had brought their own bottle to do the same between checkpoints.

 

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Do Serious Runners Care About the Environment?

Of course many do, but if it gets in the way of getting a PB (Personal Best) or PR (Personal Record), then screw the environment. I asked some “serious” runners these questions.

Me: Do you get paid for a PB?

Typical Response: No

Me: Is it life or death to get a PB?

Typical Response: No

Me: So is a PB for your own personal happiness?

Typical Implied Response: Yes

Me: What about your trash impact?

Typical Response: The organisers clean it up!

Perhaps Brexit and Trump happened to show us how societies can slide backwards so that we would have to relearn the lessons of older generations…..(yes a long politically discussion for a long run).

Before the common use of plastics a disappearing generation remembers having to BYOR (Bring Your Own Reusable). Then disposable plastic came forth. As our populations expanded, we were suckered into a disposable plastic addiction. Quiet observations have been made that our disposable plastic habit is wrecking environments; wildlife feed on our toxic rubbish, and plastic that fills landfills leach chemicals into our soil and water….and this plastic takes 100s of years to decompose.

We are totally oblivious that our convenient lifestyle does not harmoniously fit with our environment. Too many with the excuse of “I don’t have time” are really saying “I am too lazy to care. Screw the environment”. Too many companies continue on the same reckless path of developing products that are single-use and can also be pointless.

Of course there is the “money” element. Every organisation wants to minimise costs and maximise profits. It’s the law of economics. Screw the environment because profit is king. Seems the same with running/triathlons/cycling events….”Screw the environment because my PB is more important”

Many events have allowed me to do mini campaigns at their expos to encourage runners to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) on the run and some events have made some consideration towards at the very least purchasing compostable cups for their events. Some ultra events have gone further by purchasing their own reusable cups for the events or declaring zero cups and forcing participants to be responsible for at least their own cups.

But it is hard being a crazy, mad tyre-pulling lady, trying to persuade runners and event organisations to be the change & to think more holistically when they run their events.

Collaborations

Finally have understood a lone wolf can only go so far. Multi-national corporations see the benefits of having cultural diversity integrated within their own structures to strengthen their power of influence. We gain more support, enlightenment and ideas when we collaborate and form partnerships with others.

So to be more effective, this lone wolf has found buddies to help with her hunt to evolve organisations & runners to be more considerate towards other runners and the environment we all share….. and am excited to announce Ironman, Asia has allowed us to start with the Singapore Marathon. In this event, there has been far too much “run away” trash that has landed in the Singapore River and East Coast drains and sea due to poor handling of trash by runners. The cleaners are unable to pick up trash that is casually tossed in the grass, into bushes, into drains….despite there being several bins along the route. Obviously lots of very “blur sotong” runners (Singaporean saying for being ignorant).

Raise your game event runners because it’s time you learned to Bin It. People don’t like Sucky Tossers and we will be watching you!

SuckyRunnerPoster

Tabs from Gels are evil bits of trash that become run away trash