Littering on road running events


Running has gained astounding popularity over the last few years. What was once thought of as a sport only for the fast, fit and trim, has turned out to be the ideal sport of choice for all shapes and sizes. Many who used to watch the Comrades Ultra Marathon on television for decades for entertainment only, are today running it and becoming local heroes and an inspiration to many. And why not? All you need are a pair of running shoes.

Running events, being it road running, trail running or triathlons have significantly increased in the size of its participants. The industry is booming and are catering for all. Take the Two Oceans Half Marathon for example, within hours, all its entries were taken. Furthermore, qualifying times, and cut-off times for many races have increased to cater for the general population. In Cape Town, you have the luxury of choosing between no less than two road running events and one trail running event the same weekend. There is therefore something for everyone if you are willing to lace-up and go.

With running comes perspiration and the obvious thirst. Road race organisers and event managers therefore have to ensure that there are enough refreshment stations on the route, especially for longer events held in summer, where many partake in ultra-events, marathons, and half marathons. This is where the issue of litter inevitably comes to play. It is all well that you have a well-stocked refreshment station, and waste bins in its vicinity, but if runners collect the sachets and dump it along the route, making its way to drains and streams, not only are they polluting the environment, which can cause serious irreversible damage, but at the same time, the actions of a few brings about a negative image of organised road running events. What has now become the trend in organised trail running, is that either you run with your own hydration pack, or you drink out of cups at the various refreshment stations.

Modern Athlete embarked on a #RunClean campaign where runners are reminded and encouraged to stay clear from littering on the race routes. This is an admirable initiative, especially seeing that at least in Cape Town, road races makes its way through almost every suburb. From an environmental legal point of view, should our runners not run clean, regulations may be put in place where water sachets would not be distributed on road races. Runners should then carry their own water, or drink out of cups. This would have a detrimental effect on race times as many runners need to “grab and go” to run good times. Therefore, the next time you lace-up and chase that personal best, remember, #RunClean. See you on the road.


Muhammad Abduroaf

(Western Province Athletic – Disciplinary Committee Chairperson)


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