Making marathons environmentally friendly
Even if you're a couch potato like me, you'll know the benefits of running - pounding the pavements, working up a sweat, burning off some calories and generally keeping fit. But if you're a real fitness junkie, the ultimate running challenge is to take part in a marathon.
It seems every major city and town around the world hosts an annual marathon, with thousands of athletes running a gruelling 42.1 kilometres. Whilst many runners' motivation is to beat their personal best and cross the finishing line without collapsing, they're also doing it for a good cause - to generate funds for charity. But like other major events, the marathon also generates a massive carbon footprint. Thousands travel - some by plane - to the location, and waste from food packaging and goody bags gets left behind by spectators and runners. For example, during the London Marathon in 2018, 47,000 plastic bottles were collected, although some were recycled.
This is becoming a big issue for cities - how to host a worthwhile event, encouraging people to exercise and help charities, whilst protecting the environment? Several cities have developed formal plans to reduce their environmental impact and promote sustainable ideas. One event in Wales, for example, introduced recycling for old running kit and ethically sourced the race t-shirts.
It's something that this year's London Marathon tried to tackle by reducing the number of drink stations on the running route, giving out water in paper cups and offering some drinks in edible seaweed capsules. They also trialled new bottle belts made from recycled plastic so 700 runners could carry water bottles with them during their run. London Marathon event director Hugh Brasner told the BBC: "There's a raft of initiatives we are using this year that we think will lead to some huge behavioural changes in the future."
Meanwhile, some people still think running a marathon could be our best foot forward in helping the planet. Dr Andrea Collins from Cardiff University told the BBC: "Training for a marathon makes you more sustainable in day-to-day activities. I started walking or running to work every day and shunning public transport altogether. Being environmentally friendly while training kind of sticks with you and becomes a way of life." So while you may not be the elite runner in a marathon, let's hope the event, in terms of sustainability, certainly is!
pound the pavement
work up a sweat
burn off calories
a good cause
best foot forward
a way of life