Trashtastic Tuesday with Ryan Hicks


This week we feature reflections from friend Ryan Hicks after running his first half marathon. Congrats to Ryan finishing in just a hair over two hours! We have side cramps just thinking about it.

On Sunday, my brother Rob, his fiancée Alison and I ran our first half marathon in Vancouver, BC. While it was a fantastic experience which I’m sure we will all do again soon, as newcomers to this sport we had to marvel at the litterbug behavior on display.

Marathon trash

In general my impression of the typical runner is someone who is affluent, urban, progressive, and if not outright environmentally minded then certainly civically engaged. For example the typical runner would never consider littering during an everyday neighborhood training session, once in a crowd of 15,000 runners, all sense of personal responsibility gets thrown out the window. This was especially evident at every hydration station, where little plastic cups so thoroughly covered the street that Rob said “that’s not fortune cookies!” in his best Short Round accent. Elsewhere in the run you could find hundreds of discarded power gel packets and energy bar wrappers, despite there being a trash can every half-mile or so. Is it a sense of entitlement that you can’t hold on to your empty foil packet while you run a couple hundred feet to the trash can or is it a lack of personal responsibility that comes from being a part of such a large group? Even more surprising than the beverage and food containers were the discarded gloves, hats and outer layers of clothing that were frequently kicked aside during the run. Rumor has it that it’s a common practice for runners to buy a few outer layers at Good Will that are meant to be discarded mid-race.

On the bright side I was very impressed with Brita’s sponsorship of the festival, which meant zero plastic water bottles were available at hydration stations and at the start/finish lines. I also admired a used running shoe donation center. Considering that serious runners replace their shoes every year or so, a donation center makes great sense. I have two old pairs in the back of my closet that I would have gladly donated had I known about this program.

Photo by ALaws via Flickr.

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3 Responses to “Trashtastic Tuesday with Ryan Hicks”

  1. Bert Says:

    Here you see a picture of mine with the same subject 🙂

    Its a universal finding that mass events are associated with trash, be it sports events or others… But you can be sure that there are conscious athletes, like my family. We’ll always try to find a trashbag to drop the trash (however that is difficult while running…) or at least to throw the trash very near a trash bag while running, so it will be easy for the cleaning team to do the necessary thing.

    Good subject !

    How did your half marathon go ?


  2. k Says:

    Congrats on finishing the half marathon! I’m about to try the Brooklyn Half myself in a couple of weeks.

    I’m not sure how different things are in Vancouver versus NYC. It’s true that the hydration stations are a big mess, but it is also true that the sponsoring organization (here that almost always means NY Road Runners) has many volunteers on hand to help with the many logistical aspects of putting on a big race, including trash cleanup afterwards. I have never seen people discard clothing in any of the medium-long races (15K) I have run, and I know that NYRR picks up discarded clothing from the NY Marathon and donates it to Goodwill or the like. With a large event, it’s almost certain the sponsor needs a permit from the city, and that included in that is either a fee for garbage clean-up or an obligation for the sponsor to make a solid effort to conduct their own post-event clean up. I would be surprised if a city like Vancouver wasn’t stringent about clean-up requirements — and the race sponsor would likely become unpopular pretty quickly if they weren’t good about following up.

    So, in a long race, I know NYRR is set up to clean up after us. I don’t think twice about tossing a cup down near a hydration station if I’m not near a garbage can — that stuff nearby all gets cleaned up. and I can attest that it doesn’t take very long at all for the NYRR volunteers to clean up after a race. And if I did use gels (ugh) and I was in a tough spot in a longer race, I might ditch trash on the road instead of waiting to find a trash can — attention takes energy, and that’s the very reason NYRR is ready for clean up. I think what you (mostly) saw is the psychology of being at an event where you know someone is going to clean up after you, rather than the entitlement of the affluent urban runner.

  3. Peter Cech Says:

    I hope your overall impression of Vancouver was favourable. I’d like to invite you to check out our web campaign to get people thinking about that first R – reduce.

    I’d really appreciate your feedback.


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