20
May
11

Messy Running: Why Do We Get Away With It?

If you’ve ever blown past a water stop in a half marathon, you’ve probably seen something of a mess. The roadway is wet all the way across, empty water cups line the road causing a dangerously slippery surface, and without a doubt there are always numerous empty foil packages from people who felt the need to chow down on some GU only 2 miles into a 4 mile race.

Water stop during 2010 Des Moines marathon, photo by Phil Roeder (CC-By licensed)

Water stop during 2010 Des Moines marathon, photo by Phil Roeder (CC-By licensed)

I realize that drinking water during a race can be very difficult, especially if you’re new to the sport or trying to set a PR. I also realize that sometimes it can be hard to grab those flimsy little cup. But what I always have a problem with is that despite the huge number of trash cans around water stops and the number of wonderful volunteers working to keep the area clean it seems like most cups end up on the ground. Often it seems like people grab a cup of water without thinking about how they’re going to drink it. They try to take a drink, realize it’s not that easy, and then throw the whole glass on the ground next to them or behind them. That’s an awesome feeling when you splash damage from someone’s half sipped cup of water that they’re allowed to just throw on the ground.

What’s worse is the fact that we, as runners, are allowed the throw crap wherever we want on the course allows for all sorts of other shenanigans. I’ve seen my fair share of hats and shirts just left in the middle of a roadway during a race. Seriously? You couldn’t wait for a trash can? However, by far the worse is the sort of shenanigans that this allows, at seen in this video from the New York Road Runners of the 2010 NYRR Mini 10k, an all women’s race that takes place in June of each year. You’ll notice something interesting at 1:55 of the video:

At first I thought that Lornah Kiplagat was just having problems grabbing a cup of water. But then I considered the situation a little more: this is a 10k race and she is a professional runner — she doesn’t need water in such a short race. At the end, yes, but at the beginning or middle that’s not the case as the water wouldn’t even make it into her system by the end of the race. No, she appears to be intentionally grabbing the cups and tipping them onto the ground to make it so the people behind her have to either dodge the water or get their feet wet. In a word, that sort of behavior is bullshit and totally unbecoming of our sport. The reason why it is enabled is because we’re allowed to be slobs on the race course. Some people will say that if we had to make sure all of our trash made it into trash bins we’d change the sport, make it less competitive, and slow it down. You might be a little correct, but I don’t think it would harm the sport any. You don’t hear people saying that triathlons are less competitive because they can’t leave any waste on the course, so why do we get away with it.

It’s time to up our game and say no to letting people treat the course as their own personal trash can.

Keep running.

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