In recent years, the Boston Marathon — America’s oldest annual marathon — has made sustainability strides that included the introduction of compostable cups along the course in 2022 and finisher’s jackets made with 70% recycled material in 2023. Also this year, adidas partnered with the Boston Athletic Association, which owns and operates the race, to collect and recycle water bottles and turn them into park benches, according to Outside.com.
“We produce year-over-year sustainability reports, which summarize our program post-race,” Will Pollard, operations manager for B.A.A., said. “These reports include weight data from the haulers and calculate our diversion rates. It’s important that we’re seeing year-over-year improvements.”
Increasingly, sustainable racing is becoming a top priority for organizers. This year’s NYCRUNS Haunted Island 5K & 10K — a two-day Halloween event on Governors Island in Upper New York Bay — partnered with reusable cup service Hiccup.
“We at Hiccup are excited to make our debut in New York by providing our service to NYCRUNS,” Kristina Smithe, founder of Hiccup, said in a statement. “We are excited for more runners to use our service and help our mission to eliminate cup waste.”
“Hiccup is a great solution to eliminate cup waste and make our events a little bit greener,” added Steve Lastoe, founder and chief executive officer of NYCRUNS, prior to the late-October races. “At Haunted Island alone, we will be preventing approximately 10,000 cups from going to the landfill by going with a reusable option.”
Participants of the NYCRUNS Haunted Island 5K & 10K used Hiccup’s blue silicone cups at all hydration stations on the course and post-finish, and Hiccup provided designated bins for the runners to toss their cups into after use. After each race, Hiccup collects and sanitizes all used cups to prepare them for future races.
According to RunnersWorld.com: “In an email introducing the Hiccup concept to participants, the NYCRUNS team included instructions: ‘Do not take the cup away from the water station and do not keep it as a souvenir (as tempting as it may be!) ... Toss the cup in one of the designated bins when you are finished.’”
Since the company’s debut in 2020, Hiccup has saved more than 300,000 cups from going to the landfill at running events. The goal is to provide the same experience runners already have with a disposable cup while working with running events to tackle what Hiccup officials say is the biggest contribution to the landfill on race day.
“NYCRUNS estimates that by using Hiccup, they will prevent over 10,000 cups from going to the landfill at their Haunted Island races alone,” RunnersWorld.com notes. “There’s heaps more work to be done for the running industry to become more sustainable, but the impact of just this one New York City racing org switching over to reusable cups is not negligible. NYCRUNS hosts about 20 running events per year for over 75,000 athletes. All those cups and all that rubbish adds up.”
Organizers of other races are finding less-traditional ways to incorporate sustainability partners. Take the 2023 Catalina Island Half Marathon & 10K, slated for Nov. 11, which brought on sustainable insole brand Fulton as a sponsor.
Fulton insoles have a cork base, which molds to the user’s arch to provide customized comfort, pain relief and stability. The company focuses on providing support that improves whole-body wellness and uses only regenerative, plant-based materials to make its products. As a sponsor, Fulton will make a donation to the Catalina Island Conservancy for every participant who signs a “No Trash Left Behind” pledge as an effort to protect the Catalina Island Mountain Mahogany — which is endemic to the island and, according to race organizers, one of the most critically endangered tress in North America.
“This collaboration with Fulton is an exciting time for both the Catalina Island Half Marathon and the Catalina Island Conservancy,” Mike Bone, president and chief executive officer of Spectrum Sports Management, which produces the Catalina Island Half Marathon, said in a statement. “We work hard to provide a great experience for our participants while leaving no trace behind. Having a race on Catalina Island is an incredibly unique experience, so we ensure that sustainability is our top priority in order to keep the island in perfect health and continue to provide such a one-of-a-kind event.”
Meanwhile, London Marathon Events recently announced an initiative to reach carbon net zero by 2030, using funds from a £26 climate levy on international runners that was introduced in 2021. The money will pay carbon removal company CUR8 to pull 280 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air, according to BBC News.
Other parts of the plan call for switching from diesel to hydrotreated vegetable oil generators, using more electric vehicles and encouraging participants to use public transportation.