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home > races/results > usa: massachusetts > running is green, right?

Running is green, right?
Or is it?

Running is green, right?

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By Christopher Russell
Posted Monday, 28 July, 2008

I’m being barraged with ‘Green’ this and ‘Green’ that these days. It got me to thinking about our sport and how green it is. Let’s do a quick walk through of it, you and I, and see what we come up with. Maybe we qualify for carbon credits? Great! We can trade those for new shoes on the commodity exchange.

In general runners are probably one of, if not the most concerned-with-the-environment demographics. Seriously; take a look around at your next race. These are people who are heavily into a healthy life style. They are personally accountable and responsible for their health. I’m sure that cascades into the rest of their lifestyle. I’m sure as a population we reduce, re-use and recycle.

I’ll bet us runners have a lot to be proud of on the environmental responsibility front. Let’s see if we can do a quick comparison of the good and bad effects we have on our small planet. Just for fun – as it were…

What about eating habits and lifestyle?

I bet a fair amount of runners are vegetarians or at least love a good salad every now and then. I would have to give us a plus sign on the ‘intent’ here. Whether in practice we actually do a better job of taking care of ourselves is another story, but I’ll credit us with knowing what to do and having good intentions.

I’d say on the whole we make better eating choices and as a population we make more sustainable choices that are better for our world.

On the other hand – the math is interesting…Let’s say I run 50 miles a week. That’s ~5000 calories I burn. Probably I consume 5-10% more calories than I would require if I weren’t a compulsive running nut. Does this mean that I’m taking 1,000 calories a day out of the available world calorie pool with my thoughtless dashing about in circles at the local track?

With the millions of us out there doesn’t this mean that we are causing more acreage to be planted to support our out-sized appetites? Aren’t we contributing to the rainforests being burned, the continents over fertilized, the water squandered, the genetic mutation of crops to keep up and all the other evils of over production? Are we basically all creating an unnecessary and artificial population boom?

Maybe we’d be less impactful staying home and doing meditation. Hmm… food for thought.

Doesn’t our running and biking replace a bunch of carbon producing driving?

Surely there’s a positive for us. We use our legs to get places not our gas guzzling SUV’s, right? We ride our bikes to work, right? Clearly this is a plus on the carbon footprint. We are the reason there are sidewalks. We are fit and don’t need our corpus transported everywhere through artificial means.

Hold on a second…How many of you have actually run to work instead of driving? How many of you have actually ‘run errands’ about town? I have, but not the majority of the time. It’s a bit of a struggle to carry the dry cleaning and the groceries.

You may run at lunchtime at work. You’re not actually replacing any driving time there are you? And you’re taking an extra shower and creating some dirty laundry to boot! You, Mr. /Mrs. Runner are a resource drain!

When we run those races we’re not actually replacing a driving activity either are we? Truthfully we are driving to that race. We are making an extra trip so we can run in a loop or worse a point-to-point with a diesel bus to bring us, or at least our bags, back.

While we’re running that pointless marathon to nowhere the police are blocking and rerouting traffic. I’d guess tens of thousands of citizens idle or drive extra miles every year because we’re tying up the road. Hmm…maybe we need to rethink that strategy…

What about our love of nature? What about our trail running and joyous communion with nature?

Only a trail runner truly appreciates the beauty of nature. Such joy, nay ecstasy, overwhelms us as we combine our love of running with the outdoors. That makes us all rabid environmentalists, right?

Runners absolutely have a positive impact here. We spearhead conservation support. Our trail races fund the maintenance of big chunks of real estate that might otherwise turn under the developer’s blade. We are conservation activists. We protect the land. Right?

On the whole I’ll give the nod to conservation on this point, even though we are trotting about on the endangered species and scaring the animals. We also are introducing lots of people to these places with our trail races and running that would not normally go there. We’re adding to the fatigue of the very natural resources we love.

What about the gear? Well, I don’t know about you, but there’s not much natural fiber in my running closet. I’m not running in rattan sandals, hemp shorts and an organic silk racing shirt. Most of what I’m wearing is definitely petro-chemical derived or worse. This doesn’t even include the layers of petroleum based lube I spread on my pointy bits for long runs.

And the fuel? How about those all those little packets of goo and stuff? It’s all in separate landfill choking plasticized packaging. Count up the thousands of plastic cups, bottles and cardboard boxes for doling out at your next half marathon!

Am I over-thinking it? I think running and we runners are extremely green in thought and action. I wonder if we could do more. What kind of activism is called for here? Should we only run races that recycle their water cups? Do our shoe providers need to think about the re-use / recycle of the 52 pairs of shoes we each have hidden in our closets? How do we make our actions match our words?

Here’s my plan. I’m going to only eat food that creates bio-fuel. Like french fries, potato chips and buffalo wings. Tomorrow when I’m out in the woods I’m going to pay attention and make sure not to step on the endangered newts. That’s the plan!

See you out there!

Chris Russell lives and trains in suburban Massachusetts with his family and Border collie Buddy. Chris is the author of “The Mid-Packer’s Lament”, short stories on running, racing, and the human comedy of the mid-pack. Chris writes the Runnerati Blog at Chris’ Podcast, RunRunLive is available on iTunes and at Chris also writes for ( and is a member of the Squannacook River Runners.



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