5 Marathons That Make the Earth a Priority

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Fall ushers in a slate of long-distance running races. After a hot summer, the refreshing temperatures and scenic landscapes that come with autumn make the season ideal for training for and participating in marathons.

While running is certainly a green form of transportation, organized races aren’t always so eco-conscious. If you’ve ever seen roads strewn with discarded clothing and plastic cups from water stations, you know what we mean.

Fortunately, organizations are beginning to step up to the challenge of creating greener events. Here are five eco-friendly marathons across the country — there’s no better time to start training to participate than now!

Empty plastic cups on the ground at a marathon refreshment point. Photo: Adobe

Shelby Farms Greenline Half Marathon
Tennessee

Half-marathons are marathons, too! And this one lacks nothing in the sustainability department. It’s even certified with the Council for Responsible Sport, designating the marathon as a green and eco-friendly event.

Register for the event online — no paper necessary. A goody bag filled with useless, landfill-bound junk? Forget about it. Just slip on your organic and recycled cotton participant shirt, take a swig from your reusable water bottle — or find one of the provided compostable cups if you forgot yours — and follow the bicyclists leading the way.

During your run, you’ll encounter several water stations with compostable cups, which volunteers only fill partially to conserve water. All water provided is from the City of Memphis, where the race is held, and resides in local storage tanks that are delivered by a single truck to reduce CO2 emissions.

Reward yourself with a locally sourced snack at the finish line. You might even don a recycled-steel place medal. Here, you can relax knowing you’ve worked hard and stayed sustainable.

Next race: Nov. 11, 2017

Portland Marathon
Oregon

Tree seedlings, which may as well be called CO2 sponges, are one of the rewards for finishing this Pacific Northwest run. The Portland Marathon has been gifting finishers with seedlings for more than a decade — their virtual forest could include over 100,000 planet-saving trees.

Additionally, this marathon heavily encourages recycling, reduces food waste by donating extras to local food banks, harnesses renewable energy with solar panels at the finish line, limits paper use and uses recycled paper when it’s necessary, and performs course management by way of the eco-friendly bicycle. They even have “Green Team” volunteers on site to regulate and promote recycling efforts at the event.

Next race: Oct. 7, 2018

Hartford Marathon
Connecticut

Since 2007, the Hartford Marathon has been home to an unusual, planet-saving invention: the Water Bubbler. It’s essentially a giant water fountain — 40 feet long, to be exact — where multiple walkers and runners can quench their thirst simultaneously without wasting paper cups or plastic bottles.

Another unique creation, the Solar Trailer, makes this race exceptionally eco-friendly. The University of Connecticut’s Electrical Engineering department helped transform this supply-carrying cart trailer into a solar-powered planet saver. The organization estimates it will eliminate the output of 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide every year.

Next race: Oct. 13, 2018

Austin Marathon
Texas

If you’ve ever been to Austin, you know they take their food seriously. At the Austin Marathon, you can find locally sourced foods, reducing the race’s carbon footprint, and foods with little to no packaging.

This eco-friendly race makes recycling and composting a top priority, too — they boast a whopping 90 percent waste diversion rate.

Next race: Feb. 18, 2018

Boston Marathon
Massachusetts

This world-renowned race has been taking big eco-friendly steps since 2009 when organizers began encouraging participants to sort their compostable and recyclable waste at “recovery stations” after the lively pre-race pasta dinner.

The Boston Athletic Association, the organization that hosts the race, has also significantly cut down on paper. Their thousands of volunteers no longer receive multiple mailings and thick volunteer booklets — now, the organization sends them only two post-consumer pages donning eco-friendly ink.

Recycling bins and waste receptacles are aplenty during the race, and marathon officials use hybrid or electric cars to navigate the race area.

Next race: April 16, 2018

Put these races on the top of your list if you’re looking to get your competition fix while saving the planet, and encourage your local marathons to follow suit. If running 26.2 miles isn’t on your to-do list, you can make a difference by volunteering to keep things green at these events.

Feature image courtesy of Adobe Stock

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Lauren Murphy

Lauren Murphy

Lauren has a B.S. in environmental science, a crafting addiction, and a love for all things Pacific Northwest. She writes from her cozy downtown apartment tucked in the very northwestern corner of the continental U.S. Lauren spends her time writing and focusing on a healthy, simple and sustainable lifestyle.
Lauren Murphy