This is second of three guest posts on eco-friendly running from Melissa Schweisguth. (Here’s the first, on clothing and shoes. Tomorrow she’ll write about food and drink.) I’m featuring Melissa’s post because running and the environment are two of my passions, and she’s done a beautiful job of marrying the two.
Melissa is a 36-year-old fellow sustainability professional and writer who also enjoys running. She puts me to shame, and not just because she clocked an impressive 3:11:07 in the Eugene (Oregon) Marathon this year. Melissa hasn’t thrown anything into a landfill since 2006, which earned her notice in Time magazine (due to non-consumerism and creative reuse.). She thrives on an organic, whole foods, locally-based and almost exclusively vegan diet, (as does famed ultra runner Scott Jurek). She’s been working on improving her running footprint to avoid trampling people or planet and has written three blogposts on running “au naturel” for her blog, Living Acoustically, which she’s kindly agreed to let me share here. I don’t expect most runners to be as “green” as Melissa, but my hope is that she’ll inspire you, whether you run or not, as she has inspired me to make a change or two in your lives. When she isn’t running, Melissa works a freelance writer and consultant on socially responsible business and media relations, and as director of membership and development for the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association.
This is the second post about my efforts to maximize and improve running performance while honoring a guiding principle that defines sustainability to me: “live simply so that others may simply live.” As noted…This is being shared for informational purposes only and not intended to be preachy or judgmental, as neither is my style. We all have different backgrounds and resource demands in our lives, and I’m the first to admit there are many things I can improve!
When choosing races, my inclination is to stay as local (for simplicity and cost rather than environmental reasons), where I can bike or jog to the starting line. (I also start runs from home or bike to a park 1 mile away.) When travel is involved, carpooling is a good solution, and of course public transit, where available. I volunteer to help set up and handle recycling at local race, and have started to share tips for making races greener, from the Runners World/Nature’s Path Green Team.
Races usually involve freebies, t-shirts, race numbers and medals. I generally decline the bag and swag, being stuff I wouldn’t use anyway and small sample sizes with a lot of packaging waste.
If shirts are optional, I decline to get one. Otherwise, I give it to my dad to wear in the garden or volunteering for Meals on Wheels to share new stories with his clients. Old shirts can easily be made into reusable tote bags. Cut off the sleeves and sew up the bottom and sides. Sew the sleeves together on the diagonals, sew across the bottom and attach inside the neckline to make a pocket (and no waste). Make handles with two old shoelaces, strung inside the neckline on alternating sides (for a drawstring closure). You can also just zig zag the cut arm holes instead of sewing them fully closed to make handles, but the bag will have less capacity.
Race numbers can be recycled through some mail-back programs, but you can also make a cool bag and other things out of them. Awards can be donated to organizations that reuse them give for awards and encouragement. Check out Medals4Mettle, ask local trophy shops if they know of programs in your area or give them to someone who’s inspired you. I used to give mine to my Grandma, a champion and inspiration for me.
Training + Tech
Enhanced watches, garmins, iPod +, iPhones with GPS, heart rate monitors and other tech items are favorite runner toys. Call me a Luddite but I just use the stopwatch on my geriatric sports watch for timing and take 10 seconds to measure my heart rate if so inclined.
For regular runs, I just settle into a pace that feels challenging yet maintainable for the conditions. For intervals, tempo runs, etc., I run on a bike path with quarter-mile markers to gauge speed (The McMillan Pace Calculator is a good tool to pick a pace). My parents were math teachers and I listened to Multiplication Rock a lot as kid, so mentally calculating my pace and progress against goal time is second nature, and it helps pass time.
My body is pretty good at hitting a steady, challenging training speed and finding a good race pace, which I attribute to years of piano, speed training and a bit of great coaching from runner friends Ralph & Lois (Brommer, “PA Hall of Famer“) Duquette (who got me into speed training initially, another natural performance enhancer).
I used to depend more on my watch for pacing but after my battery died at the beginning of a marathon with no one calling time at the mile markers, I found myself challenged to maintain a goal pace I knew I was capable of based on training and realized the need to focus on being able to ‘feel’ my pace better. Greg McMillan has a great article on calibrating ‘inner GPS.’
iPod…don’t have one but wouldn’t run with one for safety reasons. Best to be able to hear the rejuvenating and wise symphony trails offer, as well as bigger wildlife, mountain bikers, cars, etc. sharing various terrain.
Till next time…Happy trails, and may we tread lightly!