Stumbling Upon Big Sur’s Sustainable Marathon


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By Courtney Hayden
April 30, 2012

It was raining in Los Angeles as I eased my car onto the Pacific Coast Highway in hopes of finding a pocket of sunshine. I wasn’t disappointed; a magnificent blue sky appeared above me 300 miles north of the Los Angeles city line as I started the climb onto the seaside cliffs of Big Sur.

Big Sur has enchanted the American consciousness for decades. In 1962, Jack Kerouac published his novel Big Sur, which details a dangerous hitchhiking extravaganza through the raggedly, majestic cliffs. Now the internationally-known seaside location attracts visitors year round for relaxation and recreation. As I drifted through Big Sur’s winding roads, slowing down for bicyclists with heavy backpacks and daring roadside hikers, I had no idea of the festivities planned for the coming weekend.

I finished the 100 mile drive through Big Sur feeling relaxed, but in serious need of coffee. Monterey, California brought a wash of caffeine, along with a surprise, into my mind. Next to the coffee shop was a large health and fitness expo taking place at the Monterey Conference Center. As an avid runner, I could not resist heading inside to mingle. I was pleasantly surprised to find I had planned my road trip on the same weekend as the Big Sur International Marathon.

A large and eye-catching banner inside the conference center announced the race’s commitment to reducing the ecological and environmental impacts of outdoor recreation. The marathon is certified through the Council for Responsible Sport, which evaluates sporting events based on waste, climate impact, materials and equipment, community and outreach, health, promotion, and innovation. Out of a total 41 credits, the Big Sur International Marathon has earned 34. One notable accomplishment is the marathon’s diverting nearly 92% of its waste over the past two years through recycling and food waste initiatives.

What exactly is the marathon doing to reduce its waste? To start, event planners are focusing on recycling bottles, cans, plastic, and cardboard, as well as reusing wooden pallets and donating abandoned clothing (a surprisingly common occurrence). To handle food waste, the marathon is encouraging runners to bring their own water bottles instead of using paper cups at aid stations. Leftover food is donated and food waste is composted.

The marathon prints all necessary materials through triple green certified printing companies (meaning the company has earned green labels from three different certification providers). To reduce paper usage, registration is 100% online. Instead of a traditional goody bag full of paper flyers, the marathon has opted for a “virtual goody bag” of information which participants receive in their email. Even the toilet paper in the porta-potties is biodegradable!

I was extremely impressed by the race planners’ sustainability efforts. From allowing runners to provide additional donations for the purchase of carbon offsets to encouraging athletes to attend the event via a free carpooling service called Pickup Pal, The Big Sur International Marathon is leaving no sustainability issue neglected.

With its promise of a run through the scenic and challenging roads of Big Sur, along with a commitment to the environment, the marathon called to me through two of my deepest passions. Come this time next year, I will be looking into the next Big Sur International Marathon. If you think you would like to join me, read up on this green event!

 

For related articles, see:
National Parks App Helps Hikers Navigate Nature
Bottled Water Ban in National Parks: Common Sense or Controversy? 

 

© 2012 SCGH, LLC. All rights reserved.

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