We are in a race against climate change
A journey up North
Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of running the Manchester marathon with my friend Luuk. The day before the race, we spent the afternoon discovering the lovely city.
A peaceful walk exposed us to the beauty of what happens in Manchester on a sunny weekend afternoon. I would describe it as a nightclub where someone forgot to turn the lights off.
Being a keen runner, I had been dreaming of running a marathon for the past couple of years. I impulsively signed up for the Manchester marathon in late 2021 and the day had finally come!
Having completed the marathon, a wide range of emotions and sensations submerged, including pride, pain, and deep questioning of why one would pay to endure 42 kilometres of running.
Support from people on the ground and those cheering virtually made a difference when things got tough in the final 8 kilometres. I knew I had to keep going when I saw a woman holding up a sign, “Pain is temporary, Strava is forever.”
Beyond the physical and mental challenge, it was incredibly rewarding to run and raise funds to support WWF’s mission to restore nature, protect wildlife and act against climate change.
The impact of a marathon on the long run
The Manchester marathon’s event guide highlighted sustainability initiatives such as their recycling efforts and their green runner initiatives, enabling runners to forego the finisher t-shirts and medals in favour of a donation to The Ocean Cleanup.
As I was running for an environmental charity, I questioned the environmental impact of organising such a large event and how you could work to minimize it.
What is shocking as you run a marathon is to contemplate the amount of waste on the floor, from water bottles to discarded clothing items. At the 2018 London marathon, 919,000 plastic bottles of water were used!
Considering energy, waste, running goods & services, and travel, it is estimated that running a marathon generates 0.73 tonnes of CO2e. However, that number shoots up to 4.28 tonnes of CO2e when international travel is involved, a major issue for marathons in cities like New York where 37% of participants travel internationally.
If these numbers look small to you, the average footprint of a UK citizen is 13 tonnes of CO2e per year. Regardless of the numbers, you can imagine how the environmental impact scales with 50,000 runners such as in the New York City marathon!
Solutions for the human race
Given that running junkies pursuing the runner’s high are likely to continue participating in these large events, how can we minimize the emissions the footprint of these races?
A wide range of solutions exists to reduce the environmental impact of marathons, solutions which runners and organisers can take:
- Runners should aim to participate in local events or ones to which they can travel with low carbon transportation such as trains.
- Organisers can procure water bottles made from 100% recycled plastic or can replace the need for plastic packaging altogether with edible seaweed packaging!
- Charities can collect discarded clothes at the start of the race to ensure that they are reused or recycled.
- Runners should have the option of opting out of receiving merchandise. If they wish to get some, organisers should push to provide finisher medals and t-shirts made from recycled or sustainably sourced materials.
A company on the right track
Every step taken was painful in the days following my marathon and don’t even get me started about taking stairs. Having good running equipment is vital to prevent any injuries. As you’re equipping yourself with gear, why not source it from companies that positively impact people and the planet!
Enda is a Kenyan athletic footwear manufacturing company that is looking to build and contribute to the country’s reputation for leading running performances. The world’s fastest marathon was run by the Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge in 2 hours, 1 minute and 39 seconds. Out of the 20 fastest men and women to have run marathons, 65% are Kenyan!
As a Certified B Corporation, Enda is pursuing both profit and purpose. They are on a mission to bring Kenyan athletic greatness to runners globally while fueling economic development in Kenya. All the shoes are manufactured in locally, creating jobs and wages for Kenyans. To further support communities, 2% of revenues are donated to local social initiatives.
From an environmental perspective, Enda has measured their carbon footprint and offset it to achieve climate neutrality. More importantly, the company has set carbon reduction targets for the emissions relating to their freighting of goods and business travel.
More widely, Enda is working to change the world sees Kenya. By promoting the greatness of Kenyan running with quality shoes, minimizing their environmental impact and creating positive social impact, I’d say they’re doing an awesome job!