Gels and bars and drinks, oh my: Remember to pack your trash

Volunteers clean up water-station debris; stuff you leave on the course is more permanent  Credit: Mike Powell/Allsport
Marathoners swear by energy bars and gels to fend off energy crises in the late miles but marathon directors swear at them, because of the resulting litter.

The problem isn't with the energy bars and gels, whose manufacturers have to package them in something and want to see it disposed of properly. But they can't dispatch employees to clean up after every customer.

It seems clear that we runners are the problem. People who wouldn't dream of tossing a candy wrapper out of their car window think nothing of dropping a gel packet or bar wrapper along a race course.

But, you may say, we discard our cups at drink stations; what's the difference?

Big difference: Aid stations are set up at prescribed locations and are staffed by volunteers who rake the resulting garbage into piles for quick disposal.

But runners rip into bars or squeeze down gels anywhere along the course, leaving the wrappers behind. Even near water stops, the sticky packets glue themselves to the road and defy easy collection.

The solution couldn't be simpler. We carried these products this far, in a fanny pack or (in my case) a sandwich bag. How tough can it be to stuff our garbage back where it came from?


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