Environmentally-Friendly Exercise: Running is Green, Right?

Hold on a second. How many of you have actually run to work instead of driving? How many of you have actually "run errands" about town? I have—but not the majority of the time. It's a bit of a struggle to carry the dry cleaning and the groceries.

You may run at lunchtime at work. You're not actually replacing any driving time there are you? And you're taking an extra shower and creating some dirty laundry to boot. You, Mr./Mrs. Runner are a resource drain!

When we run those races, we're not actually replacing a driving activity either, are we? Truthfully, we are driving to that race. We are making an extra trip so we can run in a loop or worse a point-to-point with a diesel bus to bring us—or at least our bags—back.

While we're running that pointless marathon to nowhere, the police are blocking and rerouting traffic. I'd guess tens of thousands of citizens are idle or drive extra miles every year because we're tying up the road. Hmm...maybe we need to rethink that strategy.

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What about our love of nature? What about our trail running and joyous communion with nature?

Only a trail runner truly appreciates the beauty of nature. Such joy—ecstasy—overwhelms us as we combine our love of running with the outdoors. That makes us all rabid environmentalists, right?

Runners absolutely have a positive impact here. We spearhead conservation support. Our trail races fund the maintenance of big chunks of real estate that might otherwise turn under the developer's blade. We are conservation activists. We protect the land. Right?

On the whole, I'll give the nod to conservation on this point; even though we are trotting about on the endangered species and scaring the animals. We are also introducing lots of people to these places with our trail races and running that would not normally go there. We're adding to the fatigue of the very natural resources we love.

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What about the gear? Well, I don't know about you, but there's not much natural fiber in my running closet. I'm not running in rattan sandals, hemp shorts and an organic silk racing shirt. Most of what I'm wearing is definitely petro-chemical derived or worse. This doesn't even include the layers of petroleum based lube I spread on my pointy bits for long runs.

And the fuel? How about those all those little packets of goo and stuff? It's all in separate landfill choking plasticized packaging. Count up the thousands of plastic cups, bottles and cardboard boxes for doling out at your next half marathon!

Am I over-thinking it? I think we as runners are extremely green in thought and action. I wonder if we could do more. What kind of activism is called for here? Should we only run races that recycle their water cups? Do our shoe providers need to think about the re-use and recycle of the 52 pairs of shoes we each have hidden in our closets? How do we make our actions match our words?

Here's my plan. I'm only going to eat food that creates bio-fuel; like French fries, potato chips and buffalo wings. Tomorrow when I'm out in the woods, I'm going to pay attention and make sure not to step on the endangered newts. That's the plan.

More: 4 Tips to Buy Local Produce

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Chris Russell lives and trains in suburban Massachusetts with his family and Border collie Buddy. Chris is the author of "The Mid-Packer's Lament", short stories on running, racing, and the human comedy of the mid-pack. Chris writes the Runnerati Blog at www.runnerati.com. Chris' Podcast, RunRunLive is available on iTunes and at www.runrunlive.com. Chris also writes for CoolRunning.com and is a member of the Squannacook River Runners.

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