Litter: let's kick it out

Posted in The Sweat by Matt Ward on Mon 22 Oct '12


The subject of litter in places of natural beauty has historically been the space of the ‘day tripper’ and walker from towns and cities, who dump their unwanted belongings in car parks and the paths of well-trodden mountains and hills of the UK…

Littering of the beautiful environments that fell and other off-road runners are able to run and race on week-in week-out has never really been an issue. However, over the last year or so it apparently has, and if recent reports from around the UK – and in particular this piece on the SHR site by Andy Kitchin – are to be believed, then it’s becoming a big issue in fell running too.

Just search any MTB forum these day’s too, and it’s a real menace in that sport, but why?

As someone who loves running in the hills and on trails, and to be honest anywhere that takes me off-road, I cannot even contemplate blatantly chucking empty gel wrappers or the like into hedges or on the open mountain. In fact, I don’t even do it in some of the grottiest cities that I regularly visit.

In triathlon if you litter it’s a straight DQ if you are spotted, perhaps it’s time for similar action in fell and trail running?

We don’t mean to start a movement here, or even suggest a rule change to all those organisers out there, but Mud, Sweat and Tears is happy to state here and now that whether racing, or just out for a training run, or just enjoying the hills with friends, littering is just plain unacceptable.

Reactions so far
  1. Dan Graham Oct 23, 01:02 AM

    This is something that I have seen frequently at adventure races – and it truly makes me sad. I live in North Wales, and the “tourist hotspots” are always strewn with litter. Any move by MST or any other organisation to raise awareness of this would be supported by us.
    We run a wild swimming company, and promote rubbish swimming – the concept of leaving the environment in a better condition than it was when we arrived by removing other peoples litter.
    We’d love to see rubbish runners and rubbish bikers out there too. Rubbish climbers, rubbish paddlers, and the list goes on.
    Keep up the good work – it’s frustrating, but if those who care about our outdoor playgrounds won’t take the first steps to clean it up… then who will?

  2. Zilch UK Oct 23, 08:07 AM

    Zero instances of litter can happen – it’s just down to people and littering is an entirely optional and voluntary act. Maybe runners should carry little bags for their high-energy trash!

  3. Susie Allison Oct 23, 10:50 AM

    I find the mesh side pockets of my running sack are perfect for my own and other people’s rubbish. I live in Scotland and like North Wales the popular spots have a bad litter problem. Further afield rubbish is thankfully rare and I am confident that there are a lot of people who do pick up their own and other’s litter. I hope this ‘pick it up’ culture stays and grows as more and more people head outdoors on foot, by bike and in the water. It is exactly as Dan says – if we who play in the outdoors don’t keep it clean then who will?

  4. Jason Kehoe Oct 23, 12:41 PM

    Hi Matt,

    Nice piece. One of the biggest regrets I have while running a half marathon trail race was not pulling an experienced old-hand runner up who blatantly threw a bottle into a ditch in a beautiful area. It still gets my blood boiling whenever I think about it. I would urge any competitors out there who see a similar situation to learn from my mistake…otherwise report their number to the organisers.

    A few months ago I took a newbie runner up a local mountain and when I found a recently dumped 7-up bottle and carried it off the mountain he was pretty horrified that I would go out of my way to do that. So we got into a long talk about “who else was going to do it out in the countryside?” and I think I changed his mind and hope he would do the same in the future. We will get them one at a time!


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