#RunClean at the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon
08 February 2016
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Brad Brown: Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now and we’re joined by the Editor of Modern Athlete, Sean Falconer. Sean, welcome onto the show, thanks for taking the time to chat to us today, good to have you here.
Sean Falconer: Thanks Brad, always good to join you.
BB: Sean, exciting developments around the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon for 2016, it’s something that I know Modern Athlete is passionate about, is just cleaning up our races. Because it is a big issue and you’ve got a very nice tie-in with Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, tell us a little bit about it.
Why we all need to run clean
SF: Quite simply, round about July/August last year myself and our MD, Craig van der Westhuizen were chatting over the phone and we were just saying, this litter at races really bugs us. We said: we should launch a campaign as our magazine and we came up with the name Run Clean, launched the hashtag, just good old #RunClean.
Started putting it in the magazine and spreading the message that runners need to start taking responsibility. We can’t just drop all that plastic and paper cups and little sachets, everything that we just drop in the road at every race. Because yes, there are people cleaning up behind us, but that’s an extra expense that races have to go because we’re littering –
BB: And at the end of the day, that extra expense gets passed onto the runners, we often hear runners moan about the price of entry fees, that’s one way to keep entry fees down.
SF: Exactly, but then an even bigger problem is the fact that while there are clean-up teams, quite a lot of that plastic ends up in the environment. All you need to do is come and run a half marathon in Cape Town when the south-easter is blowing and you see bits of blue plastic everywhere.
We also have some runners who are even more irresponsible. They don’t just drop it in the road, no, they’re literally running down a mountain pass and they will launch that piece of plastic half full of water, so it flies even further. They’ll launch it over the side of a cliff, it just can’t go on.
Sooner or later some municipality or a nature reserve or a provincial government is going to turn around and say: boys and girls, thanks for coming, but we actually don’t need your event on our roads. Because you make more mess than it’s worth, so sorry, your event is cancelled.
BB: Sean, I buy into it, I think it’s fantastic what you’re doing. We had a similar experience, I ran the Knysna Marathon, beautiful marathon, a couple of years ago. I mean that forest is just amazing and exactly what you’re saying, where it’s not a case of throwing it and just missing a dustbin, like between refreshment stations; throwing it into the forest as far as you can. At the end of the day, it’s up to each individual runner to just take responsibility and do the right thing.
SF: The complication for this whole situation is that the IAAF rules state that a road running event must supply water to all the athletes every 3-5km. For example, here in the Western Province, the rule is then a water table every 3km and they cater for 3 sachets per runner per table. That adds up to one heck of a lot of plastic being left out in the environment.
What we’re telling people is, yes, use the sachets because there is no alternative at the moment. Nobody has found a viable, economical, usable and effective alternative, whether it’s paper cups or biodegradable cups, which the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon did try on Chapman’s Peak last year, or was it the year before, I forget now, but that didn’t work so well. The cups didn’t stand up to the actual conditions on the day.
So, we’re still looking for a solution, but it comes down to, there are dustbins, use them. There’s no excuse whatsoever for you to drop your sachet in the road. Even better, put it in a pocket, sew your race number on the front with the top end open, it creates a little pocket. Carry your sachet to the next dustbin or to the finish line and throw it.
Now you get people saying, yes, it’s job creation if I drop my sachet in the road. Sorry, I do not buy that, that’s just laziness. Then they say: yes, it slows me down to carry that extra weight. Please, have you taken a plastic sachet, squeeze the last bit of water out and tell me what it weighs? If that slows you down, then you should not be running!
BB: Either that or you should be winning more races.
SF: Very true.
Modern Athletes built up to Oceans
BB: Sean, as far as Modern Athlete’s involvement with the Old Mutual Tow Oceans Marathon, it’s one of the premier road running events on the calendar in the country. It’s a race that we’re all proud of. You guys obviously do a lot of work around the race. It’s not long to go to race day now, what have you got planned in the next couple of editions up to the race?
SF: Well, one of the things we are exceptionally proud of is the fact that Modern Athlete magazine is an official sponsor with the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon and as a result, we’ve struck a deal for the last 3-4 years now to have our magazine inserted into the goodie bag. That makes Modern Athlete a prime media partner of the race. It means our advertisers are reaching that whole mass of 27 000+ market through the magazine.
So, as a result, we cover the race, we do pre- and post-race coverage and we’re at the expo. We’ve offered to help with the pace setters in the past, cause we also organise pace setters in a lot of the other ultra-marathons around the country. That’s probably still coming here.
This year we’re very proud that we’ve taken our relationship a step further, we’re not just a print partner now, we are #RunClean partners. At the moment we consider the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon our flagship race as part of the #RunClean campaign. If it can be introduced in Two Oceans, then all the other races are going to follow.
Western Province Athletics has made #RunClean an official endorsed campaign and it has asked all racers in the Western Province to put the #RunClean logo on their entry forms and to promote it. But having Two Oceans, specifically, on board with the campaign really gives it legs.
BB: What does it mean for individual runners? I’m a runner, I decide I like the idea, I buy into the idea, what do I need to do as a runner, is it a case of just looking after myself or do I need to say to somebody else who I see tossing that sachet into the you know what, saying: listen buddy, that’s just not on.
What you can do as a runner to help
SF: It’s actually a very pertinent question because we are starting to receive reports from people saying that they are speaking to other runners about not littering. It’s leading to some unpleasant confrontations during races. I’m very adamant about this. It’s not about person X telling person Y, you’re a bad person, don’t litter. It’s about all of us cooperating through an educational campaign to teach people to stop littering.
I’m not interested in naming and shaming that one particular person at the prize giving of a race, which is what some of the provincial referees are now talking about doing. I don’t think that’s going to achieve the goal because then one person is being made a spectacle of, the club gets a bad rap, that person feels persecuted.
How would you feel if they called you up at prize giving after your race this weekend and said: you, race number 188 from that club, you were caught littering and you turn around and say: so did everyone else, I’m not the only person.
You can’t persecute one person in public like that. It should be more about guys, it’s still happening, let’s cooperate, let’s help each other. When you see somebody littering, go up next to them, tap them on the shoulder: I’d like to ask you a question, you do it diplomatically.
You say: we’ve all decided not to litter in races and we’re asking all the runners to help us. It’s your decision, no one is going to force you, but think about it, just give it some thought. If you go: hey, don’t litter to a runner in a race, nine times out of ten they’re going to get their back up. It’s going to turn into a nasty incident or it becomes a racial incident, you just name it, it’s not the way to go.
BB: Sean, I couldn’t agree more. If people want to find out more about the #RunClean campaign in the build up to Oceans, where can they get more details?
How you can find out more about #RunClean
SF: You can go to our website, www.modernathlete.co.za, it’s in every edition of the magazine. We’ll be at the expo and I’d like to add another thing. We’ve got #RunClean ambassadors now. The first one to sign up is Blake Dyson, he’s a Western Cape based runner, quite well-know. He does regular litter clean up expeditions onto the beaches around the Blouberg area, as well as on the trails of Table Mountain.
We’ve got him on board as an official #RunClean ambassador. He’s going to be running near the back of the pack of the Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, he’s actually going to be cleaning up plastic as he goes, with a whole bunch of fellow runners around him.
So, you know, our message to runners out there is simple. Try to run clean and if you are going to drop your litter, at least give it a try to put it in a dustbin or near a dustbin. There are going to be special litter zones on Chapman’s Peak that the organizers are putting out this year. We did a video about it just the other day for them.
That will be online soon. They will be orange fenced-off little rectangular sections where you can throw your sachet inside and it won’t blow away, so it’s a massive dustbin. There’s no excuse, whatsoever, to throw that sachet anywhere else on Chapman’s Peak during this year’s race.
BB: I love it Sean, I think it’s a great initiative, congratulations to you and the rest of the Modern Athlete team as well and we look forward to seeing you and chatting to you in the build up to race day. Seeing you at the expo and just seeing how well this does go down.
At the end of the day it’s up to each and every one of us as runners to make that decision. If we lead by example and if everybody does it, we won’t have this issue. So that’s what it boils down to, is take care of yourself and if everybody does that, we’re in great shape.
SF: Just another reminder to everybody #RunClean, tweet it, put it on Facebook, tell your mates about it. Every single person that you convince not to drop that sachet in the road next time is a step in the right direction. It’s one less piece of plastic ending up in the environment, in the bushes, in the nature reserve or even worse, being swallowed by a whale that then gets stranded on the beaches of Cape Town. Then they do an autopsy, they find the stomach full of plastic, it has to stop.
BB: Absolutely, Sean Falconer from Modern Athlete, thank you so much for your time here on Old Mutual Live.