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Dear Mayor Nutter,

Yesterday was a great day. I woke up at 6 AM to run with 39,999 of my closest friends down Broad Street. It made up for missing the Supermoon thanks to a bunch of clouds on Saturday evening.

Given that this was my fourth time for the Broad Street Run, I was pretty calm awaiting the start gun. But I heard your proclamation that you wanted to make Broad Street the biggest 10 miler in the WORLD. Kudos, Mayor.  I appreciate trying to get Philly on the map. I even high-fived you after I crossed the start line in support of your ambition, Greenworks and more.

Yet running yesterday reminded me of how much waste is created from one (average) 1:40 minute run. Especially when 40K people run.  Since you’ve already proclaimed we want to make Philadelphia America’s Greenest City by 2015, why can’t we combine the two ideas and make Broad Street Run the Biggest Environmentally-friendly Philly Race?!?

Here are a few observations of the Broad Street Run and suggestions on how we can green-i-fy both the expo & race:

The Broad Street Runner Expo Green Tips:

  • After waiting 30-40 minutes, you receive a race bib with 4 safety pins (necessary) and a t-shirt in a plastic bag. Unlike most years stuffed with race promotions, NOTHING else was in the plastic bag. Kudos on eliminating unwanted paper.  But can’t we forgo the plastic bag altogether and just have participants stick the t-shirt, bib & a few safety pins in your purse. Or Man-purse. Or just carry the damn things?  Able-bodied individuals can easily carry these items.
  • Speaking of which, why can’t we email the “Official Race Program” to all runners instead of including that pamphlet with the t-shirt? That went straight into the recycle bin for me.
  • If you choose to purchase something from a vendor (AKA shoes/”GU”/shirt), they each gave an additional (non-necessary) plastic bag. Once again, completely unnecessary.  Let’s dump the plastic – especially after your plastic bag proposal was shot down in 2009. Or substitute plastic for reusable cloth bags.
  • Why host the expo at trying to be greenest stadium in world Lincoln Financial Field VS the Conventional Center, when many runners live and stay in Center City the night prior.  Plus, not easily having parking in Center City would encourage many more runners to take public transit and carpool VS parking in the isolated Linc.

    Photo: Athletes for a Fit Planet

    Broad Street Run – Make Race day Sustainable:

  • How many H2O & Gatorade cups are used and thrown on Broad Street in 30 seconds or less? 40,000? 100,000? 150,000? Although it is necessary to hydrate,  can’t we have our runners carry their own water like the Great Lakes Endurance? Or at the very least use non-wax biodegradable paper cups?
  • 40,000 Finisher medals: Although it’s nice to wear a medal for 20 minutes from the Finish line to the subway, do we really “need” a medal for a 10 mile race?  Many individuals compete in Marathons, Triathlons & other journeys that are a test of willpower and endurance.  As this was my 4th run, I barely trained and finished in my worst time. Did I really “deserve” a medal for my half-assed efforts?  (Probably not.)  Let’s spare the metal materials (recycled or not) and instead use that money to add a few more recycling bins on Broad Street?  Or if people really complain, let’s use recycled glass or materials for the medals like Whidbey Island in 2008.
  • Rather than wearing pesticide-heavy (over 1/2 pound per 1 conventional T) shirts, let’s switch to the organic cotton & bamboo variety.
  • Instead of wasting thousands of water bottles, can we get a gigantic water fountain like ING Hartford Marathon, CT? It lets 40 runners drink at once and eliminates 10,000 plastic bottles!
  • Speaking of ING Hartford, let’s trade the sugary bars & potato chip crap in our food (yet another plastic) bag for organic goodies and local noms instead.
  • We should be composting those banana & orange peels at the finish line, as well as have compostable paper cups.
  • Let’s mark those bins at the finish line for what/when to recycle, trash & compost!

I don’t want to be completely critical here… I did notice the Broad Street times weren’t published in the Philadelphia Daily News in an effort to go “green”. Yet we could make SO many improvements to make the race more sustainable. Let’s put our money where our mouth is… Mayor Nutter, we need to start implementing BIG eco-friendly actions to make it onto the 10 Green Races in America list.  I know Philly can conquer such a challenge, but do you?

Sincerely,

Julie H.
Green Philly Blog Founder & Author

 

 

 

 

4 Responses to Can the Broad Street Run Be More Sustainable, Please? Open Letter to Mayor Nutter

  1. Interesting post! I really like your suggestions on how to make Broad Street sustainable for the future. Some of the suggestions are likely not feasible (I want my medal!), but small steps like composting, putting out more recycle bins or switching to biodegradable cups would add up to big change. I cringed when I saw all the trash everywhere and was astounded when the street was already swept clean by the time I made it back up to Center City. Gave the sugary treats bag to a homeless man and tried my best to hold on to all post-race trash until we found a proper receptacle that wasn’t overflowing.

    Hope the organizers see this post for next year! I think, overall, for the sheer size and popularity of this race the BSR staff did a great job organizing the details and directing so many thousands of people. Sure, there will be some complaints (and some people who just want to whine), but you can tell there was lots of thought in it.

  2. Kristy says:

    While I do agree with a lot of points that you make, I do have to disagree with you about the medal. Even if you personally think that 10 miles is not a “test of willpower, strength and endurance”, I think a lot of people would beg to differ. 10 miles is quite a respectable distance especially for people who have never run a long distance race. Just because you didn’t train and ran your worst time doesn’t mean that a lot more people put in many sweat hours training and may have ran and posted a PR.

    I think they should have had more trash/recycling near the start corrals. I had to leave my plastic water bottle on the street because I could not find any receptacles except near the porta-pots. There was no way I could make it there and back with the crowds. I think most people will try to use cans if they are provided.

    At the finish, I could only find trash boxes which were mixed with plastic water bottles and trash.

  3. Julie says:

    Hi ladies – Thanks for your comments and congrats on the run!

    Allie, I agree the BSR organizers did an effective job with such a massive amount of people – the 5 min intervals between corrals, etc. really helped. (BTW – nice fitness blog!) But yet why are some suggestions NOT feasible? All of those ideas are implemented in other races, and Mayor Nutter does want Philly to be the greenest city… Can’t we try to show we can do all of those sustainable actions in one race?

    Kristy, I do agree that 10 miles is nothing to scoff at and a big challenge for many people. Running is a challenging sport. But I would argue that 10 miles is a good “intro” to running long distances. I did train and finish a full marathon (2.5 x’s the BSR distance), and you have to dedicate MONTHS & weekends to training. My motivation for the marathon STARTED by completing my first BSR.

    But essentially, it’s the “should every (one/child) receive a trophy” argument? (http://www.momversation.com/momversation/do-our-kids-get-too-many-trophies) We’re definitely a society that collects “useless” stuff, and where do these medals end up? Maybe a wall, or a box… or in the trash?

    Can we instead save LOTS of scrap metal and give the medals to the award winners (or even first 500/1000 finishers?) Or give an option on the registration “I do not need a medal/t-shirt/paper/etc”? Plus, many people use social media to display their BSR accomplishments – can we substitute a 4square badge instead?

    Good point on the trash/recyclables at the finish – they need more bins & clearly mark them.

  4. Stu says:

    I ran my first BSR in 1989 (when the finish included a lap around the track at JFK stadium, which was condemned later that year!). Internet registration (and ever-growing popularity of running) has increased the runner count by a full ten-fold since then. Still, I think the organizers do an amazing job; I think this year’s race went more smoothly than any in (my) recent memory.

    To me, your most important and valid point (since it is the biggest waster of all) is the Expo location – it wastes everyone’s time and gasoline. The Distance Run (sorry, the Rock & Roll Half) and the Philly (Half/) Marathon both handle packet pickup at the Convention Center quite successfully.

    Personally I agree with you on the medal (although I trained hard and shaved 9 minutes off last year’s time) but my wife really likes hers and would be loath to give it up. And I don’t know if you noticed, but the junk food included (event sponsors) Herr’s and Tastykake products, and if you don’t like those, then I don’t know how you can call yourself a Philadelphian (just kidding)!

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