Running, for many, is a pursuit of personal achievement, a quest for good health, and a connection to nature. It’s more than just a cardio workout—it’s a meditative journey, one foot in front of the other, as you travel through the environment. As society collectively takes strides towards sustainability, the question arises: how green are our running habits? The answer is both enlightening and reassuring.
Embracing the Natural Workout
At the core of running is an appreciation for nature. Whether it’s a sprint along a coastal trail or a marathon through a city’s streets, the runner’s track often intersects with the wonders of the environment. And while every activity comes with its carbon footprint, running is naturally a more eco-friendly sport. There’s no need for a power-hungry gym, no elaborate machinery, and often, no commute when you can step out and start right from your doorstep.
Nutrition and Sustainability: Running Hand-in-Hand
A shift in awareness has ushered in a holistic perspective towards running. From the shoes on our feet to the energy bars in our pockets, every choice becomes a statement. The widely accepted belief that we need specialist sports nutrition products, packaged in environment-harming plastics, is slowly eroding. Global legends like Scott Jurek have demonstrated success in ultra-running powered solely by vegan, homemade foods. Such examples not only debunk myths about performance nutrition but also guide us towards eco-friendlier nutrition choices.
And it’s not just about the elite athletes. The Rarámuri or Tarahumara, a native community in Mexico, showcases extraordinary running prowess. Their diet? Simple, unprocessed, and largely vegetarian. It powers them for hundreds of kilometers. The lesson? Nature has a wealth of nutrition. Freshly baked banana bread or a bean wrap could be just as potent as a factory-made gel bar—and certainly more planet-friendly.
Treading Lightly on the Planet
In a world grappling with the challenges of waste, the conscious runner understands the implications of their choices. Treadmill running, while useful in certain situations, uses electricity, often from non-renewable sources. Opting for an outdoor run doesn’t just save on energy—it rejuvenates the mind and body, connecting the runner with the world they’re trying to protect.
When diving deeper, there are micro-initiatives making macro differences. The #trashfreetrails movement is a testament to this spirit. The concept is simple: leave no trace. It’s a call to every runner to ensure that the beautiful trails they relish remain untouched and unspoiled. Beyond that, there’s ‘plogging’—a blend of jogging while picking up litter. This initiative started in Sweden and has grown globally, combining fitness and environmentalism.
Making Sustainable Choices
For runners, gear is personal—it’s a part of the journey. However, the global shift toward sustainability is reshaping this relationship too. Numerous brands today are innovating to produce sustainable running gear, from bamboo-based attire to shoes derived from algae. Moreover, initiatives across the world, like Singapore’s collection points for used running shoes, ensure these products get a second life, reducing landfill waste.
Large-scale running events, marathons, and races, historically known for their environmental toll, are also evolving. Forward-thinking organizers are now incorporating sustainable practices, from sourcing locally made wooden medals to eliminating single-use plastics.
The Road Ahead
As a nutritionist and a running enthusiast, I often emphasize holistic health. And in today’s context, that includes the health of our planet. Just as marathons teach us, real change comes from numerous small, consistent efforts.
Whether it’s rethinking our nutrition choices, opting for sustainable gear, or supporting greener running events, every step counts. After all, sustainability and running share a common ethos—endurance. And with conscious efforts, our beloved sport can be a path to a healthier planet.
So, lace up those sustainable sneakers, embark on your next run, and know that with each stride, you’re contributing to a brighter, greener future. Because in the marathon of life, it’s not just about the destination, but how we get there.
Author: Scott Keatley, RD