A road race is lots of fun — a sweaty athletic challenge mixed with a boisterous block party, a feel-good mingling of bodies and souls.
Unfortunately, though, road races are bad news for the environment. Whether the event is a 5k or a marathon, road races create huge environmental burdens, burdens that are often ignored by participants and sponsoring organizations.
The environmental cost of a road race includes:
- Waste: races create literal mountains of trash — paper cups, boxes, food packaging, ponchos, heat blankets, and plastic bottles, ALL of which end up in landfills within a week.
- Carbon emissions: Travelling to and from a road race, sometimes hundreds of miles, burns lots of gas. For example, 100 racers in a 5k race each travelling just 10 miles to the event and back generates roughly 150 kg of carbon dioxide emissions!
- Civic resources: road races obstruct other citizen’s access to roads, and they tie up public safety officers, often for hours. In addition, races create smog-spewing congestion both for runners arriving/departing the event and for cars lining up to get around the race.
- Bling: a big race generates thousands of pounds of medals and tee shirts, all of which wind up as garbage eventually, whether in weeks or decades.
In contrast, virtual races are the ultimate “clean” events, conserving all these resources. Virtual race participants just step out their front doors and exercise. The Internet takes care of the rest — tallying results and sharing them with all participants. Virtual race bibs and awards are all digital — perfectly formatted for sharing online rather than filling closets, storage lockers or the garbage dump!