Out There: Don’t Be A Seagull

Races are one thing, but Susan Lacke says don't pollute when you're on a training run. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

If you’re going to take after a bird, be more like Woodsy Owl. Give a hoot, don’t pollute.

The fall season is upon us. Kids are in school, everything is pumpkin-flavored, and as runners tackle their last long runs before the marathon season, their feet shuffle through piles upon piles of colorful, crinkly …


Yes, trash as far as the eye can see! It’s all over the trails and roads, creating a charming autumn scene of neon labels and metallic foil. Half-empty gel packets ooze drops of sugary goodness onto the sidewalk. Empty bottles of sports drink dot the landscape. Discarded bike tubes snake along the gravel.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around why people do this. Some folks have explained they don’t want to stuff empty wrappers and other garbage into their clothing because of the ick factor. So (if I’m understanding correctly) they’re willing to soak their shorts with sweat, wipe a runny nose on a sleeve, or possibly get a little dribble ducking behind a bush to pee mid-run. Heck, some even forego that and just go in their shorts! But heaven forbid a piece of foil touches our delicate threads, because eew, that’s so nasty.

Sure. That makes total sense.

Then there’s the inconvenience factor. Carrying empty wrappers can really sandbag a runner, apparently. Shedding those extra grams can really make or break a tempo run. Some athletes really take that “lighter is faster” advice to heart.

And then there’s people who are just inconsiderate a—holes. I have a sneaking suspicion this makes up most of the littering cases.

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Listen, I really want to give the benefit of the doubt to my fellow endurance athletes. I truly do. For the most part, the endurance athletes I’ve encountered are really good people, so I don’t want to think the worst. Perhaps a wrapper fell out of the back of a bike jersey, or maybe it blew out of the garbage receptacle during a particularly strong gust of wind. If if’s one rogue piece of trash, it’s easy to be forgiving.

When the trails and roads are littered with many pieces of running and cycling-related trash, though, my default assumption is that there are some folks within our ranks making really discourteous choices.

A teammate of mine, who works in environmental conservation, calls these folks seagulls: They come in, crap all over the place, and leave.

Don’t be a seagull, man. No one likes those. If you’re going to take after a bird, be more like Woodsy Owl. Give a hoot, don’t pollute.

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As the fall race season ramps up, you may be spending an increasing amount of time on the roads and trails. You also might be carrying more nutrition. It’s not that hard to put your wrappers back in your pocket. Treating the world like your own personal landfill is a rude thing to do, and frankly, it makes all of us look bad. There are enough over-generalizations people like to make about endurance athletes. Let’s not add “and they throw their crap everywhere, too!” to the list.

I promise to keep our trails and roads free of my own garbage, and I hope you’ll extend that same courtesy. If it starts in your pocket, keep it in there until it can go in a proper trash receptacle.

Go ahead, call me a hippie or accuse me of watching too much Captain Planet. I don’t care.

At least I’m not a seagull.


About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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