Have you done a race recently? Have you seen the litter fairy that follows behind the runners picking up the litter and making the course look like no runner has been there? A fabulous person, making the difference, ensuring the good name of our sport continues. Except kids I’ve got some bad news, and you might want to sit down for this, the litter fairy does not exist.
Yet just like Christmas where we all keep up the charade that Father Christmas is real, at races we seem to all carry on not noticing that someone has just thrown a gel wrapper on the ground or has decided to wait until a mile past the water station to throw away their bottle. We carry on in the belief that the litter fairy will pick it up and so our conscience can rest easy. Besides even if the litter fairy doesn’t exist I’m sure these big road races can use some of the massive fee they charge us to pay a team of litter pickers right? Don’t think so.
At the Milton Keynes marathon I saw a guy about 50m in front of me very gently bend over a lay a bottle and gel wrapper on some grass, right in the middle of a beautiful park on the edges of a lake, nowhere near a marshal or an aid station. At that moment I decided the next person I saw dropping litter who was within shouting range was going to get called out on it. So it was that I found myself shouting at a woman at around mile 15 who’d decided that it was ok to dispose of the bottle she no longer wanted by throwing it on some grass which was actually someone’s front garden (incidentally if you ever need to pick yourself up mid race I thoroughly recommend a bit of a rant). Her excuse was that she thought it was near enough a marshal that they’d collect it and besides ‘she’d seen people doing it at other road races so must be fine, but maybe those were main roads and that was the difference’.