ONE TRASHY RUN

Litter messes up otherwise lovely running routes.

DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World

I usually enjoy my solo workouts during the early mornings through my suburban neighborhood. However, recently, I have become disturbed when noticing more and more trash along the side of the road. I got to thinking, What possesses a person to recklessly toss anything out the car window? I hate litter and I have very little patience with people who litter. Why do they do this? Is it just because they don’t want to dirty up their own cars? Then why would they want to dirty up the environment? I’ve always felt cars should come with small trash compactors in the console where you can easily dispose of any trash. However, I wonder if this would solve the issue.

When I ran across the United States in 1978, I played a game of picking up every coin I saw along the road. After 80 days and more than 3,400 miles, I collected a fairly large amount of loot! Trash is one thing, but what on earth would possess someone to toss MONEY out the window? That just doesn’t make any sense to me.

On my run today, I decided to bring my iPhone and take a few photos of some of the debris I might see along the side of the road. Here is what I found on this short 4.5-mile run:

A Coke can and a gel. Hmm…who might have done this? Not a runner…ha! Dave McGillivray

A Coke can and a gel. Hmm…who might have done this? Not a runner…ha! Dave McGillivray

Twisted Tea. The person tossing this out the window was a little “twisted” in doing it. Dave McGillivray

Twisted Tea. The person tossing this out the window was a little “twisted” in doing it. Dave McGillivray

An entire six-pack! Guess they were afraid of being pulled over. It is so bad and so disturbing to see evidence like this of drinking and driving. Dave McGillivray

An entire six-pack! Guess they were afraid of being pulled over. It is so bad and so disturbing to see evidence like this of drinking and driving. Dave McGillivray

It says Kool but it’s not so cool to do this. Dave McGillivray

It says Kool but it’s not so cool to do this. Dave McGillivray

A few of my observations:

  • I saw at least four times the number of beer cans and bottles than I saw soda or water cans and bottles. Makes sense, as it is quite obvious why they are being thrown out the window, but it makes you realize that there are a fair amount of people drinking and driving on the road.
  • I did see a good amount of cigarettes and cigarette boxes on the side of the road. My biggest concern is the risk of starting a fire. I get so upset when people throw lit cigarette butts out their window on the highway.
  • And, interestingly, I did not see much trash as I ran by homes—only in less densely populated and wooded areas. Of course, this is because people don’t want to get caught littering!

So, I have an idea: Instead of fining someone who is caught littering—and how often does that really happen?—why not require that they walk or run along the side of the road and pick up trash for a week or more? If they have money, a fine to them means nothing. But, who would want to be embarrassed by having neighbors or anyone seeing them picking up trash along the roadside?

Another idea could be to create a new road race that people run with backpacks (lined with plastic) to pick up trash along the route. For every pound of trash they collect, they get a minute (or some amount of time) deducted from their finishing time. Maybe you create five different routes of equal distance and divide up the field so more area is covered and more trash is collected. Wouldn’t that be as worthwhile as just running a race or running through mud or crawling under barbed wire or having colored dye tossed at you (which also can create a messy road if not cleaned up properly)?

And I am sure you are now wondering if I am going back out to clean up the trash I just ran by and the answer is YES. Can’t write this article and then in good conscience not live up to what I preach!