Op-Ed: Shocking display demonstrates runners' nasty side Special

Posted Aug 20, 2012 by Bart B. Van Bockstaele
Last Saturday, A Midsummer Night's Run was held in Toronto. It passed through Tommy Thompson Park, a unique urban wilderness and nature sanctuary. Runners provided a sad and shameful display of disrespect for the beautiful surroundings.
On 18 August 2012  A Midsummer Night s Run was held in Toronto. This is a fast-paced slide-show of p...
On 18 August 2012, A Midsummer Night's Run was held in Toronto. This is a fast-paced slide-show of pictures I took during the event at Tommy Thompson Park. While I was plesantly surprised with the diligence of the organisers, I was completely shocked by the total disrespect most of the runners demonstrated for the beauty of this unique and world-renowned nature sanctuary.
I don't understand runners, and I probably never will. Running is a useless, utterly boring activity that accomplishes absolutely nothing.
That view wasn't exactly improved by an incident that happened some years ago on the Don Valley Trail. I was walking along the path, looking for remarkable plants and animals, while someone ran straight into my back. The individual in question started to insult me, because I had not jumped out of the way. Excuse me? He ran into my back. He should have run around me. I wasn't exactly running backwards into him.
What this incident suggested to me, is that running can indeed be so mind numbing, that some runners do not even realise anymore what they are doing and where they are.
Don't misunderstand me. I am not against running. I just find it appalling that so many people want to be involved in this pointless exercise. Of course, much of the same could be said about other activities. I like to watch Star Trek, for example, an exercise that is in no way productive, challenging or useful. That's also not why I do it. I do it because I enjoy it. There is no other reason.
My guess is that many runners feel the same way about running. There is nothing wrong with this.
That said, when I am watching Star Trek, I do not feel it necessary in any way to let others enjoy my garbage by strewing it around, and this is precisely where I have a problem with runners. Runners, and more specifically, runners running races give at least the impression that their mindless activity does indeed encourage them to throw their garbage wherever it wants to fly.
In the case of Tommy Thompson Park, the runners managed to turn certain parts of the five kilometre-long peninsula and wildlife sanctuary into a trash-heap. The images speak for themselves, I think.
What makes this even more shocking is when one realises that this goes totally against the stated intentions of the organisers.
A few quotes from the website:
We encourage walkers and runners to carry their own water bottles. Our volunteers will be pleased to replenish your vessels as required.
Help us green our race! Water station crews are happy to (re)fill your reusable container! Carry a water bottle and help save the planet!
As can be seen from the pictures, some runners did indeed carry their own water bottles. It is also evident that these runners are, unfortunately, a tiny minority. Saving the planet does not seem to be particularly important for runners.
We are fortunate to run through a beautiful conservation area and we ask those taking gels and using cups to be mindful of where they throw their garbage. Our volunteers will gladly clean up the ground around them, so please leave your litter at the aid stations.
The appalling pictures speak for themselves. Most runners don't care one bit about where their garbage ends up and they almost completely ignore the garbage bags put at their disposal by the organisers and volunteers.
Now for the positive, because yes, there is some:
Sunday Site-Clean-up
It is our hope that "no one will know that we were there" once the clean-up has finished.
I went back to Tommy Thompson Park the day after the event. It must be said: the organisers and the volunteers should be commended for their diligence. Over the entire trajectory from the entrance of Tommy Thompson Park to its end at the lighthouse, I did not find a single cup. As far as I could tell, the goal that "no one will know that we were there" was reached, not partly, not mostly, but completely.
I can only hope that the brains of at least some of the runners have not been destroyed so much by the incessant running as to prevent them from learning from the organisers' and volunteers' excellent example.