MENU
23 Oct, 2018

Carrying the Cause

69

When it comes to setting goals, most runners aim for a specific race, time or medal, but Karoline Hanks has a different goal, to convince runners to think about their use of single-use plastic sachets in road races. Karoline and her team have been trying to rather develop a sachet-free hydration system, so that more single-use plastic doesn’t end up in the wetlands, rivers and oceans. – BY SEAN FALCONER

It all started in April 2013 when Karoline went for a run on Chapman’s Peak a few days after the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon. “It was a very windy race that year and when I looked down on the verges next to the road, I just saw a whole lot of plastic sachets, so I went down and started cleaning up, but soon realised I had a bigger job on my hands. I went home, got some bags and filled up three and a half bags of sachets, plastic bottles and polystyrene peaks. It was all still there three days after the clean-up crew had been through, and that made me really angry.”

“When I got home I did a bit of research and realised it was just part of a much bigger problem, because road races happen all over the place, and this pollution happens every weekend! So I wrote an article that night, still filled with all that rage, and it was published verbatim in the Cape Times. The very day the article was published, I received a call from the then Two Oceans race director, who asked if they could talk to me, and I went into that meeting with a couple of the bags of rubbish I had collected. Halfway through the discussion, I put the bags on the table and told them that it was unacceptable.”

CAUSE FOR CONCERN
Having grown up with parents who worked in conservation, Karoline has always been passionate about the environment, both in her work in the media and now through her business, SUPA (Single Use Plastic Alternatives), producing home-made environmentally-friendly products. That’s why she has worked tirelessly since 2013 to try get the running community to change its littering ways, but she concedes that her efforts initially focused unfairly just on the Two Oceans, notably receiving wide coverage when she shared pics on social media of the race waste she cleared from the route after the clean-up crews were supposed to have cleared it away.

“I know I have taken a few digs at Two Oceans over the years, and I realise down the line it was perhaps a bit disingenuous of me, that it would have been better to get into positive dialogue with them, but thankfully the relationship has improved a lot since 2017, leading to regular meetings and real efforts to clean up the race. Those meetings in turn led to an amazing workshop at the Sport Science Institute, with Western Province Athletics, Two Oceans, running clubs, journo’s and sports scientists involved. There’s also been a huge increase in awareness, thanks to campaigns such as Modern Athlete’s #runclean, and turning sachets into desks through the #GoGreen campaign.”

CARRYING SOLUTION
Karoline believes the best option is to get rid of sachets completely. The #icarrymyown campaign calls on runners to carry their own water in hydration packs or hand-held bottles. “I started carrying my own water in 2014, with a pic of a turtle swallowing a plastic bag pinned to my hydration pack. Unbelievably, one runner actually said to me, ‘What a pretty picture!’ It’s a slow process to convince runners to change, but I think it has received a positive response, and I want to highlight the efforts of my co-campaigner Kim Walker, who also came up with the campaign byline and logo.”

One of the big success stories of the campaign has been the introduction of refill stations in several races in the Cape, where runners carrying their own hydration containers can refill mid-race. “These amazing hydration stations were built by Richard Sutton, and they’re basically a framework of tanks, pipes and taps that he rolled out at his own races, the Milkwood and Chappies Challenge half marathons. He’s the first race organiser to say no sachets in his races, and it’s been phenomenally successful,” says Karoline.

So far this year the refill stations have been used at the Red Hill and Peninsula Marathons, the Safari Half Marathon and Two Oceans itself, with runners told via social media where they can stop for a quick, easy refill thanks to the imported high-pressure taps Richard has used. “I ran some of those races, and if anything, I actually saved time by stopping to refill while avoiding the jams at all the sachet stations. It also felt good to say no thanks to all that plastic!” says Karoline. “Now more race organisers are approaching us to ask for the refill stations at their races, and that’s great news, because it’s important that we reduce the demand for single-use plastic in the road running space. It’s a simple hydration issue for runners, but the impact is that this stuff ends up leaking into our natural ecosystem, is ingested by wildlife and is ultimately entering the food chain – which has massive health implications for all of us.”

IMAGES: Courtesy Karoline Hanks

LATEST NEWS

The Man with 9 Toes

07 November 2018 - Toes are important to maintaining your balance, and even more so to running, so when top trail runner Imran Paya lost a toe in a freak accident just over a year ago, he thought his running days wer...

Road to Recovery

06 November 2018 - After a year ravaged by injury and recovery from an operation, Elroy Gelant has been putting in the hard yards to build back up to fitness, and some of his recent results have helped restore his co...

Power of Positivism

05 November 2018 - In 2015 Bevan Oschger narrowly survived a hit-and-run accident, but was left with a permanent brain injury. In spite of this, Bevan has taken on some incredible physical challenges, including the 2...

Race Calendar - November 2018

01 November 2018 - South African runners really are blessed with a terrific race calendar, with so many great races to do, so check out these events for the coming month, including road and trail runs as well as othe...

Think Before You Bite and Spit!

31 October 2018 - You reach the water station in your race, thirsty and looking for a mouthful of cold water to refresh yourself, and that sachet feels so cool in your hand. Bringing it up to your mouth, you careful...

Talking track

30 October 2018 - Walk This Way - By Anel Oosthuizen As a young girl watching athletics, I always admired how some athletes could run around a track non-stop and not seem to get tired. When I started race walki...

Balancing Act to Run Faster

29 October 2018 - Out of the Box - By Norrie Williamson Proprioception is the awareness of joint and limb positions, and hence impacts on your ability to balance and your agility, and of course, your running sp...

Trim the Weight

26 October 2018 - Now that winter has come to an end and summer is approaching, it’s not just our clothing layers we need to shed as the days get warmer, we also need to shed our excess winter weight. – ...

Girl Power

25 October 2018 - Kalmer’s Corner - By Modern Athlete Brand Ambassador René Kalmer I had the privilege of celebrating Women’s Month by spending it in fine style with more than a dozen special...

I Blame Phuti!

24 October 2018 - The Running Mann - By Stuart Mann Some weeks back I was all set for my ninth Comrades, and I wasn’t planning to conclude my Comrades taper with my first adventure race. I was planning to...

Track Time

22 October 2018 - Track work can appear to be mundane, but once you begin to see the benefits, you’ll be wishing every day was track day. – BY RAY ORCHISON, REGISTERED COACH Track sessions break the...

Making Every Step Count

19 October 2018 - With camera in hand, Hassiem Fisher loves exploring the trails around Cape Town and revelling in the joy that running gives him, but it wasn’t so long ago that he was not able to run at all. ...