Environment · Lifestyle · Litter · Running · Texas

Trying a “Clean Run”

Once again I am training for the Cap 10K which takes place next Sunday. I say “once again” because I have been trying unsuccessfully to run this race for years. The last time I ran it was 2017. In 2018 I got injured and was unable to run. In 2019 my best friend, Michelle, passed away from colon cancer. I still planned to run it, I had made a jacket that said “Ask me about Michelle” on the back and cards to hand out that had a picture of Michelle running the Shiner Beer run just before her diagnosis with stage IV colon cancer with information on how to spot the early warning signs of colon cancer. However, that year, the race was cancelled for the first time in its 40 year history due to torrential rains and thunder storms. Looking back that should have been an omen, because the race ended up being cancelled for two more years after that due to COVID. In 2022 I was determined to run, and I had trained, but the Friday before the race was the day Trevor was admitted to the hospital for asthma and ended up spending five days in the pediatric intensive care unit.

I was telling this story to one of my MOPS Mentors, Sallie, in February and she encouraged me to run it this year. After so many setbacks I had resigned myself to never running it again, but with her encouragement and coaching I started training and I got myself back up to the point where I can run the 10k distance again. This may be the last time I try to run it though, I’m turning 40 this year and training has been harder on my body than it was in 2015.

So what is a “clean run” and where did the idea come from?

I started training by running one mile the first week, then two the next. When I was running the shorter distances, if I saw a piece of litter on the ground I would pick it up and bring it to the public trash can at the local playground. However, after I got up to 4 miles, I was covering distances along which there was too much trash to carry. I started wondering how hard it would be to run with a trash bag and pick up the litter as I ran, but I never tried it. My runs were kind of haphazard in nature, I realized the best way to get myself to complete the whole distance was to run half the distance away from my house and then backtrack. That way, I had no choice but to complete the whole distance even if I had to walk a bit and I would be home as soon as the run was over. Today though, I made a plan. I drove to a church in my neighborhood that’s about two miles from my house, then ran until my watch said 3.25 miles and turned and ran back to my car, picking up trash the whole way!

What I learned:

I learned a few lessons from this experience so if I try it again I will do it differently. I only wore one glove because I rightly assumed it would be pretty awful to run six miles while wearing rubber gloves, so I thought I wouldn’t glove the hand I was holding the bag with. That was a bad choice though, because the gloved hand had to help gather the trash bag so any germs on the glove went onto the trash bag and therefore onto my ungloved hand.

Second, I would probably pack a second trash bag in my car. I picked up a broken pair of scissors outside the elementary school and they tore a hole in my bag that I had to be wary of for the rest of the run.

How does it work?

To do this I ran up one side of the street and back down the other (only where it was safely possible for me to do so) so that I could get the trash on both sides of the street.

I also didn’t worry about my run time today. I ran a 16 minute mile at one point because I had encountered an area that was just nasty and required a lot of cleaning.

It was surprisingly easy to run with a bag of trash. I cinched the opening down below the opening so it was tight in my hand and didn’t swing as I ran.

I didn’t pick up any dog poo. I also left something on the ground because it was a very heavy, broken and sharp piece of metal.

When I got back to my car I used some packaging tape to close up the tear in the trash bag and practically washed my hands in sanitizer. Twice.

The bottom line:

I feel like I accomplished something better than if I had run a personal best because I improved not only myself but my community. Having said that, some of the trash I picked up was truly gross. I’ll definitely wear two gloves next time.

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