Tuesday Trail Tip – Going Cupless At Trail Races

Tayte Pollmann’s Tuesday Trail Tips series of articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. Race SLO, Salomon and EX2 Adventures mentioned below are members of the American Trail Running Association.

Most trail races provide disposable paper or plastic cups at aid stations, but do we really need them? These cups are used one time and then end up in the landfill, or worse, if not collected they litter trails and surrounding wilderness. I attended the 6th annual US Trail Running Conference August 28-31, in San Luis Obispo, California, and I heard race directors discussing the benefits of “going cupless” with their events to help the environment and reduce their footprint. As a runner, I considered ways to hydrate (without using disposable cups), that are just as convenient and much better for the environment. Here are some suggestions:

Carry a Handheld Flask or Bottle

For trail races at the marathon distance and above, I carry a handheld bottle. I prefer one that that can house 8-16 ounces of fluid and has a hand strap. When I arrive at an aid station, I typically ask someone to refill my bottle with water or electrolytes while I help myself to some fruits or other snacks at the station. I find that I don’t lose too much time and I have a constant supply of fluid whenever I need it on the course. A handheld bottle with a strap requires no extra gripping, and even when I’m sprinting toward a finish line, I’ve never had to worry about my bottle slipping out of my hand.

Tayte at the 2017 Broken Arrow Skyrace.

Wear a Hydration Pack

When I expect to be racing for over 3 hours, I always bring a trail running vest. Depending on the design of the vest, it can hold extra fluids, foods, gels and can free up your hands while you’re running. I’ll usually put energy chews, gels and electrolyte tablets in my vest so I can take them whenever I need them. I plan my nutrition strategy before the race and the vest is a great way to make sure I can carry all the foods and fluids I need.

Race director and founder of  Virginia based EX2 Adventures, Jim Harman with his reusable cup at the SLO ULTRA in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Carry a Reusable Cup

Several companies, such as Sea to Summit, Salomon, UltrAspire, and HydraPak make lightweight silicon reusable cups. The cups are collapsible, which makes them easy to store for travel, or while running. Some models also have an attached ring that keeps the cup from falling out of your hand on the trails. I suggest using these cups for shorter races, or in longer races with multiple aid stations. The cup can be filled up quickly at aid stations to get 6-8 ounces of fluid, and after drinking, you can easily carry the empty cup in your hand or store in your waistband, or in a pocket.

Lastly, to improve the environmental impact of races even further, ask if your next race has considered using TerraCycle. This company is a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste and can partner with races free of charge to recycle their waste. Over 80 million people in 20 countries have used TerraCycle, including several of the race directors I met at the US Trail Running Conference.

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