This runner is covering 3,000 kilometers to clean up his community
It was something Peter consistently noticed over the course of more than 1,000 kilometers: even in his remote community, litter was everywhere.
When he finished the challenge, Peter set his sights on a new goal that would keep him motivated, put his fitness to good use, and chip away at a larger problem. He committed to running 3,000 kilometers, picking up all the trash he found along the way.
Peter is no stranger to taking on new, ambitious challenges. It’s how he started running. In 2013, he wanted to make a drastic change so he downloaded a Couch to 10K app and started running.
He loved the opportunity it provided him to get out early in the morning, before his kids woke up, and clear his head. Peter took to running so quickly that after the first 10k, he dove into training for a 25K trail race.
This year, when races were canceled and the pandemic turned life upside down, Peter turned to running. He came across Lazarus Lake’s (creator of the Barkley Marathons) latest venture: a virtual race that covered the distance from the southwest corner to the northwest corner of Lake’s home state, Tennessee. A more than 1,000-kilometers race was exactly the challenge Peter needed.
“The mileage was therapeutic because there’s so much going on,” he says. “There’s so much uncertainty that being able to get up and pound out some mileage daily and have some meaning and focus in a sport that you love and that you’d given up hope on for the year was crucial at the time. It was perfect.”
While ramping up his weekly mileage during the GVRAT, Peter soon became bored of his usual routes. He started to branch out, covering new roads and new parts of his community. And that’s when he noticed the garbage.
“We live in a fairly rural setting,” Peter explains. “You just take for granted that we’re not the city, so of course there’s no garbage, but that’s not the case.” But once he started to see it, he saw it everywhere.
So an idea started to form. He finished the GVRAT in 52 days and wanted to tackle something else with the fitness he’d built up. Peter realized that he could address his community’s litter problem while running.
He decided to run every road in his county-3,000 kilometers total-and pick up all the trash along the way.
Peter is running six or seven days a week with the hope of getting the distance done before winter because he’s not a big fan of running in the cold. Armed with a garbage bin strapped into a running stroller, Peter covers, on average, a half marathon a day. “It’s taking, sometimes, up to three hours.”
This endeavor has been more time consuming than it seemed on the surface. Not only does picking up trash add time to Peter’s runs, but then he has to double back on his routes everyday to pick up the full bags he’s accumulated. He also spends considerable time sorting the trash and pulling out recyclables.
“I didn’t have a real big understanding about the recycling portion. That’s going to be a major part of what I champion going forward,” he says. There’s a lot of misinformation about what is recyclable, and Peter found that it’s entirely dependant on the infrastructure in each town. For example, the recycling centers where he lives do not recognize the black styrofoam packaging for ground meat.
Peter’s project has also morphed beyond the original goal. He wants to get others involved, like local running groups in his community and even other counties around his. For example, he wants to organize a day of running clean up, where participants in all different locations pick up trash along their routes. He also envisions a race component where the winner is the runner or county that covers the most distance, goes the fastests, or picks up the most trash.
“My big thinking is to create a like minded environment about the environment where we can recycle things properly,” he says. “There’s just not enough awareness.” But he’s found that people are onboard with his mission when they learn of it and start to see the trash themselves. That’s when the pride for their community takes over and they want to help.
He adds, “Making a difference starts right at the idea. You can and you will.”
To date, Peter has covered 1,100 kilometers and cleaned up countless bags of trash. You can keep track of his progress here.
Originally published at http://behindthemiles.wordpress.com on August 20, 2020.