The London Marathon is an iconic annual event that has raised more than £950 million for charity since it was launched in 1981. But with more than 40,000 runners picking up hundreds of thousands of plastic water bottles as they pound the pavements, it hardly seems like an eco-friendly affair.
Encouragingly, the organisers of this year's event – which takes place just days after climate change activists Extinction Rebellion ended their highly successful central London protest – say they're aiming to produce the "most sustainable marathon ever".
To that end, this year's event will feature 215,000 fewer plastic bottles across the 26.2 miles of running route than last year's marathon. Every plastic bottle handed out will be made of 100 percent recyclable material, organisers have pledged.
There will be 19 plastic water bottle stations on the route, seven fewer than last year, and 700 runners will trial "bottle belts" made of 90% percent recycled materials. This way, they can bring their own water to the race rather than grabbing plastic bottles as they get closer to the finish line.
Meanwhile, one drink station will offer water stored in innovative Ooho capsules, which are made from seaweed and therefore edible and biodegradable. Three other drink stations will offer Lucozade Sport drinks stored in compostable cups.
The marathon's event director Hugh Brasher has said that he and fellow organisers are aiming to make "this year’s [marathon] the most sustainable ever".
“We know our participants share our passion and want us to take action. It is a huge challenge as we must balance providing proper runner welfare with reducing our environmental impact," he said.
"We can’t achieve everything in one event, in one year, but the changes and the trials we’re introducing for this year have the potential to change how mass participation events are delivered in future. Everyone can make a difference: our participants, spectators, contractors, volunteers and staff."
The London Marathon isn't just trying to reduce its environmental impact by cutting back on plastic. Organisers have said that all race instructions and registration materials will be digital, rather than printed, this year. They've also promised that all clothes discarded by runners at the start of the race will be collected and sent for reuse or recycling.
In addition, the customary "recovery bags" given to runners at the finish line will be made from 90 per centrecycled plastic, and won't contain any unnecessary pieces of paper.
Overall, the marathon's new sustainability initiatives definitely sound like a step or two in the right direction.