Reusable cups cut waste on the trail
Pam LeBlanc, Fit City
The jugs of water and stacks of disposable paper cups set out along the trail around Lady Bird Lake help keep thirsty runners and walkers hydrated. But they also create a lot of waste, with an average of nearly 8,000 cups per day used, according to RunTex, which provides the free service.
Stand near the jugs and watch, and sometimes you'll see someone use a cup, toss it away and pull out another one.
We don't have to be so wasteful.
A new bank of drinking fountains is up and running at the north end of the pedestrian bridge underneath Loop 1. And now an Austin runner has come up with a squishy rubber cup that's easy to stuff into a pocket or the waistband of your running shorts so you don't have to use a disposable one.
Adreinne Oujezdsky, 28, grew up running the downtown trail. The idea for reusable cups popped into her mind after she ran past the water coolers three years ago and wondered how many cups she'd use in her lifetime.
That led to some research on how many single-use cups are used at races around the country. She found out that the top 50 U.S. races alone generate more than 660,000 pounds of disposable cups, which mostly wind up in landfills.
"I'd love to see a day when the cups aren't overflowing the trash bins — both on our trail and our streets after local races," Oujezdsky says.
Oujezdsky, who has a background in advertising, dug into her bank account and begged friends and family for seed money, eventually collecting $46,000 to pursue her idea for an easy-to-carry cup that could be used over and over.
She purchased a molding machine from China and had it shipped to Boerne, where the cups are now made.
She calls her invention the SipECup. (E stands for environment.) The cone-shaped cups look similar to the paper ones available now on the trail, only they're made of flexible material similar to what's used in the yellow LiveStrong wristbands.
Eventually, she'd like to see race organizers use the cups at events. Sponsors could advertise on them, and runners would either keep or toss the cups, which would be gathered, then washed or recycled.
She hopes runners think about the environment the next time they stop for water.
"I wanted it to be easy. Being an athlete is hard enough. It should be easy to do good," Oujezdsky says.
The blue SipECups sell for $5 for a pack of two and are available at RunTex, Rogue, Mellow Johnny's and Bettysport. Expect to see a pink version at the Komen Race for the Cure next year.
For more information go to www.thesipecup.com.
From arm warmers to running shoes and energy waffles to recovery drinks, it was all about running when The Running Event came to town this month.
Representatives of running stores mingled with manufacturers of running gear during the four-day conference and expo at the Austin Convention Center, where I've never seen so many skinny people with ropey, lean calf muscles. In all, about 1,500 retailers and manufacturers participated.
In case you haven't noticed, running is huge!
More people than ever are running marathons. Running USA reports that 507,000 people finished one of the 26.2-mile races in 2010, up 8.6 percent from 2009. Sales of running apparel have increased just as quickly, according to Leisure Trends Group, which tracks sales. Today, running is an $850 million business in the United States.
Representatives of companies from Asics to Zoot sports were on hand, showing off their latest and greatest.
I spent a couple of hours at the expo, perusing products and chatting with the people who dreamed up stuff like Knuckle Lights, clever LED lights worn over the front of the hands to make runners more visible when they run.
Among the items I spotted?
DVD video tours of real running courses like the Boston Marathon or Beach to Beacon that allow runners to set their own pace and virtually run a route without really being there. Right now, the routes are all in the northeastern United States, but more are planned, including the Chicago and New York City marathons, according to Gary McNamee of Outside Interactive.
Hoka One One earned my vote as the wackiest looking pair of shoes at the show. In what seems like a backlash against the trend toward minimalist or barefoot shoes, Hoka is pushing a wide shoe with outlandishly thick, cushy soles. Hoka claims all that padding dissipates the shock associated with heel strike.
Gore-Tex brought along its indoor weather chamber, so eager testers could try out waterproof running gear inside a room where rain falls at a rate of 22 inches per hour and wind blows up to 30 mph.
Brooks won my award for wackiest display, with a huge space transformed into a little slice of heaven, complete with employees dressed in robes and a fluffy white carpet underfoot. What?
I also liked the great-looking T-shirts from Sport Science, which has perfected the art of making technical running shirts that don't have that shiny, "hey-look-I'm-wearing-wicking-fabric" appearance.
The show even came with its own indoor test track, where people could test drive new footwear.
All that wandering around wore me out, so I was happy that Honey Stinger was on hand, handing out samples of its yummy energy waffles. The flat, palm-sized waffles, inspired by Lance Armstrong, who has a stake in the company, now come in vanilla and strawberry as well as original.
Trust me. They're better than Eggos, and a lot more portable.