More than four years ago, Cape Town nearly became the first major city to run out of water after a drought caused huge environmental damage and put the lives of everyone in the city at risk.
Cape Town is a city that has been battling over the years to bring about plans to more positively affect climate change. The Cape Town Marathon organisers hope to create the greenest sporting event in the world.
World leaders recently met in Egypt for COP27 (the United Nations’ climate change summit), where two topics were on the agenda, how to limit the rise in global temperatures and the race to offset the imprint of sporting events on the environment.
A recent study conducted by the RTA (Rapid Transition Alliance) indicates that the global sports sector contributes the same level of emissions as a medium-sized country, sparking the marathon in Cape Town to play its part.
Due to the awareness created by leaders at COP27 and building global pressure for some time, many sporting events are making sure their events are “going green”.
Barry van Blerk, the director of the Cape Town Marathon had this to say to BBC Sport Africa, “We see ourselves as a leader in that field. We were the first carbon-neutral marathon in the world in 2017 and we’re proud of that.”
He also said, “We want to bolster one of our key objectives, to get better in that field every year, and to see how we can offset carbon – not only around the marathon but also after the marathon to have a carbon-neutral event.”
With over 22,000 athletes and their coaches, families and friends converging on Cape Town from all over the world for the marathon, 5km and 10km peace runs and the 22km & 46km trail runs, the event’s impact on the environment is substantial.
In 2013 the event organisers shifted their focus from solely participation to long-term sustainability. They managed to offset 4 403 tonnes of carbon (roughly equivalent to driving a diesel car around the world 66 times) by the 2017 event. This came through supporting two local South African-certified projects, called Wonderbag and Reliance Compost.
Van Blerk also commented, “Sustainability is the pillar across all aspects of this event. It’s about doing what is right for the participant and what is right for the environment.”
It is no easy feat to become a carbon-neutral event with so many participants. The 2022 event saw some medals made from recycled metal and others made from eco-friendly wooden materials. Water was also served in 100% biodegradable cups and many participants were given trees to plant.
“It’s part of the ethos to get runners to run for a purpose,” said race co-founder Elana Meyer (Olympic 10,000m silver medal for South Africa in 1992).
Meyer also told BBC Sport Africa, ” We’ve got the ‘Run for Something’ campaign to urge runners to define a purpose beyond their own footsteps.” This initiative is where several runners were given saplings to grow a spekboom, an environmentally beneficial tree said to be among the highest oxygen-producing trees in the world, with another 5,000 potted plants distributed to finishers.
Furthermore, over 200 volunteers dedicated themselves to recyclable waste management during the event and organisers hope their environmentally-friendly credentials will play a huge role in their dream to become the first world marathon major on African soil.
The Cape Town Marathon is currently a world marathon major candidate and is being assessed based on a number of criteria of which sustainability is one, and if selected it could see the event join the other marathons on the 2025 majors race calendar. All the current major winners are from Africa so this would be a fitting culmination.
Even Africa’s two-time Olympic marathon champion and world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge is urging sport to combat climate change. Sport is a key influence on world change and this is why Kipchoge set up a foundation to focus on conservation among other things.
Let Africa Marathons organise your trip and entry to the iconic Cape Town Marathon 2023. To find out more and to enter the race please send us an email at [email protected]. You can also contact us on the button below to join. We look forward to welcoming you to South Africa.