London Marathon Commits to Net-Zero As Climate Change Impacts Events Around The World

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The organizers behind the London Marathon are looking to push their net-zero promise ten years earlier. 

London Marathon Events (LME), the company behind many UK-based events, including the London Marathon, the Brighton Marathon, and Swim Serpentine, initially aimed to be carbon net-zero by 2040.

Head of sustainability at LME, Kate Chapman, said, “Looking where we are now, 17 years out, that just feels far too long – we need to be more ambitious.” – via The Independent UK.

With the goal of cutting about 800 tonnes of carbon per year, removal and reduction methods would include using electric vehicles, encouraging participants to use public transport, and using hydrotreated vegetable oil generators rather than diesel.

LME says it is also charging all international participants a £26 “climate levy” to help cover carbon removal costs, a measure implemented in 2021.

LME plans to engage CUR8, a carbon removal company, to remove 280 tonnes of CO2 from the air, with this amount increasing each year.

Chapman says, “The fact that there is something that we can do, then yeah, that has been a factor in helping us be more ambitious.” – via The Independent UK.

In 2022, the London Marathon attracted about 9,920 international participants. 95% of the total emissions came from their travel, though this is not included in the net zero calculation. 

The “climate levy” from this number of participants brought LME about £257,920 in funds to put into their net zero mission.

“Clearly, we need to do everything we can to reduce those emissions. We don’t want to be left with a big chunk of residual emissions that we’re then paying to remove to enable us to credibly call ourselves a net zero operation,” said Chapman – via The Independent UK.

Climate change has undoubtedly had an impact on marathon runners in recent years. 

This summer, as extreme weather conditions and record high temperatures were recorded, many marathons and other long-distance running events were canceled or had to put contingency plans in place.

The Twin Cities Marathon, an event that has been put on for 40 years, was canceled as a result of extreme heat. Many U.S. Olympic hopefuls were targeting the race in an attempt to run the time standard to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials.

The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials themselves have raised concerns over an unsafe environment. A group of elite marathoners have brought their concerns to USATF organizers as the noon start time poses the potential for extreme heat.

This past weekend, the finals of the Mountain Running World Cup had to significantly alter all three of their courses as a result of high temperatures in the high 30s and the risk of fires.

A recent peer-reviewed study published in Nature Scientific Reports found that as a result of climate change, there is a potential 27% decline by the late twenty-first century in safe and viable cities worldwide to host the Olympic marathon.

The study stated that due to changing summer weather in regions worldwide, the best adaptation strategy would be to host the Olympic marathon in October.

Extreme heat can easily cause dehydration in distance runners, putting them at risk for various heat illnesses, including heat stroke. The effects of heat stroke can be long-lasting and negatively impact runners for a significant amount of time.

In light of the changing climate and associated health risks, various other organizations are expected to follow in the footsteps of LME and the London Marathon.

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Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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