Thursday morning (11/12). Cold rain. Long training run. In a zone… I rounded a corner on Kelly Drive and approached my favorite Schuylkill River bridge, the Art Nouveau masterpiece Falls Bridge. Immediately, I was knocked out of my runner’s zone by the sight of many, many, shiny, flat, colorful rectangular objects, seemingly plastered to the roadway and sidewalk of the bridge. They resembled tan, green, orange, and black files inlaid into the macadam. I instantly realized, with non-100% certainty, the source of the packets. On October 31, during the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, thousands of runners, including myself, ran through this very truss, having just passed the “Gu Station,” located near the east entry to the bridge. Most of the runners availed themselves of the opportunity for an energy boost. I distinctly recall sucking down my tasty, carb-loaded, caffeinated vanilla slime, hoping it would propel me through the final 4 miles of the run. I also recall tossing my empty packet onto MLK Drive just after passing through the bridge. I did not regard my act, nor that of most other runners, as littering. For I know that race organizers are responsible for cleaning up all such debris after each race. Hence my utter astonishment at seeing so many discarded packets nearly two weeks after the event.
Friday afternoon (11/13). Blustery. Plastic shopping bag in hand. Ready to perform my civic Gu-ty… I rounded a corner and peered at the bridge deck. I saw many packets, but not nearly as many as the day before. Given the heavy rain of the previous night, I sadly surmised where the packets now are: amidst a Schuylkill to Delaware to Atlantic journey. Given their gloss and vivid color, some could even be in the mouths or stomachs of some unlucky fish or birds. I began my cleanup endeavor on the bridge and adjacent areas. I figured I’d go for an even 100 packets, to make a tangible dent in the litter. But I soon found myself lost in some kind of addictive curbside rhythm, which kept me going well past 100. Yes, I had fallen into a Gu-packet-pickup zone. I ended up filling my bag with somewhere around 270 sticky packets. I am not someone who regularly participates in trash cleanups, because I believe that such efforts often communicate to litterers that others will clean up their mess. However, in this case, I feel that my effort will prove effective. First, of course, I prevented a bunch of plastic-coated objects from entering the river habitat. And second, I wonder if the post-race mess may have been the result of an unintended mixup between the event organizer and a party responsible for debris removal. Accordingly, I will contact Competitor Group, the run organizer, to inform them of the situation and to request an explanation. (I’ll also offer them the option of making a small donation to LandHealth, as a token of Gu-ratitude for our kind deed). I predict a positive response and hope that Competition Group resolves to ensure spotless post-race cleanups in future events.
A final note to anyone wishing to experience the Gu-packet-pickup zone: there are still many more packets strewn along MLK drive, waiting to be picked up (or washed into the nearest storm drain). And, if you’re so inclined, as I was, to bring your bag of packets indoors and set it upon your kitchen table, note well that humans are not the only ones who enjoy Gu Energy Gel. Ants like Gu, too.