Maine Trash Runners: It's not where you finish, it's how you finish

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BRUNSWICK — The Maine Trash Runners run for the environment – and for trash.

Jeremy Litchfield, owner and chief pacesetter of eco-friendly performance clothing company Atayne, came up with the idea for the Maine Trash Runners five years ago when he was preparing to launch his Brunswick company.

“We were in the process of launching the company and thought wouldn’t it be cool to do something that would get exposure, but also that’s more in line with our way of thinking,” Litchfield said.

His company, Atayne, makes performance running, biking and hiking gear with “a point of view” – its products are made of 100 percent recycled polyester. Each product, depending on it’s size, is made from five to 10 plastic bottles and is produced using 70 percent less energy than traditional technical performance-wear.

The eco-consciousness spills over into the Maine Trash Runners.

“Our whole philosophy is, how do you integrate litter collection, doing something good for the environment, into your active lifestyle,” Litchfield said.

The Maine Trash Runners can be seen at many local road races or canvassing the roads on their own. The group now has 75 members, and is also growing outside the state.

According to Litchfield, other people like the idea of what the trash runners stand for and groups have started popping up in New Jersey, California, Chicago and even as far away as India.

Each year the Maine Trash Runners work with around six local races, helping with recycling, trash collection and composting. So far this year they have worked with the Pirate Triathlon at Point Sebago, the Urban Runoff 5k, the Old Port Half Marathon and they are planning to be at the finish line of the Lobsterman Triathlon in Freeport in September and the Tri for a Cure this weekend in South Portland.

At races, members of the group will run behind the race and pick up trash, putting it into a retrofitted jogging stroller or small trash bags. They also work the finish line, coordinating recycling and composting efforts.

The group has run every distance from a 5k to a marathon, but Litchfield said that their “magical distance” is anywhere between 5k and 10k.

“We can usually move around in a little group anywhere between a 10- to 15-minute mile,” he said. “It takes us a little longer because we’re swerving around, but we’ve done every distance.”

With all that time spent running the team has to find a way to entertain themselves and over the past five years they have developed a long list of words to describe their task.

“A couple of years ago we did a trash run on the Maine Marathon. Covering 26.2 miles picking up trash while running, you gotta think of things to do to entertain yourself and someone all of a sudden went down to pick up a piece of trash and missed it and said, ‘I just pulled a Buckner,’” Litchfield said.

Words like rubber-necking (“missing trash due to taking in the scenery, watching other trash runners or simply not paying attention”), trashole (“formerly known as a litterbug, a trashhole is someone who throws his or her trash on the ground for the rest of us to see and ultimately pick up”) and butt stroll (“when you intend to go for a vigorous trash run, but you find yourself in a stroll due to an overabundance of littered cigarette butts) make up the extensive trash-running vocabulary.

Many of the members, including Litchfield, not only scoop up trash as a part of the Maine Trash Runners, but they incorporate the philosophy into their own running or walking.

“People like the concept and they integrate it into their everyday walking or running or whatever it may be,” he said. “(We have) one member who runs probably four, five, six days a week and always picks up trash. When I run I always make a point of spending a portion of that run locating and picking up trash. It’s not OK to litter, and it’s not OK to run along, see the trash and not pick it up and put it in a trash can.”

Amber Cronin can be reached at [email protected] or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follow her on Twitter: @croninamber.

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Members of the Maine Trash Runners use a retrofitted jogging stroller to collect trash as they run in road races all over the state.