Plogging: a funny millennial word for something that should be like the rule everywhere you go. In a quick way to explain it, plogging means to run/jog while collecting litter. Well, I would like to share with you how I found out about plogging, or maybe how plogging found me.
For a few years now, I have been an advocate against marine debris, always taking out rubbish when found during my dives. But as life changes, I left my ocean life for the study life, moving to Melbourne mid-2016. I retook my running goals and started training for my first ultra, the Surf Coast Century 50km 2017. While running and training, I started picking up some of the litter I would find, but only 6 months later, I realised how I could turn that marine debris passion into a running against litter one.
I started solo, running along my local river, the Yarra. And after a few kms during those long runs, my pockets always ended up full. Plastic bottles, cans, cigarette butts, and the most annoying one coming from runners: gel wrappers. So, one day, after a long trash run, I decided it was enough, that I needed some extra hands, and that I needed to share this issue with others to show them how much we had to do for our trails. I have to say nothing could have been possible without the amazing support of those friends that believed in me and joined on that very first event during April 2018. In about 2 hours, we collected a shocking amount of litter, including pillows, car tires, and plastic bottles. The results were clear, litter was in places where people couldn’t expect, and after a “successful” event, my friends learnt how our pristine park and river were screaming for help.
On that day, I learnt a valuable lesson, that showing others what I have seen in my rubbish runs was a vital tool to spread awareness, to share the message, and this practice of plogging. And that single action of picking up a plastic bag gave a whole new meaning to me and others’ runs.
This new meaning was a big thing during a 62km race in February 2019. I was racing in this amazing race called Futangue Challenge back in my home country. The event has always been in my list of places to go and things to do. So after a couple of weeks running and working in the Peruvian mountains, I travelled back home to enjoy this race with my mum and friends. Sadly, after 15km into the race, my ITB gave up and decided to give me the worst pain ever. I reached the aid station at 23km, where my mum was waiting for me, and I had to reassess my whole race, and if I was able to keep going. I decided I would give it a go, as I had travelled from so far to make it. But after a few km later, I found my motivation to keep limping/walking to the finish line. I found a lolly wrapper, and then some gels, and after a granola bar wrapper. And it hit me….This was going to be my reason to keep going: to collect as much litter I could. It was a sad scenario, as this was rubbish from other participants of the race. After more than 11 hours, I finished the event! But during all those hours, the whole race-litter situation got me thinking about how important it is to educate people about littering, and how we can prevent this problem.
Now more than 20 plogging events have passed, not only in Melbourne but in other localities such as Warburton, Torquay, Sydney, and more. The message has gone far and clear, reaching even other countries like India, Canada, Chile, US, Malaysia, Israel, Philippines, and so many other places that it would be a long list. It is incredible to see so many others fighting against this pollution monster! And even when I might not be a plastic-free perfection, it fills my heart with joy when friends or random people tell me I have inspired change in them.
I dream that one day my mission is finished and that I will go on a run to find my hands empty, but until then, I will keep filling up those pockets and calling myself a “plastic runner”.