Running Warehouse banner

Trail Running Course

Cup-free Racing for Runners: Reduce Waste Generation – Protect our Environment

You can now get your run on and not use a single throw-away paper cup on the road or trails of your favorite running events!

How flippin’ cool is that!

No thanks! (Original Photo: Courtesy of Ernst Vikne @

Here are a few cool points associated with this:

  • Less garbage creation.
  • Less clean-up.
  • Eliminate the opportunity for a used cup to be left in the bush of a favorite local trail.
  • Less strain on the amazing volunteers. Maybe even less required.
  • You are part of a positive movement to change how we interact with a running event and even the planet. We are going to tip this baby!

“Little changes can have big effects” – Malcolm Gladwell

It is easy to say, “It’s just a cup! Big deal.” I think it can be a big deal. By looking out our planet interaction with something as seemingly trivial as a paper cup at a running event, we create a gap in the door of our life that gives us permission to look at bigger, even more impactful areas. Then when enough people transform self, we can witness the transformation of a sport, a local community, a country, and even the world. Why not?

The Cup-free Trail Runner

I was pretty pumped when Jemez Mountain Trail Run announced they were going cup-free. I ran the 50 km this Spring and you know what? I didn’t miss that waxy papery fluid holder.

When you are clearly aware of the environment (cup-free), you plan accordingly. If it’s 30 degrees below zero outside, you prepare with wearing a jacket. Go into the environment without it and life will suck. If you know an event will be cup-free, have a plan to deal with it. This isn’t a new skill to learn but simply breaking an old unconscious pattern and creating a new one.

How to support the transition to cup-free racing?

Fortunately, most trail runners are used to carrying a handheld or other hydration system which greatly reduces the paper cup load.

But sometimes we like an extra cup of water or electrolyte drink before leaving the aid station. What can we do about that?

Some longer events even may have coffee and warm soup. That isn’t going in the CamelBak!

I have found a couple very functional products that will come very close to eliminating the need/desire to ever grab a paper cup again.

1. The Hydra Pouch

The Hydra Pouch is feathery light, simple to use, and BPA-free. It can hold 6 ounces of fluid.

Pinch it, Fill it, Drink it, Clip it!

I purchased a Hydra Pouch a couple months ago and ran some 8 mile trail runs to see if it would be annoying or cut through my flesh. I was impressed. It didn’t move around or create any hot-spots. In fact it often felt like I didn’t even have it clipped on…but it never moved.

If you need that extra shot of water or electrolyte drink, the Hydra Pouch can dominate that desire.

Plus you could use this easily in road events as well!

If interested in a Hydra Pouch you can check out their site here.

2. The Sea-to-Summit X-cup

In my previous cup-free article I mentioned the Sea-to-Summit X-Mug. This coffee mug sized collapsible BPA-free mug could be stashed inside a hydration pack and used whenever you need extra water, electrolyte drink, coffee, or warm soup. It can handle warm liquid items as well which is pretty cool. It could hold two cups of fluid but does require some kind of pack or storage area to hold it.

Recently Sea-to-Summit released the X-cup. It has the same properties as the X-Mug but smaller. The X-cup can hold 8 ounces of fluid instead of 16 (per the X-mug). If you wear a pack with any kind of storage, the X-cup should be able to find a home.

X-cup (left) with big brother, the X-mug (right)

The catch with the X-cup is you need a place to store it during the run.

X-cup inside a waist pocket of my CamelBak Octane XCT

Where can you purchase?

Interact, engage, play in this world. Squeeze the lemon out of this life experience. And if you are interested in the benefits of cup-free racing, these two items can help turn that interest into a reality for nearly all situations.

Be active – Feel the buzz!

David –

[Hey EB tribe! This article contains affiliate links which cost you nothing and provides a small commission to us if you would purchase through our links.]

About the author

David Hanenburg David Hanenburg is the passionate dirt-lovin' creator of Endurance Buzz and has been playing in the endurance sports world since 2000 after knockin' the dust off of his Trek 950 hardtail thanks to a friend asking to go ride some local dirt. In 2007 he ran his first ultra on the trails and fell in love with the sport and its people. For more information on David's endurance sports journey, check out the About page.

11 Responses to “Cup-free Racing for Runners: Reduce Waste Generation – Protect our Environment”

  1. on 07 Sep 2011 at 3:19 pm Maryann

    Thanks for all the great suggestions! I’m all for cup free racing, and while we are at it… let’s all switch to gel flasks so we stop finding them strewn about on the trails where unsuspecting wildlife are enticed by their sticky sweetness…

  2. on 07 Sep 2011 at 3:27 pm David Hanenburg

    Maryann, that article is coming as well. 😉 I am still amazed by the growth of Hammer Nutrition and their bulk gel / flask approach, nobody else has followed or provided that option for their product…at least I can’t think of anyone.

  3. on 08 Sep 2011 at 7:12 am Julie

    Very cool! Thanks for the information and I’m ALL FOR cup free racing. Going to check out Hydra Pouch, it looks pretty nifty. 🙂

  4. on 08 Sep 2011 at 10:02 am David Hanenburg

    Julie – You’re welcome! The Hydra Pouch is simple and functional. A neat little product inspired out of Colorado.

  5. on 08 Sep 2011 at 11:27 am Suann

    Great post! The more I run trail races, the more disgusted I become when I run a road race and see cups, banana peels, gel packets all over the place. I think I’m done stepping on garbage and would rather put my race dollars into races where people make an effort to leave only footprints.

  6. on 12 Sep 2011 at 10:28 am Jonathan

    That Hydra Pouch looks pretty nifty. Just may go pick one up at Luke’s. I always felt bad dropping my cup after I grabbed it at the aid stations and immediately took off only to drop it a ways down. I will be more mindful of that, including gel wrappers. I try to stuff those back in my Spi Belt. Thanks for the reminders. Starting off as a road runner it’s easy to forget where you are when you’re trail running.

    BTW, I don’t know if you kept track of the UTMB but I was suprised at the DNFs by some of the top Americans. But what really got me was the amound of flack they are taking because of it. Roes’ blog has some interesting comments and Nick Clark’s blog has some pretty vulgar remarks regarding his DNF with not many miles left to go in the race. I have’t read Jurek’s blog yet. Any thoughts?

  7. on 12 Sep 2011 at 2:20 pm David Hanenburg

    Thanks Suann! The reality is, there are a rainbow of hydration options that will allow a person to be cup-free…which is super cool. We as individuals can do our best to be-the-change and who knows what spark will be lit in another person’s mind.

    Jonathan – For a few pesos, it is definitely worth a try. The concept is simple, it’s lite, doesn’t get in the way, and works.

    The reality is the huge variety of running events are a gift and not a right…regardless of an entry fee or not. This is an easy thing to forget (I know I have plenty of times). The less impact we create while enjoying an event, the more likelihood of being able to continue this enjoyment in year’s to come.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I was aware of UTMB but didn’t follow it closely.

    A few brief thoughts concerning the various drops by top US athletes and the follow-up comments (which I haven’t read)…

    1. Some people enjoy creating drama. Stay away from it as best you can, it is a life-suck trap.
    2. The sport must be growing.
    3. When functioning at such a high level, when things go wrong it can be game over.
    4. It is a bummer that so many dropped but life goes on. These athletes are tough and smart, I bet they learned lots.
    5.How cool for so many top trail running Americans to be at a huge European race…they will be back.

  8. on 12 Sep 2011 at 3:15 pm Jonathan

    I was just appalled that people were calling out runners for DNFing. Since when are elite runners not allowed to DNF? From what I read of their blogs they dropped due to injury and didn’t want to risk further damage, especially Jurek. UTMB sure looks like a beast and Kilian killed it. He amazes me. I’d love to toe the line and keep pace with him for a few miles just say I ran with him. I’m sure people have some cool stories about running with these top guys

  9. on 13 Sep 2011 at 9:23 am David Hanenburg

    Being such a small community there are definitely opportunities to interact with our speedsters. Heck, Roes, Mackey and others were playing on the Bandera course in January. The tread at Rocky Raccoon was even deeper.

  10. on 07 Dec 2011 at 1:34 pm Jeff Lisson

    I know this was posted some time ago, but I wanted to let everyone know that the Stripes Crazy Desert Trail Race — a half and full marathon, plus a 50k – will be entirely cup free.

    Runners will receive a free handheld water bottle holder, and we’ll give out commercial bottles of water (which we’ll recycle when empty). This allows us to minimize water stops, reduce trash, better use volunteers, and give participants some swag other than the usual shirt or cap.

    Our race is March 3, 2012, on the beautiful trails of the San Angelo State Park in San Angelo, Texas.

  11. […] and Director of Endurance Buzz Adventures talks with us about five must-do North Texas events, cup-free racing and his experience in the ultra […]