By the time the last of the runners completed Saturday's Baltimore Running Festival, there was hardly any evidence of the many water bottles, used cups and waste that pile up at the finish line.
That's because volunteers such as 10-year-old Justin Thiels worked hard to clean up in an environmentally sustainable way as part of the event's first-ever green initiative.
"This is fun," Thiels said as he picked up Gatorade cups and plastic bottles and put them in appropriate trash bags to be composted and recycled, respectively.
Added Thiels' mother, Debbie, also a volunteer, "I'm big on greening, so this is neat."
This year, marathon organizers provided separate waste stations for recycling plastic bottles, cardboard, glass, pallets and even the silver foil "heatsheets" for runners; and for composting Gatorade and water cups, food waste, plates and utensils.
Some 400,000 cups of water, 19,000 bananas and 6,000 apples were expected to be used at the event that included more than 20,000 participants.
About 125 volunteers and 12 city workers were on hand to make sure each item went into the right cardboard waste can and to haul away trash and recyclables.
Even clothes thrown away at the starting line were collected and donated to Helping Up Mission, which supports Baltimore's homeless men, said the group's development officer, Tony Young.
Will Phillips, manager of environmental strategy for the event's title sponsor, Under Armour, characterized the marathon's move to sustainability as a success.
"We've done a very good job of keeping a large amount out of the landfills and getting it into recycling and composting," he said.
Trash haulers hired by Under Amour are expected to provide information on how much trash and recycling and composting materials were collected at the event. That way, Phillips said, "we should be able to set this as a baseline for years to come."
The cleanup efforts began as soon as the last runner left the start line, as volunteers at each of the 17 water stops sorted trash from recyclables and compost materials.
Among the green cleanup volunteers were members of the Maryland RoughRiders, a youth lacrosse league. Some showed up as early as 7:30 a.m. to set up the different trash stations at water stops along the race route.
Another group rounded up the trash and recyclables at Celebration Village near the finish line and sorted them: trash in black bags; water bottles and other plastic in clear bags; and cups and food debris in green bags.
"Marathons produce a lot of trash. Now some will be used for mulch," said Jim Marlatt, 17, a RoughRiders member.