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La Jolla Half Marathon: A Cupless Case Study

May 24, 2024
La Jolla Half Marathon: A Cupless Case Study

On May 18th, HydraPak sponsored the La Jolla Half Marathon and 5K, supporting the event's race-day sustainability strategy. This event involved six months of detailed planning and coordination between the La Jolla Half Marathon team, HydraPak and water delivery services provider, WaterMonster. Together, we worked to eliminate disposable cups from race day water stations and plastic bottles from the finish line, setting a new standard in sustainable racing - demonstrating that runners who carry their own hydration or a reusable HydraPak SpeedCup can hydrate on race day with minimal disruption or lost time.


The La Jolla Half Marathon is one of California’s most picturesque and beautiful point-to-point races. Starting at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the course follows a scenic coastal route along the San Diego coast and reaches the challenging climb to the summit of Torrey Pines State Park. The race course then rolls atop Torrey Pines mesa, continues down through residential La Jolla Shores, and finishes at La Jolla Cove. The 5K race course offers a mostly downhill run and features some of the most scenic views of the last 3.1 miles of the La Jolla half marathon course.

For their 42nd annual race, the La Jolla team announced that they would be transitioning to a zero-waste hydration model - eliminating disposable cups and plastic bottle from their event. Every participant received a limited-edition, customized HydraPak SpeedCup™ that was easily carried, quickly stashed in a vest, waistband, wristwatch and/or clipped to apparel.

"We couldn't be happier to have HydraPak partnering with us this year,” said Race Director and Kiwanian, Bart Calame. "Their innovative and entrepreneurial approach to eliminating needless trash at not only running events, but really all outdoor events is such a simple change to implement from our perspective, plus it streamlines our water stations for more efficient delivery of water to runners.  We are proud to be one of the races pushing for changes like this!" 


During the pre-race packet pickup and expo, runners were provided branded SpeedCups and reminded of the race’s zero waste initiative. HydraPak team members, including brand ambassador, Tina Muir, staffed an information station, providing educational materials and resources on sustainable running practices.  Runners had an opportunity to familiarize themselves with WaterMonster’s fast filling dispensing systems and HydraPak’s SpeedFill pitcher through on-site demos.  This hands-on experience helped to alleviate concerns and demonstrated the ease of using the new hydration station format.


Race day kicked off with excitement and some nerves - it was time to put the zero-waste hydration station model to the test.


HydraPak team members were placed at the start of both the half marathon and 5K tasked with ensuring runners had a SpeedCup or other hydration vessel, offering reminders and additional information about what to expect at water stations.  This was especially important for those picking up their bibs on the morning of the race.


The half marathon featured 10 hydration stations, each equipped with WaterMonster’s high-flow dispensing systems.  Each hydration was meticulously laid out to facilitate a smooth flow of runners, with the goal of preventing bottlenecks and speedy hydration. Trained volunteers played a pivotal role in maintaining traffic flow, providing direction and filling cups with sport drink or water using HydraPak’s SpeedFill Pitchers. 

A crew of HydraPak staff volunteered at the Beach water station (mile 2), closely monitoring the new water station model in action and providing extra support to ensure that no runner was left thirsty.  


At the finish line, the race’s commitment to sustainability continued. Instead of the

usual plastic bottles, a large Water Monster tank was available for all runners. HydraPak’s team was present at a branded tent, cheering on runners and offering exclusive discounts on products. 


Overall, the event was a significant success. Despite initial nervousness, runners adapted quickly and were pleasantly surprised by how easy the new system was to use. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with many participants expressing appreciation for the reduced waste. Not only did runners stay hydrated, but the race also proved that large-scale events could transition to a zero-waste model without compromising on efficiency or experience.


From start to finish, the race provided invaluable insights and identified areas with room for improvement. Key learnings included the importance of comprehensive pre-race communication, the effectiveness of hands-on demos at packet pickup, and the necessity of a well-trained volunteer team. Moving forward, HydraPak aims to refine these processes, including improved hydration strategies for elite and sub elite runners, streamlining water station layouts, enhanced communication and education for runners and water station volunteers and continued promotion of sustainable practices across more road races.

The 2024 La Jolla Half Marathon & 5K marked a significant milestone in HydraPak’s journey toward being a leader in sustainable racing. The race’s successful transition to a cupless model showed that with careful planning and collaboration, zero-waste events are achievable. We’re excited about the future and committed to helping more races follow in these eco-friendly footsteps. Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to innovate and promote sustainability in the running community.