Thursday, February 17, 2011

Way Too Long

I may be beating a dead horse here (although based on the conversation that seems to follow anytime this topic comes up I feel like the horse is very much alive), so if you're bored with conversations about the current growth of ultrarunning and some of the questions this growth raises then you could simply opt to stop reading here, as this post will likely bore you to death.

Ultrarunning is growing in participation at an amazingly fast rate. Each year there are dozens of new trail ultras all over the country, and still almost all existing races are filling up quicker each year. Several posts I have written in the past few months have touched on various opportunities, concerns, and challenges that this growth has created. Whether it's the question of race selection process', prize money, performance enhancing drug use/prevention, championship races, potential mainstream interest in the sport, etc. - all of these things (and countless more dynamics) are on the table as valid and worthwhile conversations primarily because of the rapid growth in this sport.

Of course no one knows the exact numbers, but to me it seems like at the current rate participation in ultrarunning is doubling every few years (based simply on the fact that the number of events seem to have doubled in the past 5 years, or less, and most of them have had no trouble getting participants). Obviously this increase in popularity isn't going to continue forever, but I think that it has been drastic enough already that it's unrealistic to expect ultrarunning culture to remain the same as it has always been. When anything grows in popularity this quickly there are growing pains and there are changes which occur. In my opinion this is inevitable and therefore these conversations are inevitable and necessary. I think the approach (that a few seem to take) of denying that these challenges exist and/or blaming individuals for creating these challenges is out of touch with reality. I have heard some response to these conversations along the lines of (obviously paraphrasing to make a point here), "hey, stop trying to taint my sport by talking about prize money, championship races, and questioning race selection process'/motives."

I do believe that ultrarunning is still small enough that an individual, or a few individuals, can be a catalyst for certain changes in the sport, but it's much too large of a thing for individuals to create change. The changes are created by the overall growth and the natural challenges that occur when you are working to meet the demands of hundreds of thousands of people as compared to a few thousand people. The modest increase of money into the sport for example (specifically prize money and sponsor money) has happened/will likely continue to happen not because individuals are talking about whether this is good for the sport or not, but because of the huge growth in the sport in the past few years. Races which focus primarily and/or entirely on the competitive nature of the sport are working their way into the sport (and trust me, they are working their way into the sport) not because of the conversations that have arisen about how best to approach/structure these kinds of races, but again because of the rapid growth in the sport. Individuals who are talking about how best to deal with these changes are simply taking a proactive approach to responding to these changes. A sport with 5 or 10 times as many participants as it had 20 years ago (again a total rough estimate to help make a point) just isn't going to have the same culture that it had back then. Utopian societies work great up to a population tipping point, and once they go over that tipping point a new approach is needed. One which draws from the aspects of the Utopian society which are still possible with the larger population, but also finds logical and creative ways to work these aspects in with the challenges of the larger population. In my opinion Ultrarunning has gone beyond the tipping point of being capable of being the "Utopian Society" that it once was. I think it is now in the process of finding the best ways to blend the most desirable (and plausible) aspects of the Utopian roots of the sport in with the challenges/opportunities that have arisen due to the growth in the sport.

So, if you're still with me here I'll assume that you agree in principal to at least some of what I'm saying. Basically all I have said to this point is that Ultrarunning has been and will continue to go through some growing pains so long as it continues to grow in popularity as rapidly as it has the past few years. I have also said (in way too many words) that it is my belief that it makes a lot more sense to talk about, debate, and find ways to best work through these growing pains than it does to simply deny that they exist.

This isn't to say that everyone has to believe that these "growing pains" exist. I have heard from some people who genuinely believe that, despite the rapid growth, ultrarunning can simply remain Utopian as it has always been by collectively doing nothing. Personally I wish I believed this to be true, but as I've already said, I think we've gone well beyond this point.

Thus, with all of this said, I would say thank you to those who have had these discussions with me (and each other) here on this blog about some of the challenges in ultrarunning right now. I hope we have all learned from these conversations. I know I have. There have been some themes to various conversations, here and in other places, that have made a lot of sense to me, and then there have been others that have made little to no sense to me. Overall though, I think that these conversations (agree with the details of them or not) are an essential part of the process that ultrarunning is going through right now.

And therefore I want to go back to some of these conversations now and touch on some of the things I have thought about in response to some of these challenges/opportunities which have been brought up (gosh this post is long and getting longer, but I think it would be hypocritical of me to write a novel about the importance of talking about these things and then not talk about any of them).

The first thing I want to touch on is the Hardrock 100. A lot of people seem to think that it's a travesty that Hardrock doesn't do whatever they could to ensure entry to all top runners who want to run the race. Others think it's an affront that anyone who hasn't paid their dues to Hardrock over the years should possibly be given any kind of preference based on performance potential. Although a compelling conversation that could probably go back and forth forever, I don't think it's a very important one because Hardrock has made it clear that they are not going to change what their event is, simply because there is a steady and growing demand (by some, certainly not by all) for them to do so. As I said in a comment to my post titled, "Western States It Is," I have a huge amount of respect for the Hardrock race organization for having an idea for an event, implementing that idea, and then sticking to that idea.

The interesting thing which the Hardrock selection process highlights though, and the main thing I was trying to convey in my above mentioned blog post, is how many people (front, middle, and back of pack runners alike) seem to want a seriously rugged and challenging race like Hardrock to emerge as a race focused very seriously on the competitive nature of it. This isn't to say that everyone wants this. Of course they don't, but I think so many people do that it's inevitable we will see this soon (actually I know we will see this soon, it's not a matter of if, but rather when and where).

In the days shortly after the Hardrock lottery I received dozens of emails from people saying how bummed they were that (as we all knew and could have predicted) that Hardrock would (as always) not be a race of the top runners who wanted to toe the line on July 8th, but rather a run of the lucky 140 who were selected, mostly at random, to do so. Some of these emails were from previous Hardrock racers, some of them were from non-runners, some of them were from the select group of 140 that will run Hardrock this year, Some of them were from race organizers/directors of some of the most grassroots events in the country, and some were from other top level runners who also hoped to toe the line on July 8th. A couple of them had a tone of anger at Hardrock specifically and I responded to these with an abridged version of what I'm writing here. The vast majority of them though had a tone of frustration with what the Hardrock lottery seems to highlight most every year now. A frustration of having this sport which is growing in huge numbers, a sport which is practiced in the form of a race (which is by nature competitive), but somehow collectively holds onto this idea that it is taboo to truly emphasis the top-level competition of the sport.

Now, right here I think there is a very important somewhat divergent point to make so as to avoid some confusion which has come up within this conversation in the past. I, nor anyone I have talked to about this has any desire for all ultra events to put a strong emphasis on the front of the pack competitive aspect of these races. I have run some of the most famously grassroots, low key events out there and I believe there is a huge value, depth, beauty, and satisfaction from these events and the culture they foster. I, like most think it would be absolutely tragic if events like Hardrock were all replaced by events focused primarily on the front of the field competition. This said, I have no idea how me (and others) talking about the demand (that has been created by the extreme growth in this sport) that currently exists for a handful of championship type events is going to effect the 500 (again, random number to make a point) or so existing events which have little or no true focus on the race at the front. It would be a different story if anyone were trying to say that every race should be like this, but there just isn't the demand for that, and there never will be. In my opinion there is space right now for about one "championship" type race at each of the common distances (50k, 50m, 100k, 100m). That's 4 races. 4 races that are primarily or exclusively focused on the race at the front of the pack, and 500 that aren't. I'm just not sure what real threat those who are only interested in the 500 existing races see from these 4 potential races.

I think a good comparison for this is the current marathon racing scene. Does the fact that there are several marathons around the world that invite, pay, encourage, and/or limit their race to top level runners undercut the health, integrity, popularity, or grassroots feel of the tens of thousands of marathons worldwide who don't? Unless I'm really missing something I'm pretty sure the local, small town marathons are thriving, both in participation and in spirit. Is there actually a city out there that doesn't have a marathon, the vast majority of which are very low key and grassroots by marathon standards?

I've talked about this in the past, but I'll mention it again because of it's relevancy here: I think that the creation of events focused on the front level competition will not only not harm existing (and future) grassroots or low key events focused equally on all level runners, but rather strengthen them. Races may be forced a little bit more to choose an identity. To me this is a good thing. It's always been the races who know what they are, and embrace what they are, that have been the most appealing to me. It's worth noting that of the dozens of races out there that really seem to have a true strong identity that is really emphasized by the race and deeply understood and appreciated by the participants they are all in the direction of being really grassroots, laid back, low key events. We don't, to my knowledge, have a single trail ultra in this country that identifies itself, and embraces their own identity as a race primarily emphasizing the competitive aspect of the sport. We have a lot that try to straddle between the two (several that even do this very successfully), but certainly none that go anywhere near as far in the direction of competitiveness as Hardrock goes in the direction of non-competitiveness. Why is this? I do not know. A fluke? An oversight? It's certainly unique among competitive sports (including all other types/distances of running) in this regard. It's certainly the only sport I know of where you are likely to get criticized for saying that you are interested in competing against as many top athletes in your sport as possible. In most sports this is simply inherent. This said, I do think the abundance of non-competitive, low key events is actually what draws many new people to this sport, but I don't think this abundance would be negated by a handful of highly competitive events - again, think of the current marathon running scene.

Mentioning that I think there is space for a championship type event at each of the 4 common distances reminds me of one of the most common responses opposed to this championship race idea that I have read here on my blog as well as other places. This is the USATF argument. It generally goes something like this: "The USATF already has trail national championship races at 4 ultra distances so why don't you fast runners all get together and actually show up to the championship races that already exist?"

On the surface (as long as you don't scratch it at all) this sounds like a very logical response.

First, before digging a little deeper into the USATF thing though, I would also say that this isn't about a handful of fast runners who could simply make a plan to show up at some race and effectively turn it into a championship race. This is already happening (Rocky Raccoon a couple weeks ago was a variation of this). It happens all the time that a few fast runners decide to run a race and then several more jump on board because they want to run against other fast runners, or in many cases because their fast runner friends talk them into it. That's not what this championship demand is about. This is about having a race (or a few) that focuses on getting as many top runners as possible from around the world to race each other on the same day. Not simply an exclusive bunch who are "in the know," but instead a race which (as we see in just about every other sport in the world) hopes and works to encourage anyone who has a legitimate chance of being competitive to participate. If it sounds like a lofty aim, think about all the other sports in this world that are known about worldwide almost entirely because they have a true national or international competition exclusive to the very top athletes in that sport (think obscure Olympic sports). People from a wider audience really like following some pretty fringe sports when they feel like they are following the best who participate in that sport.

Anyway, back to the USATF point: The USATF "national championship" races are a gimmick akin to the ice cream shop I have been to in Alaska that has a sign out front that says: "World's Best Ice Cream." This sign was enough to get me to stop in there one time on a warm August afternoon. The ice cream was pretty good, maybe even one of the other flavors would have been great, but as I walked out the door I saw the Sysco restaurant supply driver unloading tubs of ice cream into the back door of the shop. We see this gimmick all the time in marketing products. Rather than working to create the best possible product companies simply state that they have the best product, when in fact what they have is the same thing everyone else has. The result: people try it once or twice and then go elsewhere looking for something better. Eventually when there are enough people demanding something better, supply rises to meet this demand.

Right now in ultrarunning we are in the midst of the supply rising to meet the demand phase. If USATF (or WS or Hardrock or Leadville or on and on and on) opted to try to rise up to meet this demand they would have a great head start (although the time may be already up for this) at being the eventual consumer's choice in regards to this particular demand. In other words just slapping the label "national championship" on a race doesn't mean it's going to happen that way if you don't also do the work to create a more appealing product than what everyone else is already putting out. I think the recent history of these USATF races has more than proven this point.

Okay, I think this touches on most of the things that I've been thinking about in terms of all of this in the past several days. If you actually read all of this, what the hell is wrong with you? If you read all of it and you feel like I have way too much time on my hands, you are probably right. If you read all of this and didn't think it was funny (regardless of whether you agree or disagree with some of my points) then I suggest reading it again (if you have another few hours to kill) knowing that I am writing most of this from a very light, ironic place with a bit of a smirk on my face. I take none of this as serious as it might seem if simply read at face value. At the end of the day, I, nor any of us as individuals, can do anything to "change" ultrarunning. Nor can any of us do anything to ensure that ultrarunning doesn't change. It's just running... for a long time. All we can really do is go out for a run.


matteo said...

yes, let's run!

Rob Timko said...

Reading your post, and everyone else posts on this topic, reminds me of the 'story' I was told in the documentary 'Riding Giants: A Big Wave Surfing Documentary' - regarding the emergence of big wave surfing and how some people who were so passionate about this 'grassroots' sport, ended up, by accident almost, 'creating' a recognized, popular, sporting industry with sponsors, etc.

I think this story has been told many times...skateboarding comes to mind as well.

It's the natural progression...only now we have this huge public forum called the internet!

(If someone reads and I'm mistaken on the documentary name, please correct me, but it was a big wave surfing doc)

Mark C. Ryan said...

Gee, I hate it when people can articulate their point so well from a logical standpoint.

Great post Geoff, but those clowns from the last post should be around in a bit to tell you that you that Hall and Meb would crush you and then call you an egomaniac and say how you and Anton are douchebags.

In the end you said all that needed to be said...let's run.

sharmanian said...

Geoff, seems like WS and UTMB are becoming the 100 mile championship races by default (which isn't a bad thing). From what I've been reading online and hearing offline, pretty much every 100 mile runner (particularly the faster ones) with enough money or sponsors wants to do both of these and the time between them is enough that (I think this is true) most of the top 2011 WS runners will also be in Chamonix. Well, on the mens' side, at the least.

I'm sure the sport will continue to grow quickly, but all tastes are likely to be catered for. As an economist, I believe that supply will match demand. And there's plenty of demand for all types of race, from low key events to ones where people can race against the best in the business.

I missed out in the Hardrock lottery, but one day I'll get the chance. In the meantime, there's plenty of other races that fulfil my needs and there'll be even more in future. Can't help but be optimistic about the future of the sport.

Dave Mackey said...

Geoff, as your friend I feel I can can say this.. re USATF races not cutting the mustard... I think I remember Nick Clark dissing USATF events as well in a similar way; not sure how many USATF races you have been to except Bandera 100k, but that is one way to help elevate their events by your attendance. The USATF mountain ultra trails (MUT) council is also always looking for members (I am not a member); becoming involved on the MUT board is another way to bring this change about. Seems like you have plenty of time given the tome you wrote! :)

Michael Owen said...

Wonder what would happen if 50M or 100M became an Olympic Event! Could you imagine!?

I do have one thought and complaint: I am running the Nueces 50 (which is a USATF championship race) in March. I was looking at the race information and learned that in order to be eligible for winning the prize money, I would have to register to be a USATF member, which is $30 alone. -if I am understanding all that correctly-

I don't really have to worry about taking the money since I am still acting as an "amateur" in college athletics. But, these races, with travel, lodging, food, and entry fee is making it hard to a kid like me!

Anyways, I started paying attention to ultra-running about 2 years ago and it has grown so much since and am looking forward to being apart of it all. Still, I will ultimately make sure to value what is most important, a deep passion for simply running.

Kris said...

Why should ultrarunning become an Olympic sport? Once again, why do we feel to be validated through the Olympics per se? Look at soccer, it's an Olympic sport but the world doesn't take importance to it. With the FIFA World Cup, soccer is much bigger than the Olympics (summer and winter combined)! We need to stop dreaming that ultrarunning belongs in the Olympics. It is silly.

David Hill said...

I sense your pain - you're basically at the top of your sport, yet you can't even eek out a living like other athletes at the top of their sports (basketball, football, etc.) Ha, those guys are making millions and in this sport it is tough to even think about paying cheap rent. Not only is it all but impossible to make a living, you can't even get into the big races you want to and at least have solid competition and race the other top guys because of these old school lottery systems. If I could run like you, I'd be kinda bummed out too.

I think one of the major problems, or things missing here is...ready? TV. Yes Television. The sport is just not TV friendly.

Why does a teacher make 35 grand and Jordan made millions? The teacher brings or gives value to 30kids in a class, Jordan gave some "entertainment value" to tens of millions because of TV.

Your dual at WS last year was followed by probably several thousand people online. But if it were televised on ABC Sports, than the audience numbers jump huge, sponsorship cash grows geometrically and you and Anton can pay the mortgage by being professional athletes. Ah, that'd be nice eh? But until technology can solve how to make running 100 miles through the woods more viewer accessible, hard to see it actually happening.

Forgetting the fantasy of making big money in this sport, it'd at least be nice for all the top guys to get into the same race. Then you create enough buzz and sponsors to race for some modest cash. Seems that's the real thorn in your side. I guess the answer is to create that race yourself, and I get the feeling that's in the works :)

Good luck

Les said...

I have been following this thread for a while and have two thoughts. First ,Woodstock had the right persecutive with his comment " every 100 years brand new people". Second, whoever Kris is he most definitely needs to go for a run.

Kris said...

I'm a woman. So fuck off! Is your penis too small?

Kris said...

As a matter of a fact I think not only Les as a small dick but Geoff and all you clowns who somehow want to make ultrarunning "cool." Why don't you overgrown white boys get a real job and contribute to society.

Unknown said...

Geoff - Thoughts that are logical and balanced. I have drummed up interest in your blog...enthused, am I. I come from the soccer world, but recently participated in a few ultras and am fascinated.

What I don't really understand are the negative comments in response to your blog. What is this Kris? Perplexing. Absurd. I have never read such a sound thought process which is insulted by vulgar depravity. Small penis jokes? Please. If you are going to insult, do so with wit and originality. The negativity is so base it is almost embarrassing. No, it is embarrassing.

I am impressed with not just your running, but your writing as well. Upstate? A place to leave.

momroes said...

If I were you Kris, I would not admit to being a woman - a woman (or maybe a lady) would not use the filthy language you use on here - your comments should not be allowed. AND, being the mother of GEOFF I do not appreciate you ripping him apart. He is a wonderful son, brother, grandson, uncle, boyfriend. father figure, and friend and all of us do not think your comments are justified. I guess you have never heard the old saying "If you can't say anything nice - do not say anything at all".

As far as these "overgrown white boys getting a real job and contributing to society" - how do you know that they don't have a real job? I am sure they contribute a lot more beneficial to society than you do (especially the language you use on here). That doesn't seem to be contributing to society in a positive way.

If this blog upsets you so much, don't read it and please if you do, keep all your gross comments to yourself.

Geoff is a wonderful, wonderful person and these comments are not necessary or true.

I am sure he will get a lot more positive comments BUT I am sure you will only receive negative ones. FB would not appreciate the language that you use on here.

As a family, we have been to some of these races and there is great friendship among these runners and they really like what they are doing and would just like to have a very competitive race. They are not trying to leave out the middle or back of the pack runners. Geoff supports all of the runners and is just as interested in how they do as he is in doing the best he can.

In closing I would like to say, please do not make derogatory comments about people unless you have real reasons to do so.......

Unknown said...

Love the support! Just like a "true mom". Way to go Geoff Roes' Mom!!!!!!

Speedgoat Karl said...

Phew....Now I know why you were tired running the other day.....

So I gotta respond to a few, even though it's not my blog. :-)

Sharmanian, UTMB and Western are extremely different. UTMB will at this point be the De FActo 100 because they let ALL runners who have a chance up front to get in the race. Western States does not, and therefore it's really bunk to say it's the big dance in the US. Yah, it's very competitive, don't get me wrong, but still it's a lottery decision and some short qualifier races, they should re-instate the "special consideration" and take a few runners that are qualified to run near the front, without lottery selections.

Michael, yah, the 30 bucks is silly, why should we have to pay 30 bucks to win money? Makes no sense to me..and I won't get in to the discussion on no headphones, that's another topic.

Kris, an olympic 100 mile mountain run would be great for ultrarunning. Even though you don't get it, it's not about validation, but for some reason the Olympics to the general public is huge, so a 100mile mountain run would bring awareness to our sport. I don't think you understand that.

Next..Kris again, size doesn't matter, haven't you heard that one before? :-)

Next..Kris again, What does contributing to society really mean? Please explain, because you must be the biggest contributor of all.

Kris, one more time. You do win the award for most vulgar blogger I've ever heard. I think we can all validate that.

Momma Roes! Well said!

Bomber Athlete said...

The "DeFacto 100" is in progress. We will know more by the first week of March. Keep up the good work Roes.

Anonymous said...

Well said. The crowds are changing the sport. It's a good thing because we have more people to run with, but it has its costs. As a newcomer to the sport I don't even put Western or Hardrock on my "to run" list. I want races I can count on and the lottery puts me off.

There is clearly a place for both types of races. I also think having some races with tough qualifying standards (think Boston Marathon or harder) could add a lot to the sport.

John said...

I think what you said regarding the grassroots nature of a vast majority of road marathons is a really good point. Most of these races are really just a collection of like minded individuals competing against themselves (And the distance) on some predetermined weekend morning. Volunteers help you stay hydrated, some medical personnel are there to make sure you don't crash out but all in all it's just a big fun run. I'm not sure what people are afraid of when it comes to increased popularity in ultras. Perhaps increased trail usage? I honestly don't think that is all that big of a deal. A majority of the trail usage in my area is from hikers. I'm guessing a lot of newbie "trail runners" used to be hikers anyway. Plus increased use would probably bring an increase in trail work parties and donations to local trail organizations.

Personally the top level competition in a sport helps motivate me. Seeing top level athletes compete gets me excited about my own running. It's doubtful that I'll ever compete at the top level, but it makes me realize that people in general are capable of much more than we think and that perhaps...just perhaps, running 50k, 100k, 100M or beyond isn't quite as crazy as many would think. I do know one thing, I'm going to be traveling to Auburn, CA this year to follow WS 100 because of the simple fact that I want to see some of the best compete. I want to see somebody putting down the hammer at mile 85 because they can. I want to take that, internalize it, make an awesome memory of it and maybe even apply it to my own running.

At the end of the day, I wholeheartedly agree with the vibe of this "tome". Maybe it's because I'm getting into the sport late. I hope that it's more just because I understand where the sport is going and see a way in which the grassroots races can coexist with some better known, elite focused events.

Liza said...

Yeah Goeff's mom!

Geoff said...

yeah, i was thinking a lot about surfing/skateboarding as i wrote this post. i think one difference worth pointing out though is that we already have hundreds of running events which are competitive races. running is natural to turn into a race because it can be so quantifiable. it lends itself very well to competition. activities that require some amount of judgement to become a competition add an extra element/challenge to the equation of competition focused events.

Ian, I think you are correct that WS and UTMB (and probably the NF 50 again) seem to be the most competitive races this season. I'm not so sure this will be the case next year, or in a few years, but I guess only time will tell. looking forward to running with you at WS

I appreciate the suggestions. I think for what they are the USATF races work nicely, but I also think that the sport of ultrarunning has long since outgrown the age when an organization who is primarily a track and road running organization can be the driving force of championship races within ultrarunning. i think trail ultrarunning needs, deserves, and demands championship races that are run by individuals/organizations whose primary focus is trail ultrarunning. This isn't a diss on USATF (ok, i was pretty harsh in my post, but that was more a dramatic way of proving a point than anything. probably immature on my part). As far as I know they do fine at what they do, I just don't think they have the focus/desire to do what is needed in this sport. but, i could be totally wrong and look forward to chatting with you about this on our next run. tomorrow?

I think the olympic thing might be quite some time off... but kind of funny to think about.

hey, we actually agree on something (didn't see that coming). i really don't think that ultrarunning and the olympics go together or ever will. it's not about the olympics or any other specific designation, but rather about having a true championship race within the sport. for many sports the route to this has been the olympics and for others (like soccer) it has been other ways.
As to your other comments, they have nothing to do with any of the substance of this thread so i'll opt to not take the bait this time... i guess i'll just stick my mom on you :)

David, I think there is something to what you're saying, but I also know all kinds of people who aren't anywhere near the top of this sport who are also very interested in having this kind of thing in ultrarunning, and working to get to the level of taking part in something like this. I think this frustration is most apparent at the top, but certainly isn't isolated to the top... which is basically the same thing you were saying.

thanks. couldn't agree with you more.

Dopple Bock said...

Ultra-Runner magazine had all ultras finished in USA 2009 = 36,000 (Male and female)of which 9% were 100s.

After adding the number of people doing multiple events - I would guess averages @ 5 per person in a year.

We are still participating in an obscure sport.

Unknown said...

I did just that Geoff! Ran Tennessee Valley trail, down to the bottom of Coastal Trail and up up up but instead of hitting Pirate's cove I kept going up to Coyote Ridge and then bombed back down to the house (you should know this if you've done Miwok 100 or NF 50). It's about 46 and raining outside which is miserable weather for the climate we are used to but thanks to your words after such a long blog I just had too. First time writer long time reader. Good luck on your quest for an elite league of runners!

6months said...

my blog has pics

jacob said...

Hey Geoff. I like the comment someone made about starting one as a group(or maybe yourself?). What if you, Scott, Anton, Dave, etc etc, were to do a sort of secret(and I hate to use that word for the connotations it has) fat ass sort of 100 miler. Maybe if you guys organized one for the top runners you would like to race against in a trail area of your(collectively) choosing and then published a site for people to follow via the internet, eventually sponsors would pick it up as "the" championship. I don't know I didn't get to run today. and I'm taking some newbies out tomorrow for their first trail run. Any who.

If it makes you feel better I laughed reading your post. I sense your humor. And way to go Momma Roes!

Kris said...

I thought that it was the year 2011 where women are free to do and say what they want. I don't live in a morally repressed frame of mind. We live in America, where there is this thing called freedom of speech that my brother has helped to defend by being a solider in the US Army for 10 years now. With all due respect take your Sarah Palin republican ideas somewhere else.

Kris said...

How do I contribute to society by being a special ed teacher.

Kris said...

Karl, if a woman tells you size doesn't matter, she is LYING to you. Size does matter.

Dave Mackey said...

Just to put a cap on the mom vs kris vs phalluses thing... i think Geoff has some pretty good Sarah palin stories that would make you all laugh, crack a few beers, and get along merrily.

I am from Texas said...

Geoff I was told to come to your blog by a friend. I have read many of your posts. I think that you might be giving yourself and the "sport" a bit to much credit. I am just guessing you don't have a lot going on in life right now outside of running, judging by the "sat around all day waiting for the wind to die" comments. So I can understand why you would look for something too make yourself feel good, which you are obviously doing. Stop trying to defend your somewhat meaningless life. I respect what you do on the trail, you really are a amazing runner, however you are going a little over board. Great runners like Karl, dominated the "sport" for years and never asked for anything and didn't complained relentlessly about there situation. The world does not care about your running believe me! Cause I respect you and ultras, and really don't care that much. So keep up the good work on the trail but grow up, get a job and try to be an adult, your mom can only defend you for so long!

I am from Texas said...

One more thing, you cry about not having your championship? Make your own!? That is what an adult would do, not just sit and complain like a child, thinking about ways you could further build your ego on your blog. You obviously have the time, you know with all that wind pinning you down in the house? Be some what productive start your race invite "your" list of elite buddies and you guys could all hang out and talk about how you are changing the "sport." SO COOL??? The best part is by only inviting your fast friends you will continue to do nothing to help the rest of society or the other people involved in the "sport." Best of luck out there Geoff.

matteo said...

why everybody keep telling Geoff to get a job, or Tony to get a job.
Do you realize that running it's a job for them?
They live with that!
And if you're jealous because they make money by doing what they love, well, that's your problem!

Speedgoat Karl said...

Dave, yah, I was running yesterday and thought to myself. "Why did I even bite at Kris' bait? :-)

Texas, all of us at the top of the "sport of ultrarunnning", have jobs. We just don't have the 9-5 routine. It's simple, we work to live, we don't live to work. There is a big difference.

One of the reasons some of us are fast is because we scrape to get by so we have more time to run. Pretty good evidence that we do it because we like it, not to satisfy anyone else.

To me, as long as I have enough dinero to pick up some food at the grocery store and have a roof over my head, I'm fine. We can't bring the money with us, so why have a pile of it. It'll get heavy! :-)

All in good fun.

Kris, keep up the good work, freedom of speech is cool.

Unknown said...

"It's simple, we work to live, we don't live to work."

If I've learned anything from Karl Meltzer, it is this.


Geoff said...

Dopple Bock,
you are correct. the overall numbers are quite small, but I believe are growing faster than what the existing style and format of the sport are capable of keeping up with in all areas.
the other thing to remember is that ultra races have a very high DNF rate. 36,000 ultras finished in 2009 was likely closer to 50,000 started. it'd be interesting to tally the numbers for 2010 (maybe UR magazine has/will do this?) and see what kind of increase there is, if any. it'd also be interesting to see what the numbers were 5, 10, 15, 20, etc years ago. my guess would be that it's doubling about every 5 years (or less) right now.

I think you're reading a bit far into my posts and making a lot of assumptions based on ideas of what you think are right and wrong. i don't expect you to live to my standards of what's right or wrong and i certainly have no obligation or desire to live to your standards in this regard. if you disagree with specific things i'm talking about in my posts i would love to have those conversations, but if you simply feel that i shouldn't be writing about these things because no one cares about them except for me then maybe you should consider the irony of the fact that you're reading my blog and commenting on my blog as a means to inform me that you don't care about what i think. When I don't care about what someone thinks I generally don't "read many of their posts" and then comment that I don't care what they think. there is a difference between disagreeing with what someone thinks and not caring about what someone thinks. so again, if you actually want to have any conversations about your disagreements with specific things I wrote about in this post, fire away, i'd be open to those conversations.

I would say the same to you. if you actually want to talk about any of the things i'm writing about in my posts i'd be happy to have those conversations. if not, you can feel free to continue to entertain us all with your juvenile cries for attention, but please know that if you continue to use my blog as a forum to make vulgar, completely off topic, and personal attacks at other's who are making comments I will be switching to moderated comment format and deleting these types of comments.

Kris said...

Back on subject then. Why do we need the Olympics to validate our sport? We don't need the X-games. Does soccer need the Olympics? No! Soccer has the FIFA World Cup which in "The Greatest Show On Earth." The World Cup dawrfs the Olympics and we are talking about one sport. Do triathletes need the Olympics? Last time I checked it was still the best that go to Kona.

Aaron Spurlock said...

It costs nothing to run through the woods. So why do we pay to race? Certainly not for the gaudy buckles or yet another technical tee.

We pay for the competition. We happily pay. We pay for it in dollars and long training miles and occasionally blood and broken parts. No matter where we fall in the "pack" we do it because we are trying to achieve something personal and meaningful and ultimately quite selfish. Selfish in the best sort of way. Its what seperates a race from a run.

A championship race is just the next logical step in the evolution of our sport. If you can't accept that the best in the sport want to be challenged by high caliber competition then whats the point of races at all?

And, yes, we are validated in knowing that what we gain from running our best race is something that Joe Couchsurfer can not buy at walmart for any amount of money.

Geoff, good luck with all your races this year.

Hone said...

I bet 100 bucks Kris is really a dude.

Maybe it is time to turn on the moderation and get rid of these wankers. I am all for freedom of speech but not when it is hid behind spineless anonymity.

GZ said...

Kris, you make a much better point if you were not explicitly trying to be an asshole.

Ultras are still a fringe sport. They have grown a great deal. It is fair for athletes (particularly top ones) in the sport to request that the leading bodies - USATF or key races - use their power to move the sport forward.

Kona was not what it is today. It was with the introduction of significant prize money that made it what it is.

No way is ultra running going make its way into the Olympics - they got rid of XC years ago because it was too scary.

Wyatt Hornsby said...

Hi all, I do think ultrarunning has some potential as a spectator sport, contrary to what some have said on here. Do you guys remember the YouTube video of Geoff in the last mile+ of Western, running down the road with Dave Mackey? That was intense stuff and I think it would play well on TV. As much as it pains me to mention Ironman Kona, look at how successful it is on TV--the intensity, the drama, the stories--and I think ultrarunning does have great potential on TV. I'd love to see it in the X Games and I do think a 100K road race would fit well with the spirit of the Olympic Games.

Just my two cents.


Peter said...

...woke up in the middle of the night and read this post and these comments, and started laughing...

Yeah Olympics would be nice but, i agree with Kris and Geoff, it takes a championship just like Kona and by the way, its not the ironman distance at the olympics, so nobody really knows these guys (at the O.) unless you follow the world cup events of triathlon. When you think of triathlon, you think of Mark Allen, Dave Scott... great ironman champions, super match-up.

Speaking of getting this sport to the next level, again, Kona might not be so much on the radar if NBC had not started to air it. They do a wonderful job of getting compelling stories of winners in 8-9 hours all the way to the last guy-gal in 17 hours... in a 2 hours format.
Why couldn't they do it for a 20-30 hours ultra race ? They certainly could. Just need a few helos, a finish time during the daytime (for better image), 1500-2000 people line up, and you're all set.

Kris, as Dave Mackey once said, running ultra sucks, its ultras. They don't do it cause its cool because they want to push themselves like everybody else here. What's cool is these guys coming here, debating, some receiving mud in their eyes, have a beer, laugh, and go out again on the trail.
I don't imagine for one bit, that Hall or Meb would do this... so hourra to these ultra guys and being so cool...

Karl, Geoff, Dave, you guys rock !

Mike Place said...

" the other thing to remember is that ultra races have a very high DNF rate. 36,000 ultras finished in 2009 was likely closer to 50,000 started."

Hi Geoff,

I was thinking about this very thing the other day. I was wondering if, with the increased popularity of ultras if the DNF rate might be on the rise as well. This comes into play when thinking about the need for a lottery system in some races. If the DNF rate were rising, it would suggest that more people ar running who aren't properly trained and that qualifiers might be a better option than pure lotteries.

So, I took the entire history of the Wasatch 100 since that's my local race and I graphed DNFs over time. Other than a few early years, the rate hasn't really changed that much. It varies a bit from year to year, but there's no clear increase. (Aside: did you guys know that in 1981 *nobody* finished the race? I didn't.)

At any rate, that's a little off-topic but I thought I'd toss it out there in case anybody finds it interesting. If anybody wants the numbers, the raw ones are here:

I'll post the graphs if anybody really wants to see them.

Anonymous said...

Re: growing popularity of the sport. Has anyone ever seen good estimates of the number of people who attempt and/or complete ultras or even just 100's in a given year? When I see the data about number of finishes, it obviously begs the question... but how many runners? Since a significant proportion of ultrarunners do multiple races per year (and probably a significant minority of people do ridiculous numbers of races in a single year), knowing the number of "finishes" doesn't give us a very good estimate of the numbers of participants in the sport. Since tallies data for individual runners, perhaps that would be the best source for this sort of data mining? (number of unique individuals listed in results for ).

L and S said...

Anytime someone says get a real job I feel bad for how miserable theirs must be. That's all..haha

Mike Place said...

trlrnrgrl, I sent a note over to the folks at Ultra Signup asking them if they'd be willing to share that sort of data with the community. I'll post back here if they get back to me.


Unknown said...

This was posted earlier by Double Bock -

"Ultra-Runner magazine had all ultras finished in USA 2009 = 36,000 (Male and female)of which 9%were 100s.

After adding the number of people doing multiple events - I would guess averages @ 5 per person in a year.

We are still participating in an obscure sport."

Wyatt Hornsby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wyatt Hornsby said...

Trlrnrgrl: Good question. This is one of the reasons why we need a national ultrunning body that is effective. It could look at trends, stats, etc. and help keep the sport in line with demand. We need one place for all ultra registrations. Many registrations are at Ultra Sign Up, but many are elsewhere. If one location housed all registrations and results, it would be easy to track stats. The key is getting buy-in from all RDs.

japhruns said...

During a totally non-Zen non-here-in-the-now moment during the Moab RedHot this weekend the whole discussion about an elite race popped into my head again (like I said very non-Zen) . . . in some ways us middle of the pack runners are lucky because we have people to compete against all the time and I realized that competition is definitely part of the attraction and that I full-on enjoyed the little competitions I was in during the course of the race despite the fact that the winner (Dakota) was nearly an hour ahead of me by the time I crossed the finish line. I tend to believe the best thing that could happen would be a new national race to be developed that would be focused on competition (either elite style or Boston style) and that this should probably happen at both the 50 and 100 mile distances . . . I for one would be totally willing to waste a day on the couch drinking beer watching you top runners duke it out (hell, if it was Boston style and I was lucky enough to qualify I would even be willing to sweep and simply see you all at the starting line) . . . good luck and I hope it happens soon enough that the current generation of top dogs get a chance to race a "real" national championship in the mountains.

Anonymous said...

While everyone doesn't use ultrasignup for registration, I am pretty sure they've done a pretty good job of collecting all of the results (in the US at least) in one place, which is why I suggested that would be a good database to mine. (I've run some pretty small obscure races, and all of my results are there... the good, the bad, and the ugly.) Obviously ultrarunner magazine has all or nearly all results for the US as well, but I don't think they have a user-friendly interface like Ultrasignup. The data exists, we just need a runner stat junky to mine it for us :) The person who runs that web site might be our guy :)

Michael Owen said...

I was the one that originally brought up the Olympic thing. Sorry.

Just to clear up what I meant... I don't think ultra-running needs to be an Olympic event. I was just thinking out loud and jokingly wondering "what if."
Geoff didn't mention it in his post either so you really are arguing against the wind. Because no one on here has actually stated that ultra-running NEEDS/SHOULD be in the Olympics.

So, lets close the book on talking about the Olympics thing. I should have not opened it.

Morgan said...

Hi Geoff

A few thoughts from England. Fell running started around (say) the 1860s in England but only really got numbers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. We quickly created a national governing body, The Fell Runners Association, which sits under (now) UK Athletics with delagated authority but lots of autonomy.

Our Championship doesn't go longer than our definition of a Long race, but these can be in the low 20s miles.

Off road ultra running is both becoming more popular and getting more organised. Like you we don;t have a true national Championship race set up, and I'm not hearing a huge demand for anything of that type.

We do though have a first go at an Ultra Championship series under the Run Further banner, brief details here:

And as I have mntioned in other posts, there is now a Commonwealth Mountain Running and Ultra Championships, this year to be held in North Wales, with both a 24 hour and 50km+ trail race, brief details here:

I am observing the debate with interest from afar, because, as ever, I suspect that we will be a few years behind you in terms of some of these conclusions, but may well be able to deliver solutions quicker because of some of the underlying infrastucture laready in place.



Andrew said...

Congrats on the UROC100k Geoff ... seems to me like you put your time/effort where your mouth is! :)

You weren't expected to do this... there's nothing wrong with bringing forth innovative thinking/ideas to your career and passion.

Just to do that in such a manor is commendable... but to do so and then help bring about a true championship race like you have been talking about is awesome and shows you care a great deal.

Mom Roes... the bigger the sport becomes and the longer Geoff dominates the more random 'haters' will come out of the wood work. More often than not they will have hateful things to say based on 0 fact. I know its hard as a Mom but you have to take those comments with a grain of salt.

Looking forward to Sept 24th to see what shakes out in the mountains of VA! Would have been nice to see it run as a 100m but I think 100k will still give time to sort the men from the boys (and women from the girls).

Rainshadow Running said...

trlrunrgrl: ultrarunning magazine, at the end of each year, does a huge spread with all kinds of stats about our sport. i think it was either the latest issue or the one before. check it out.