I'm sure by now most readers of this blog have read about the new 100 mile race in Steamboat Springs next September. If this is new to you then check out the website here: Run Rabbit Run 100. Also, you might want to check out all the "chatter" about the race over on Irunfar.
To me this race is another obvious and expected step in the evolution of ultramarathon racing that I have talked about numerous times on this blog in the past couple years. I don't need to go into all the nuances of prize money/championships/commercialism in the sport. I have been down all of these roads, and my ideas here aren't really much different than I've expressed in the past.
I will however go into a few of the things that come to mind with the emergence of this race:
I have stated numerous times (both here and in other publications) that I think the demand for these types of events (due in large part by the huge growth in the popularity of the sport in the past few years, a growth which has shown no sign of slowing down anytime soon) makes the emergence of these races inevitable. For the better part of two years now the question in my mind has not been, are more prize money/high competition type events coming to the sport, but rather, what are they going to look like when they get here? Even more importantly, what should they look like? To my delight the RRR100 gets just about everything "right." If you look back at this post that I wrote almost a year ago, outlining the things I see as crucial to doing an event like this "right" I think it's easy to see why I'm excited about this new race. To some degree this race satisfies each thing I laid out as important for a race like this to thrive.
With the North Face 50 and UROC, the RRR100 now makes three ultras in this country with $10k or more in prize money. To me the prize money isn't the exciting thing though. The exciting thing to me are the number of races in existence now that are pretty much guaranteed to have very high competition year in and year out. It is now possible, if one desires, to run 5 or 6 races a year in which you can pretty much be certain you are going to be racing against dozens of top runners from around the world. In my mind this is something that is new to the sport. Even just a few years ago there were years when top level runners would end up unintentionally "cherry picking" some of the most "competitive" races in the sport. Often times races would only be 3 or 4 runners deep (in terms of runners who had a legitimate shot at winning the race), and if one or two of them got injured before the race you suddenly had folks winning some of the biggest races in the sport by 2 or 3 hours. Now, if you want to run a high competition race and you choose to line up for WS, UTMB, RRR100, UROC, NF50, etc, you can pretty much be guaranteed that you are going to be running against 10+ legitimate top level runners.
Many might ask, what about the 99% of runners who aren't competing at the very front of these types of races? To me this is the beauty of the current dynamic: there is growth in the options for anyone and everyone right now. Not only do all of these mentioned races have a very specific desire/plan to provide a positive race experience for all runners in the field, but for every one of these higher competition races that is emerging there are dozens of grassroots/low profile events that are emerging. Add to this the number of "old classics" that seem to be very dedicated to keeping things more or less the same as they have been for years, and it all adds up to a terribly exciting time to be involved in this sport, no matter what you're looking to get out of it. If you're looking to kick it old school there are more options than ever, and if you're looking to run against as much competition as possible you can have those options too.
To me the only question I have about RRR100 is whether the timing of it (two weeks before UROC) will be a hindrance to either (or both) of the races? I think there is room in the sport for even more of these types of races, but I'm not sure having 2 of them in the same month is the best scenario. I know that RRR100 didn't want to conflict so directly with an existing race with a somewhat similar vision, but apparently September was pretty much the only time they could make it happen in Steamboat. I for one am hoping to run both races (although UROC will have to be a "wait and see how I feel race"), but I do imagine these two races so close together will be working a little bit against each other. Hopefully going forward after 2012 there can be some scheduling adjustments to one (or both) of these races to space them out a little more optimally.