Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"The Championship Race"

There's been a lot of talk lately about the interest in a true championship race in American Ultrarunning. There have been several attempts at this over the years, but in my opinion no one has gotten it just right. No race has been able to separate itself as the race that all top runners flock to each year to test themselves against the best. Western States has probably come closer to this than any, but really hasn't come to stand alone as an undisputed championship race. In the past few years the North Face Championship race in San Francisco has emerged as another event that comes close to doing this, but they're still coming up short as well. UTMB has come even closer to this than Western States or North Face, but it's in Europe. Until some race becomes "The Championship" race here in The United States there is going to continue to be a demand for this.

Some people express concern about this idea of a championship race. Concern that races which so definitively emphasize elite runners will have a negative effect on the experience of the 99% of ultrarunners who are not elite runners. I think there is some validity in these concerns, but I think it's important to keep in mind that what people are talking about is a desire for there to be ONE true championship race. I don't think anyone wants anything more than this. That means ONE race unlike anything we have now, and hundreds of races which would be the same as they are now.

At any rate, I think the discussion of what effect a true championship race would have on the sport is a moot point. I think that there is such a high demand for this that it is absolutely going to happen within the next couple years. It's a simple aspect of a free market that when you have a large demand for a product/service that is not available someone will provide a product/service to fill that void.

I think we can and have learned some things from the "what effect would this have on the sport" discussion, but I also think it's time to move forward and focus more on the discussion of what a true championship race should and likely will look like. It's been good to see (on blogs) and hear (from other runners or interested parties) a lot of talk about this in the past couple months. I couldn't begin to count the people that I've had quite detailed conversations with about this type of event in the past few months. The surprising thing to me has been how similar people's ideas about this are. There are several things which almost everyone I talk to about this agree on. My purpose of this post is to outline what I see (from conversations with others and from my personal opinion) as the primary aspects that any true championship race should have. I don't think that all of these are necessary for the emergence of a race like this, but I do think that most of them are, simply because any race that tries to emerge that is lacking in too many of these aspects will be replaced by a race that provides more of these things.

Here's the list of the most important things (in my opinion) for a race to include to become a true championship race:
  • Entry guaranteed to any runner who wants to run the race who would have any chance of competing for the win in a race like this. There are many ways to do this. I think the best would be a combined system of invitees and auto qualifiers based on previous race performances
  • 90%+ trail with at much of this as possible singletrack
  • Single loop or point to point course (as compared to multiple loops or out and back)
  • 100 miles - this seems to be the preferred distance among a lot of top runners, but I think a 50 mile or 100k distance could pull this off as well. The shorter distances would just have to put that much more energy into convincing top runners to show up because you will have a few that will not be inclined to take it seriously at first because it's not 100 miles.
  • prize money - not necessarily a lot, but enough to make the race in the very front that much more appealing to the front runners and to spectators
  • 150 to 250 ft/mile of elevation gain - not too little nor too much climbing
  • Average altitude less than 7,000 ft. and high point less than 9,000 - you don't want to eliminate from the race those who don't have the time or money to acclimatize for several weeks before the race.
  • Location within reasonable distance (less than 100 miles) from major airport
  • Location in Western United States - there are places in the East that could work, but probably not any that would be as appealing as something in the West, especially considering that probably 75%+ of the runners who would be competing live and train in the West
  • Race date no earlier than June 1st and no later than October 1st - you want competitors to be in top shape, not early season legs or late season fatigue.
  • Stand alone championship event as opposed to an event which also tries to incorporate a middle/back of pack race at the same time OR permit space to accommodate 500+ runners in one event - probably a race in conjunction with a "standard" race. Maybe a week apart, or maybe just a day apart. I think, as many have said in comments that this would appeal to the masses more if you have non-elites racing the same race with the elites. I agree with this, but I think most places in the United States are hard to get large enough permits to accommodate this. If you have enough space to do both together than that will work fine but if you are ending up not being able to take on all the elites that want to run then you are simply ending up where Western States is now.
  • Start/Finish area with very easy access and space to accommodate thousands of people, preferably in a large population center - opportunity for large amount of spectators
  • Points throughout the race that pass through accessible population centers - same as above point
  • High quality pre, during, and post race online coverage - I mean really high quality. This is where a race like this could stand to bring in the money to pay for all of this. With today's technology it wouldn't be hard at all to do WAY more than any races are currently doing in this regard. If you do it right you could charge viewers a small fee for access to interviews, analysis, race tracking, race footage, etc. A fee which I suspect thousands, if not tens of thousands worldwide would be happy to pay for in depth coverage.
As I said, not all of these things are necessary, but I think the more of them you have the more likely you will have a race that will emerge and remain as "a championship" race. What do you all think? What am I missing? What do you agree/disagree with? I think the most likely scenario is for a new race to emerge in this manner, but are there any races out there that can/do already provide most of these things? Certainly there are some which provide a lot more than others, but I don't know of any who currently provide enough to emerge (and this is why, in my opinion, none have really emerged yet) as The Championship Race.


Bryon Powell said...

While currently meaningless, it would be great if the race were to meet USATF championship criteria and the race organizers would be willing to apply for it once eligible. Admittedly, I'm not sure what the race field size or entry requirements are for USATF MUT championships. Regardless, it would be great to unite the championships. That might give more meaning the other USATF championships.

Michael Owen said...

The high quality coverage point might be the most important, or the point that must be included, to make this a true Championship Race. It is kind of like the analogy, "if you build it, they will come."

I would also like to hear yours thoughts on what the pacer/crew regulations would be like. I would argue that pacers should not be allowed in a true Championship Race. Crew would almost have to be allowed at certain spots though...

Something else that might be worth mentioning are the other "so-called" championship races that are already out there. I mean, USATF has a championship race at every distance imaginable and I think that hurts the chances of getting ONE Championship Race to be successful.

PaulDJesse said...

The point you make about having the race as a "championship only" is an interesting one.

I think Kona Ironman is a great example of how much attention can be brought to an event by combining it with an age group championship and a lottery entry system. Triathletes from around the world spend their lives trying to qualify for this event and often just go to watch, support, and/or volunteer.

Having the "open" race on Sat and the Champs on Sunday could work too as a way to get spectators and crowds out for the event.

The most important IMO is the coverage and ability to watch the athletes while they are on the course. The biggest drawback for ultras is the amount of time you have no access to seeing the race itself. This would be the place that the event would need to spare no expense. Not just internet coverage, but TV, PA systems, everything. Video cameras set up in locations along the course that send a feed to the internet and viewing stations where crowds could gather would be HUGE!

Peter Minde said...


Does being a champion mean being the best on one day, or being the best over a season? Thanks,

Best regards


Greg said...

Great ideas! Sounds like you're ready to become a race director! Leaders in the sport can get things done. You are a highly motivated person with lots of pull. I'm sure people would step up to co-direct with you, allowing you the chance to still race and train for this championship event. It would probably be easy for you to get sponsors.

Unknown said...

I can solve this whole issue. Throw out the 100M event. Continue to use White River 50M as the USATF 50 Mile Trail Championship and all you cheetahs who run up front, show up and see who cracks first. Not sure really why it necessarily needs to be a 100M event to show who is better then someone else. The course/terrain/elevation/weather are near perfect in July. And I'm sure Scott and Seattle Running Company and Roy Pirrung from USATF would hail this kind of event if it were marketed right. Forget the 100 unless all of you decide to show up at Burning River.

Wyatt Hornsby said...

Geoff: Good idea(s). As you know, every year there's the USATF 100-mile national championship. Last year and again this year it will be held in Cleveland, OH at the Burning River 100, held in late July. The BR100 is a point-to-point basically all on trails and passing through a few urban and public areas, allowing great access. Since it's point-to-point, once the elites are off they won't have any congested trails to deal with such as the case with loops and out and backs. The BR100 offers prize money, but not in the same league as TNF. The problem is that the USATF doesn't really get behind its ultrunning championship races--they're championship races in name only and they don't attract all of the best in the sport. However, if enough elites like you lobby the USATF for more than just name and, most importantly, the elites show a serious interest in USATF championship races, maybe some serious prize money would emerge.


Unknown said...

Interesting! Some big names showing up at Rocky - Meltzer, Krupicka, Jurek, Gingerich, Koerner among them.

Andy said...

Times are changing, the sport is growing, it seems to me that existing events that have lotteries could allocate a percentage of the field to the elites without it being a big deal. If that were to happen, great races with a ton of history, such as Wasatch (which is near a large population center, meets your elevation and trail percentage requirements and has an international airport as well)could host such an event.

I disagree with the idea of having an elite only field. From a business standpoint it makes sense to allow the slower runners in the event as well. Having a reasonably high set of standards for entry would give the slower runners something to dream about and aim for. Based on the entry limits and minimum entry standards, the entire field of runners could be reasonably fast. My point is that I think it's important to have the ultra community engaged in the event, and the best way to do that is to allow participation of the non-elites to some extent(Think Iron Man Hawaii).

Bringing in a race director with a proven track record of holding a successful elite endurance event, such as Iron Man Hawaii, should be consulted, concerning the commercial aspects of putting on a good show.

I think the single best incentive for the elites to show up to such an event would be an "elite" level prize purse. If there is a successful media campaign for the event, the prize money will be there.

Thanks for creating this discussion. It's fun to brainstorm this subject, there certainly are a lot of issues to address! Damn,I gave the example of Wasatch, but who really wants to see that event change much?

Geoff said...

I agree that the high quality coverage might be the most important thing. as far as pacers, i don't think they should be allowed in this type of race. crew would be fine.

San DiegoPJ,
I think you're right that it would be best if it could mix in non elite participants but to do so it would have to be a race that has permit space for more people than what most of the current races do. i really like the Sat/Sun idea the best though.

I think it should be a combination of both. Right now we have a way to acknowledge the best over a season (UROY voting) and I think it'd be sweet if we had a way to acknowledge the best on a given day as well.

I've been thinking about it, but ideally I don't think someone who would want to be as involved as i would in running the race should or can be the one to put something like this together.

Everyone bringing up USATF,
In a perfect world it would be great to be able to work with the existing USATF race(s) to create something that would gain some more traction. Problem is that these races have been around for a long time and have gained little to no traction as a true championship race. why is this? because the usatf championship races bounce around to different events which invariably lack at least a few, and in most cases several of the key points i talked about in this post. I think the two most important things for setting a championship race apart from other races are the first thing I mentioned (a huge focus by the race on getting top runners there) and the last thing I mentioned (killer online race coverage) and the USATF races come up short on both of these accounts.

Geoff said...

yeah, i don't know that anyone wants to see a race like wasatch messed with. and i think wasatch is a bit too challenging of a course. ideally you want to exclude as few top runners as possible. something as steep as wasatch would exclude a lot of really strong, flatter terrain runners, just as something that is too flat would exclude a lot of really strong mountain runners.

dvroes said...

Hey Geoff - How about a 50 mile race on the first day with only non elites? The first five finishers could qualify for the championship race the following year.

Unknown said...

Since Boulder is the so called new epicenter of ultrarunning, it seems the perfect spot for your dream event. And who better to direct it than you and your training buds? You guys get to make all the rules instead of wishing/expecting other events to bend to your desires. Agree with Michael (2nd commentor): "If you build it, they will come." Seems you and your training buds could work on your various sponsors to pony up some dough. This comment is meant in all seriousness.

And congratulations on UROY!

Anton said...

Roger--Boulder seems a super-logical place for this to happen (the culture here being maybe the most steeped in mountains and outdoor sports of any city in the country), but a 100 mile mountain race in/around Boulder is a total non-starter.

All City of Boulder and Boulder County Open Space management is incredibly opposed to recreational use, specifically organized events, i.e. races. There has only been one race of any kind ever held on Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks land (the Green, Bear, SoBo peaks that we run every day) back in 2003, the Cardiac Arrete race up Mt. Sanitas (1.3mi climb). Despite trading many volunteer trail-building hours in return, it was a total one-time deal.

All of the highly-desirable terrain along the Continental Divide immediately west of town is either Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks Wilderness, or James Peak Wilderness.

It will never happen here.

Fairbanks said...

I can only speak as the back o the pack trail runner that I am...The idea of that kind of a run with good coverage (with fee) gets me really excited. I can imagine with some advertising a well covered Championship race would have at a minimum tens of thousands of trail runner groups getting together (super bowl style, chips and guacamole) to watch.

Bryon's coverage has been great and he deserves props for the job he does!

David Hill said...

Does it have to be 100M? Seems 100K is still a good test and it would make logistics easier. This should be a "Boston" type ultra event with tough qualification standards and a special invitee list for top runners. Throw in good prize money and the elite runners will show, then the media and PR will take care of themselves.

Geoff said...

no it definitely doesn't have to be 100 mile. from talking to a lot of top runners I think that 100 mile would be the most likely to appeal to more runners, but if you have most of these other things in line then yhou will get most people to want to run it. the one thing that all runners I talk to want the most is the chance to get together and race as many top runners as possible. if you can make that happen in a 100k, which I think you can, then there is no reason at all that it needs to be longer.

Anonymous said...

I have to say Internet coverage is the most important aspect for me. Following you and Tony at Western States last year was truly an awesome experience. My wife thought I was crazy, but I was glued to my computer for hours.
To me, this event had a greater impact on the sport than you could imagine. I updated my blog constantly during the race and got about 400 hits during that 24-hour period. That's a lot for my crappy little blog.
The legend of that race spread quickly and it had a lot to do with WS's internet coverage and chat feature.

Runner, Writer, Reader said...

As both a runner and a fan of ultra running I love this idea. One idea for raising sponsorship money (Cash Prize) would be a preliminary guarantee sign up listing all runners who give their word that they will show up and run this race. The last thing you want is a championship race where your champions are backing out last minute. A list of "pre-registered" or "pre-committed" runners would give sponsors a little more tangible evidence, as opposed to idealistic evidence, where there money is going. In this scenario, perhaps, each sponsor could donate $250 for each pre registered name. Twenty names guarantees you five grand per sponsor.

I'll stop now before I get carried away. Consider me a volunteer. I would enjoy nothing more than to help out in any way to make this event happen!

Unknown said...

This is so totally off topic, but I wanted to share the thoughts I have been having about applying the principles of Heaven, Earth and Humanity to running.

Heaven, Earth and Humanity, as I understand them right now, are principles of creativity.

At the moment you experience longing, in this case the longing to run, that is the Heaven principle. Heaven is the open sky of possibilities, or the blindness. Sometimes I notice that I am experiencing Heaven when I feel a little fear at the prospect of doing something, similarly, I may also feel excitement. For example, as a writer, you are presented with a blank piece of paper, or a sculpture with a block of clay, this is the moment of Heaven. As a runner, this moment of heaven, is the desire to run- but not yet knowing where or how long.

Earth is when something lands from the open sky, when you the knowledge of your body meets the longing. I heard it described as, “where to meet the blind date of the moment.” And that “first thought, best thought” applies to this principle, because the landing of Heaven on Earth only does so if it is genuine. Applied to running, then it would be which trail to run on, the elevation gain, and the length.

At this point, we would meet Humanity. This is a process I am a little fuzzy, but I will share what I understand; just don’t quote me on it. The Human principle includes intuition, or recognition of the landing, the “ah!” moment. It gives us a sense of connection with Heaven and Earth.

Here is when we may second guess our desire. This happens through habit, as in, “I want to run there, but oh my God, am I strong enough? Or it is such a small distance that may negatively affect my training.”

So, within this process, it is important to “relax and make friends with our doubt.” There is nothing wrong with us if we are scared of our longing, or of our desire.

These principles are also applied to creations. Heaven is the atmosphere, or the tone. In Ikebana (which is where I am learning these principles), a large branch is Heaven (Geoff, that would explain the large bit of bramble I brought home). In a dish, that may be salmon. Looking at running as a composition, for me, this morning on my run, it was the wilderness.

Earth is what responds, compliments, or grounds Heaven. So, in my arrangement, it was supposed to be a bit of juniper, but it looks kind of terrible, so we’ll forget about it. In the salmon, Earth could be that it was grilled. For my experience of Heaven this morning, it was me running slowly towards the West Magnolia trails, in the wilderness.

And Human is what brings the two together. For my Ikebana arrangement, it was a single pale purple chrysanthemum, for the salmon, that may be a ginger-soy marinade, or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. For my run, it was at times the deer tracks along the trail, at others the sound the snow beneath my feet, my ragged breath, or the stark blue shadows against the snow.

These principles can also be applied to the process of choosing which direction to go upon coming to a fork in the path, or when to turn around. In this sense, every step we run is an act of creativity.

As far as my arrangement, the flower is dying and I’ve moved the juniper countless times, but it still looks terrible. This is something for me to gnaw over, why Heaven, the branch, was effortless, but I can’t do anything about Earth. My sensei asks us to notice what comes easy, and where our attention goes. I thought of this while I was running, and noticed that the entirety of my attention had gone to the Human principle, which at the moment was me thinking of writing this. Earth brought me back into my running, and as I checked back in with Heaven, I looked up at the towering peaks, and felt the cold silence around me.

I haven’t ever thought of running as a creative composition before, and in doing so, I was so delighted that I wanted to share them with a greater audience of runners.

Unknown said...

Sounds like a great plan. If not Boulder, how about Denver or Fort Collins?

Forrest said...

Great discussion- I think that taking a race that already is emerging as a leader as far as media coverage and general interest from the public would be the best way to go rather than starting from scratch with a less recognized race that might take a few years to build up. Western States seems to be the best candidate for this. Given that the race is already so exclusive due to the small field size, making it truly an elite race with some extra room would not be such a big change. Friends of mine who are not into running at all know about WS 100 already, so the name and recognition is out there. It would not take much convincing to get the top runners to go since it is in many ways already regarded informally as the championship, and it is the only trail race that general sports media pays any attention to, so the awareness is there domestically and internationally. Some tweaking could very easily make WS exactly the race I think you are looking for, and that is and exciting idea to me.

Eric@URP said...

Sounds like the one guy who could pull this off would be Karl.
He's an established RD who knows how to handle biz and logistics, he's in the right part of the country, and he's certainly got credentials and contacts to pull the best of the best.

Scott Dunlap said...

Honestly, I think this is a place where the elite could step forward and make the event happen. You just have to go World Poker Tour style.

You agree on a time and place to run. You each bring $1,000, $150 of which will go to run the actual race. Winner takes all, but more importantly, wins the one race organized and sanctioned by the champions directly. No sponsors needed, but if they come, just put their money into the kitty.

If somebody says they don't have the cash, then we all know it means they don't have the balls. I can't imagine any one of you not finding a way to make $1,000 happen. The more elites that come, the bigger the purse, and the more prestigious the win.

Man, it would be so cool to see that sort of integrity and self-confidence brew up from the grass roots core of a great sport. It would be the only title that really mattered, and we would all know it.


Leslie said...

That's a pretty frickin' cool idea, Scott! Keep it simple. Now it just needs a name and a place...

Collin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Collin said...

I like the idea of qualifying times for Boston style championship race; it makes it really simple. Maybe something with a sub 17 hour 100, sub 9 hour 100k, and sub 6:40 50 (on any course) for men, somewhat slower for women. These are times that an average runner couldn't run even on a totally flat course, but would allow the top 10% or so of ultrarunners to qualify, kind of like Boston. It could be first-come-first-serve after this point since 90% of the population would already be narrowed out. It then wouldn't be limited to strictly everyone that has the ability to win, but everyone would be relatively fast and even people with slower qualifying times would have an opportunity to place relatively well with a good breakthrough race.

Collin said...

I guess my point is that if you narrow it down to people who, in a championship field, actually have the ability to outright win at 100 miles, we're looking at maybe Tony, Geoff, Kilian, Scott, Karl, and maybe a few more. Allowing the top 10% or so the opportunity to compete makes it a bigger field and lets all the "fast" people see where they line up.

jun said...

I agree with every point (more or less), but one. I don't think there should be a single championship at just one of the three major distances (50, 100k, 100). I think there should be a championship at each of these. They can be completely different races held in different areas and be unrelated. However, like all sports with varying types of events (think of swimming) people will specialize in certain distances. This should be about who is the best ultra runner outright, but who is the best at a particular distance. And just think of the possibilities; someone could actually try to win at all three levels. Now that would be something to see.

Speedgoat Karl said...

The discussion continues.....

USATF is out, they have silly rules for trail races, let them do their thing, we'll do ours. Sorry Bryon! :-)

I know I'm biased on distance, but 100 miles is the distance in my opinion, because most of us who have run 100 miles, know that anything can happen to anyone. Crazy to say, but it's not too hard to bang out a 100k or 50 mile run without experience, we see it happen all the time. 100 miles is alot tougher. but that's my two cents.

Terrain has to be variable as Geoff mentions, it can't be Hardrock course, cuz' it favors goats and hikers. It has to be runnable most of the way with a winning time around 17-19 hours.

Anton, yah, Boulder is like SLC, forget it, won't happen here. :-)

The reason I am able to put on the Speedgoat 50k is because Snowbird owns so much land they need easement to get to their mines. If Snowbird did not have that gig, I would not have the Speedgoat 50k. Ski area access is probably the answer, but brings in higher altitude which is fair to say that it is not fair to sea level runners. It has to be an equal, fair course for all.

Burning River? Yah, a cool race, but it's too easy. Looking at winning records is a great guage of how hard the courses are. It would be easy to say the Bear 100 is perfect in terms of difficulty, but no towns....and in Utah.

Internet: It's all about internet coverage. Look at the NYC Marathon last year, I could pay my 3-5 bucks I think and watch in stream online. That was very cool, why can't we have that happen in Ultras? I know we can't watch it from a pace vehicle, but the coverage with GPS devices could really make it interesting, with detailed areas of terrain coming up, who's up front. It's endless if it's done right.

The idea of a bunch of us throwing down money and winner takes all....someone would get a wiff of that and try to stop it. If it were publicized it would not happen, thus not making it an event. It's a crazy circle.

No pacers, headphones ok, and minimal crew aid is how I'd make it happen. Crew maybe 3X, every 25 ish miles or so, the rest we do on our own.

Save the lord Corle...:-)

We need to get Koerner to make it happen in Ashland.....Hal?

My two cents..

GZ said...

Scott D - I had this VERY sort of conversation with a few of the elites in the sport not too long ago. The essence was essentially that Hardrock, WS100 ain't going to break away from their cultural roots to become a championship and so a "Fat Ass" event would need to go down. Except their would be bucks brought by the contenders, there would be results.

For what it is worth, I don't expect that I would be a contender to win the event. But that does not mean I would not participate. I'd either race in it to bring money (that I know I would part with) to support the event (whatever any of the "buy in" is from any of the athletes), or work an aide station or pace someone. Particularly the inaugural event.

As far as the 50 versus 100 - while I have done neither, I recognize the difference (50 miles!). Seriously - when we consider the differences in track between the 800 and the mile - those are often very different racers, racing tactics, etc. So there are TWO EVENTS. I say the same thing here. Yeah, I know we need to get one first, but saying it HAS to be a 100 or a 50 is sort of like saying it HAS to be a six day event.

Geoff said...

I must say I really like almost all of the ideas being thrown around here. a championship type race at each of the popular trail ultra distances (50k, 50 mile, 100k, and 100 mile) would be awesome. I just think 100 mile is the one that would probably take off the quickest and gain the most attention.
I also like what Collin is saying about trying to draw a pretty large field but entirely of runners in the top 10% (or maybe 20) of runners. I'd love to see "championship" races that were really strong down to 100+ runners.

also, i like the mention of ashland that karl makes. i must say that thought has crossed my mind more than once. Hal?

Eric Strabel said...

As a fan of following all of the ultra distances, I have to say that I'd like to see this Championship be the full monty: 100 miles. Mostly because it looks like the NF 50 mile championship is filling that shorter championship niche fairly well already.

How would this fit into the calendar with all the other established races?

Eric Strabel said...

One other thought. What if this Championship revolved from one of the established 100 mile races to another each year. Each race organization could bid to be billed as "The Championship" by committing to have the mentioned characteristics like coverage, prize money, etc. Of course, this only works if the existing RD had interest in hosting this Championship. Having different courses each year may be exciting?

As I write, the idea occurred to me that maybe it is time that ultra running in the country has a governing body apart from USATF. Definitely not anything like USATF, but an organization with the authority to have a National Championship among other functions. If nothing else, it will unite the ultra community and offer clear feedback to race directors. Just thoughts.

Hone said...

If you like gravel roads then Ashland would be the perfect place to have the Championship. Ashland is beautiful but there is not enough singletrack to make a sweet 100 mile race there. Plus it will literally rain the entire time you are on the course (and if you are an idiot you will get lost and be in last place 2 hours into the race(even behind the course sweepers)). jk

Also I like Straybulls idea of a separate governing body. It seems like Ultrarunning mag has all of the control. I mean they cant even get the UROY voting right. Robbins proved on his latest post that he should have been UROY.

We need someone legit to step up and start a new organization. I am a pack leader for a local cub scout den so I think I have the experience necessary to be the legit person to get this going.

Or since I suck at running maybe Karl should do it. He is pretty legit though he tends to piss people off with his directness. =)

Hone said...

Also what in the hell is up with Corle? My word that was a strange post!

Eric@URP said...

Karl said: The idea of a bunch of us throwing down money and winner takes all....someone would get a wiff of that and try to stop it. If it were publicized it would not happen, thus not making it an event.

Why so? Fatasses don't get cancelled. This would simply be a small fatass with less participants, more spectators, and there'd happen to be a purse.

What am I missing?

Runner, Writer, Reader said...

Has anyone ever read Flanagan's Run? Similar concept.

japhruns said...

there are a number of high quality mountain 100s that are still open registration: Bear and Bighorn come to mind off the top of my head . . . worry about a rotating championship, a championship race (a.k.a Boston Marathon style), or a reserved 10 spots at some of the classic races later . . . and simply create the race you guys keep saying you want so desperately this year by deciding on an open race and registering. Since the open races tend to be "low key" events you may even want to run the notion by the RDs before you all sign up overnight . . .

Speedgoat Karl said...

Eric, If we run a fat ass 100 and all the fast people show up and a there is a purse. People would come to watch, thus creating an "event". I know that sounds silly, but I bet it would happen that way. The FS would show up and make it complicated, especially if we went into wilderness of even a national park.

But I had a better vision while running yesterday....Think about this. Summer X-Games? Bingo...TV coverage in place, already on freakin' TV, venue in place, media in place, and the possibility of big time sponsors mean bigger $$$. We need to approach them to see what happens. The X-Games brought silly snowboard half pipe (although its sick to watch) and other "judged" events to the olympics, maybe this could be a real stepping stone for the future. Think about that for a minute.

Hone, yah, I heard Ashland is mostly dirt roads, maybe not the spot, I just wanted Mr. Koerner to get involved. He's got nothing else to do. :-)

Jay said...


At first glance I have to admit your X Games idea seemed pretty silly to me. But upon a bit of reflection I think I judged too quickly. A NF TV ad running in the last year features clips of several "extreme" sports spliced together...and there's a trail runner in there. While ultrarunning lacks the immediate Holy S@!t factor of people flying through the air, no one can deny that running 100 miles up and down mountains is pretty bad ass. And as you rightly point out, X Games has always embraced fringe sports. Marketed properly I think it could work. Definitely seems worth pursuing to me.

Jen said...

This discussion focused on USFS/federal permitting is leaving out a fairly major group of landowners with some spectacular scenery: the tribes. There are some pretty large reservations not too far from major airports. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if some tribal councils would be very interested in having such an event on their lands. The only issue for most reservations would be the "major population center(s)" criterion. (I can't remember - how far out from Flag is the Navajo Reservation?) There might be an extra component in designing the route on some reservations, as well. (Most of the hiking and running I've done on reservations has been off-trail doing field work or on unofficial trails. I can't remember ever being on an official/mapped trail, actually, so exploration would likely be required!) An alternative to keep in mind, anyway.

Kris said...

Who are the true elites? Ultrarunning competion lacks depth.

Kris said...

Until you get more Matt Carpenter types then you can cal yourselves "eltite."

Geoff said...

the x games idea is intriguing for sure.
jen, same thing with the reservation idea. seems worth thinking more about.
it's all relative. elites are simply the top runners who are currently competing. there are a thousand runners out there who, on paper, could dominate the current ultra scene, but until they do that doesn't mean a damn thing. and history has shown that more often than not the "on paper" runner doesn't find ultras quite as easy as most people expect them too.
more Matt C. types? i assume you mean Matt in his prime a few years back. there is probably one person in the world right now who has that kind of potential running challenging terrain in the mountains and I look very forward to the two times that I'll be racing him this year.

Mountain Goat said...

I agree with a lot of the ideas thrown out and appreciate the discussion. I prefer looking to what we can do instead of our limitations, but we have to look realistically at our sport. Comparing our sport to most others won't work. We are a niche market. What single track trail can hold 1000 runners? I love watching running, especially ultras, but most folks don't care much about watching a man or woman look exhausted for hours and progressively run slower and slower. Which requires an answer to how we get spectators at our events and watching or following on TV. The Kona Ironman has 1800 spots at $550 min. entry fee, that's $990,000. Plus this event gets big sponsors. It offers a $580,000 prize purse. Big money=big competition. I don't know of a trail event that can get close to that type of money. I don't think a trail championship really needs that type of money, but it needs something significant. Plus it must have media coverage, TV, maybe a cable network like Versus. I would prefer to see multiple distances on different types of courses. Or actually for my personal race preferences, all the courses would be absurdly steep and technical, nothing flat or smooth. Anyway, I think one event may need to be the starting point, but I think major sponsors (prize money) and media coverage are the key.

My personal experience is that it is tough to get sponsors or media coverage. I'll also mention here that USATF MUT(Mountain, Ultra, Trail) is doing all we can to work within the system to promote our sport. It doesn't cost anything for a race to bid to host a USATF Championship, but prize money is required, any prize money, $100. (There is a USATF sanctioning cost if awarded the championship, about $150.) Most championship distances had only one race even bid to host. MUT would welcome more races bidding. Back to my personal experience, there was no bid for the trail 10K a couple of years ago, so me and small group of friends started a new event. A friend said it was a race that didn't exist on a course that didn't exist. It was a great learning experience as I learned how hard starting and putting on a race is. As a runner, I appreciate race staff more than ever. For our championship race we have a $5000 prize purse. That has helped get better competition, but we'd need more to really bring in a deep field. But we only bring in about $8000 total; entries, sponsors, other. Until we can find a deep pocket sponsor, we'll be a small race.

In a closing thought, is this one "true championship" what we really want? Our 10K has a "hanging out with friends" feel to it. I like that about our sport. If someone wants a 10K Trail championship, they can come to our race and fight for it. If they want big money, they'll have to go elsewhere. I'm not against a big prize money championship though, just not sure ultra running or trail running is there, yet.

If any races are interested in bidding for a USATF championship, I'd be glad to help you out. Or I'll help anyone starting any event.

By the way, I do run ultras as well as mountain and trail races. Just my thoughts.

Kris said...

I don't understand why you men (I'm a woman), need to feel validated by USATF, ESPN, IAAF etc. Why don't just run? Who cares?! Women are second class citizens when in comes to sports (like funding or fans). Do you see us always whining? NO! Lets keep sports real.

Kris said...

Geoff, on paper the atomic bomb worked and so did it practice.

Geoff said...

The problem with just getting together a bunch of top runners and deciding to go run a desirable 100 that doesn't fill up (e.g. bear or bighorn) is that you are never going to end up with nearly as many of the top runners as an event that is setup specifically to draw top runners. many people who are more out of the loop just aren't going to know about it. it might happen with decent success once or twice, but it's not something that's going to happen year after year. when runners talk about wanting a race that has as many top runners as possible i think they're generally talking about dozens of top runners. an event designed specifically for this could bring in several dozen. a casual agreement among friends to show up and run bighorn or bear might bring half a dozen top guys together. this just isn't what i'm talking about here though. we already have this a few times a year (including this weekend at Rocky Raccoon). i'm talking about something much larger in terms of the amount of top runners.

I think you're totally missing the point. This has nothing to do with validation by some association or governing body. I think the lack of interest in the USATF "championship" events proves this quite well. what I (and any runners i've talked about this with) want is a race that is focused on having as many top runners racing one event as possible. we all want to run in one big race together, not to feel validated, but for the thrill and comraderie of the competition. if we were simply wanting the validation of running an event that had a fancy acronym and called itself a "championship" we'd all be running the usatf races. but, since the usatf does almost nothing to start the snowball effect of getting numerous top runners to their events then no one follows along with this because there is basically no one to follow. as far as the gender thing: this demand totally transcends gender lines. i've talked to several female runners who are just as interested in this as any men i've talked to about it.

Anonymous said...

I would even argue that an event like this might benefit the top female ultrarunners MORE than the men. Since there is less internet buzz around the top women, picking a competitive women's race is a complete crap shoot with the current state of things (although that can also be a perk cuz really spectacular women can show up to a random ultra and find themselves in contention for winning the open division. I can't think of any other running events where women frequently have the opportunity for that special thrill :)

nordicnomad said...

If the F.S. is such a problem, why not try another landowner as Karl has done? Kennecott owns something like half the Oquirrh mountains and has a nice area for start/finish right by their headquarters in the Daybreak community (big park with lakes, etc.) Soon people will even be able to take TRAX there from downtown SLC or the airport. A course could run all over the east side of the range, passing through Kennecot land's proposed ski area, past the mine, etc, with maybe a few dips down to the bottom to pass through some of the mountain-foot communities like Bingham. Developing a race course would probably involve some trail-building to link together existing trails and old mining roads, but there are a lot of routes already there & Kennecott seems to be looking at promoting access to outdoor recreation as a selling point as they plan transitioning the property from mining to residential and vacation development. If someone could convince them that sponsoring a race is in their interest....who knows?