FM Show: Organization of Trail and Ultra Running

et Gary

Gary David sporting ET at American Zofingen race

Welcome to Elevation Trail and the FM Show with Footfeathers and Matt.  Today we chat about the impact of organization and money in the sport of ultra and trail running.  We discuss the excitement of Skyrunning, the development of the ISF, and, of course, other mundane things like the weather.


karen et

Karen Peterson in the ET hat after a sharp run at Silver State 50k

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12 thoughts on “FM Show: Organization of Trail and Ultra Running

  1. Interesting show. Hasn’t there been some effort to organize various series in the manner you suggest? I’m thinking in Montrail’s Ultra Cup, LaSportiva’s Mountain Cup, and North Face’s series. Also, there is the various trail and mountain championship both domestically and internationally. Finally, Skyrunner has moved into the US scene and more US runners are competing in those races internationally. Also, there is nothing stopping US runners from making a run at winning overall Skyrunner honors (both Carpanter and Pablo Vigil did well in the past). So with these options already existing, what is it that you are advocating for?

    • I think we’re just pointing out that it’s more enjoyable and exciting as a fan when there’s a structure like Skyrunning (or UCI Wolrd Cup). The series you bring up are interesting but they’re put on by a company with little to no coverage until after the fact and very little promotion. I’ve been to each of the ones you mention and there’s little spectator participation and little emphasis on the points standings. Off the top of your head can you name who won the LS Mtn Cup last year? Or the Montrail Cup? TNF doesn’t even have an overall series – aren’t they just individual races leading up to the SF race, like qualifiers?

      Like I said, the show is just a discussion where we point out that it’s more fun as a fan to follow something structured like Skyrunning for several reasons we point out. I personally enjoy participating in old school events like Hardrock, Bear 100, San Diego 100, etc. But I enjoy following sports with standings, points, rankings, etc.

      • I hear you on the low profile nature of the US based series, however do you think that the Skyrunner series could expand in the US? it seems that several new races are cropping up that fit in the ethos of Skyrunning such as T-Rad in Telluride and The Rut up in MT. we add those to Pikes, Speedgoat, and UROC and we could have a good number of Skyrunning races on this side of the Atlantic. This could lead to more US runners being competitive in one or more of the Skyrunner series.

  2. I would argue that there is already a de facto system in place. This year the championship series consists of Tarawera, Sonoma 50, Transvulcania, UROC and TNF. Perhaps Speedgoat as well. To answer the question posed on your show, right now Sage Canaday is the best sub-100 mile trail ultrarunner in the U.S. I’m not even sure that’s debatable at this point in the season.
    Morton, you ask? The best non-trail ultrarunner in the US.
    The best 100 miler will be decided at Western States. I think we do have it all: very competitive races for those who like to follow the sport, and then great races like Jemez, SJS, Zane Grey, Mogollon 100, The Bear etc., etc. for folks who want to run awesome races in incredible places. Jemez this weekend!

  3. I agree that Volet’s comments appear self-conflicting.
    Let’s take a look at your record.
    A) This week and in prior weeks you wag your fingers at those elites (or ultrarunners in general) who are over-raced or over-trained.
    B) You have great coverage of the massive elite field at Lake Sonoma 50 and then many of the same runners at Transvulcania a week or two later.
    C) You then complain about how few elites (“names” in your words) raced the historically old-school and low-key Massanutten 100 the very next week.

    So which is it? Are the elites supposed to be racing every weekend or are they supposed to pick their target races with competitive fields and run to win? Not every mountain bike race is a world cup final, either. It’s the same way in ultrarunning too.

    It can be really hard to be self-consistent.

    As to the points question… It is coming. All the “ultra-cup” style series that were mentioned by others are early attempts to bring this about. It is going to happen.

  4. I was fairly certain that you guys were going to bring up the Kilian Speedgoat point debacle from last year, as it appears that it created a chink in the Skyrunning series point system armor.

    Also, I thought you’d get into the money side of it a bit more. I was left thinking that you felt a point system would bring sponsors as it would generate interest. I see that as a bit more of tail wagging the dog, but they probably would need to go together (although certainly many cases where money has been thrown at stuff without success exist).

    Guy’s comments on consistency sort of hit on my earlier comments on “what’s the direction you want to take” (that I think were deemed as moronic in a rebuttal). Admittedly, I am not so consistent on the topic of growth of the sport. I am torn with wanting to see it grow and wanting to see it remain as it is. I want to see it grow because I’d love to see the front end competition, and ridiculously fast runs. But I realize when you put the sport into the Olympics, along with it comes all the shortcomings: PEDs, pro memberships, agents, etc.

    Frankly, money or points or whatever if thrown at it … I think running is simply too boring for people to watch to get into at that next level in the US.

    • This site, ET, is brimming with articles and now podcasts discussing the changes in the sport, professional structure, and growth, as well as celebrating the “old school” mentality or religious identity of simply running long with no real rules. Anyone who listens to the current shows needs to go back and read through articles we’ve written for the last two years.

      Here’s an excerpt from an article Matt wrote about UROC two years ago:

      One of the big topics of change getting volleyed about in this spirited discourse includes the rise of professionalism in the sport (especially in the American version). This includes (among other things) the role of sponsorship. Clearly more money invested in the sport will impact race organization, competition, and the winnings and other bonuses made available to elite athletes. This professionalism will “enhance” races in other ways, such as media coverage, which can only be good given that more people will “see” the sport, including America’s impressionable youth. I was telling my friend the other day, “How cool would it be to have your kid want to be the next Scott Jurek.”

      And here is an introductory paragraph from a profile I wrote in 2011 nudging the rustic Bear 100 race into the spotlight:

      If one yearns for the grassroots, rustic 100 miler of yore, then look no further than the Bear 100. The bare nature of Bear is by design. Race Director, Leland Barker, is old school and likes his race that way too. Leadville, especially under new management, seems to cradle the runners, providing everything, short of carry them to the finish, for a fairly easy out-n-back jog. Bear is a stark contrast and I, for one, love it. The Bear 100 began in 1999 with 17 starters and zero sub 24 hour finishers. Last year there were 157 starters and a record 17 sub 24 hour finishers. You may get the idea that it’s a tough course and you’d be correct.

      Discussing the different parts that make up the overall culture of ultrarunning isn’t inconsistency. The baseball culture identity cradles both the loose structure of a picnic-style game played at a local park and the final game of the World Series.

      As far as covering every particle that fills the sandbox in the discussion of professionalism and organization in ultra and trail running, the shows need to be around an hour long. PEDs and all the other pitfalls and benefits of professionalizing the sport will obviously be covered in future shows.

      Rules change through necessity all the time and the situation of Kilian at Speedgoat was addressed and new rules were solidified. It’s a dead horse that needs no further beating.

      • Perhaps if you guys start taking PEDs you could get more content into your shows then. And you’d win the ultracup of podcasts related to ultrarunning.

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