Wednesday, December 22, 2010

3 Ideas to Make Ultra Running Even More Competitive!

Change, growth or both, particularly in a niche or rogue event, is always met with resistance from some or a lot of the participants.  Ultra running is not just for old dudes that are crazy, the young and fast are here.   
I love what the affect (more competition) of prize money, championships, series events, or even sponsorship and team membership opportunities have on racing.  
As Ultra running continues to become more competitive, the more excitement there is for fans and participants.   While I believe many of the participants are affected by increasing the competitiveness of a race, it is true that only a small proportion of the participants are affected by that actual prize $$ or sponsorship potentials.
Prize $$ brings the top runners across the US and abroad, but it also has an invaluable effect on “future” or potential top Ultra runners.
Here are what I believe to be 3 things that could further “grow” Ultra running to be more competitive:
1) More events with $$, sponsorship and team opportunities
2) A SMALL (10-15%) reserve of entries for elites… just like big marathons. Just allowing winners or top ten finishers from years past stifles competition and growth.
And MOST important:
3) US championship races that are truly THE events to win in the US.
USATF Trail Ultra Championships are too diluted and numerous to foster great competition and excitement… 50K, 50M, 100K, 100M = way too many events for such a small community... and it shows!
- Drop the 50K distance, which would be considered “long trail racing” (25K and Marathon)
-Drop the 100K as it is only 12 miles different than the 50 mile
-50 Mile and 100 Mile USATF Trail Championships
These changes would further entice big name sponsors and races to compete to host the 2 Championship races.


  1. one of the greatest challenges limiting the expansion of many races is the race participant caps that public land management agencies mandate. Studies need to be done to demonstrate to those agencies that legitimate concerns about resource impacts are non-existent or can be mitgated/repaired. With those kinds of studies in hand, races through wilderness areas (i.e. Western States) may be allowed to grow.

  2. Good point!

    I very much respect the preservation of forests and keeping them wild and understand that races need to stay "relatively" small. BUT, it blows me away how the forest service allows cows to roam through so much of the national forest really tearing up trails along with devouring so much of the plant life. I do understand that the Forest Service is underfunded and has to make money to maintain all the positive they do, but what about horses, they really do tear up the trail like no ones business, (I've seen this especially down in the San Juans) much more than a string of skinny runners running single file through the forest.

    So yeah, Jim, I agree, it sure seems the forest service is being a bit anal on permits for races. It certainly is way easier for them to say no than to be realistic and realize how low impact ultra races are and how so many get to really enjoy our pubic lands through this medium.