Friday, April 13, 2012

ATRA Race Grading Program

I recently read on that the America Trail Running Association has come up with and started to implement a new labeling system for races. Check out the first part of the Press Release from ATRA itself..

"Colorado Springs, CO --- The American Trail Running Association (ATRA) Board of Directors is pleased to introduce a new labeling program for events. After much discussion and many revisions, the ATRA Board of Directors zeroed in on 15 standards to address safety, course design and marking, terrain, results, awards, logistics, entry limits, entry brochure, delivery, environmental awareness, time limits, financial accountability, impacts, rules/fairness, dogs and music players that are intended to guide race directors through the planning and execution of their events. Should an event meet at least 12 of the 15 listed standards, an ATRA“label” can be included on entry materials and on the race website. Both the standards and label are available at ATRA’s website,"
(Courtesy of - To read the rest of the Press Release CLICK HERE)

I really love this idea and think that it's long over due. Over the years, runners have had much luck in finding a rating system for road races. There's Road Race Place, Marathon Guide and more I'm sure. BUt there had yet to be a rating system in place for trail races and ATRA has offered us a solution to that problem. Though of course, I'd like to add a caveat.

I think races should start being scored on their fiscal responsibility as well. When we as runners continue to shell out more and more cash for the races we want to run, we should also be able to take a deeper look into where our money goes. Why are the entry fees rising? Is it really as simple as supply or demand, or are Race Directors giving themselves raises every year? A lot of races claim to be charity events or donate a portion of the race proceeds to non-profits. I actually want to see that happening and I want to see it in undeniable proof.

More and more race directors in the trail and ultra running circuit are discovering the amount of cash they can carry home from a race themselves. Race entry fees are also rising because RD's have ever deepening pockets that they have a desire to fill....

Stop... Ok, I get it. There is actually quite a divide in our sport about this topic. Some folks feel that Race Directors shouldn't get paid to direct races because they took on the job as volunteers, or "for the love of the sport", and they should continue to do so as volunteers rather then paid employees. Other argue that Race Directors put in many many hours, make sacrifices, and should be compensated for their time? I can see both sides of this argument. Personally, I'm on the volunteer side of the fence and think Race Directors shouldn't get paid a dime.. and I say this as a former RD myself who directed a 50, 100 and 200 Mile Ultra in the past... and stayed awake for 72 hours straight during it.. and took a $0 pay day in the end. But to those on the other side of the fence... What is a reasonable pay day for an RD?? Some Race Directors are making over $50,000 a year to put a race on. Look at the JFK50.. the RD there takes home over $55,000 a year.. FOR WHAT?! I have friends who are educators, biologists working in cancer research, police officers.. who don't make that much money. Give me a break!

....It's time that races lay it all out there too. Races should be open about telling their patrons exactly where their money is going. Why are they paying $370 to run this race? And this doesn't even have to have a negative connotation.. runners can see exactly how expensive it is to even put a race on, and how much of their money is truly going to charity. I wish the ATRA at put this into their labeling system as a 16th standard. But I'm guessing, something like this would never happen. Because too many people wants where the money goes, to remain a secret.