Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Race Directing

I've been running Ultramarathons now since 2005, just a year after I started running in 2004. You can always read how I got into this sport HERE. I've had the incredible opportunity and the injury free fortune to see most of America on foot. I started blogging in 2004, and blogging here in March 2007. I've shared many opinions and views in that time.. but none of them have been as candid as my views on race directing.

In the last few years, race directing has become as much a part of this sport as running in races itself. It seems like everybody wants a piece of the pie. Everywhere you turn, new trail and/or ultra running clubs are springing up all over the country and their associated races are popping up with them. Instead of folks putting on one race a year, they're hosting a series of races in multiple locations. I've never had a problem with this. I think it's great for our sport. It offers variety, and it offers choices when the more popular events have filled up quicker each year. It creates a unique opportunity for any runner to enjoy an event that's made just for them.

Over the last few years, all of my vitriol for race directing has come from RD's who are making 30K-50K a year directing one race and a few training camps. I've talked about this numerous times. I've talked about my disdain for races who are solely out for making a profit off of the sport, and my disdain for events that offer huge cash purses. I stand by everything I've ever said. And you can read most of it here:
Dear Race Director - 6/11/12 - Where I ask RD's who decided their work on one race is worth a yearly salary, to stop giving us Heed, and answer our e-mails.
WS100: The Lottery - 11/21/11 - Where I talk about the enormous amount of money Western $tate$ now charges to runners and the pay day the RD takes.
Big Money Ultras - 10/24/11 - Where I talk about RD's offering big cash prizes in their races as a way to gain notoriety, fame, and eventually fortune of their own.
Ultra Culture - 9/21/11 - Where I talk about the East vs. West mentality in our sport, and ask for the elimination of Prize Monies.
From Grass Roots... - 2/6/11 - Where I discuss the growth in our sport and how the Grass Roots nature of our events has waned and is disappearing.

Fellow Ultra Runner and Race Director - Jeremy Dougherty - offers up his own assessment of the Race Director situation and his well thought out opinions are some that I truly can only respect.

Where am I going with this??
At the end of the day, I take nothing back that I've ever shared before. I still think it's wrong for Race Directors to make 30K - 50K on directing 1or 2 races a year. I ultimately feel that these salaries are swollen/inflated at best. I think RD's who are putting on multiple events a year (8-10) deserve a salary because that many events truly is a full time job.

I also strongly believe that our sport doesn't need cash prizes. Between Ultracentric and The Steamboat Run Rabbit Run 100 debacles over the years, we've learned that these Race Directors can't handle the pressure. Can't guarantee these cash prizes they've conjured up in their heads and in turn.. their desire to dole out thousands has cost other runners senseless dollars, and their events have been mediocre and embarrassments in the end.

I strongly believe that our sport needs more races that celebrate and promote the grass roots of the sport. That celebrates what races use to be like. Community building, camping, aid stations that didn't come with complimentary butt wipers, etc.  None of these opinions have changed. I take nothing back.

With that being said.. I'm announcing that starting this year, I will be making my return to Race Directing in the sport of Ultra running. I directed my first official race in 2008 in Pittsfield, VT; with the New England Ultras. My event offered options of 50, 100 and 200 Miles. At the time, the event was the longest trail ultra in North America. The race was a huge success and dare I say, I provided runners with all that was promised and made a whopping $2000 in doing so. This meager amount of money was forwarded to the Peak Race series for use in future events, including the eventual McNaughton in Vermont races.

My goal isn't to get rich off of ultra-running. In my experiences as an Assistant Race Director, Race Director and Runner.. I know better than that. We see a lot of people directing races these days. They're popping up all over. Many of these races are being directed by folks who have never run an ultra and they imagine directing a race is not only easy work, but a way to make some quick cash based on the substantial growth of our sport. I know better.

As a race director I'm committed to the following principles: 
I encourage all runners to embrace a communal spirit during all of my events, official or otherwise. I want you to forge new relationships, learn from and about each other, encourage each other, and care for each other.

I acknowledge that those who finish last; work just as hard, and are just as committed, as those who finish first. I will uphold the old school traditions of Ultra-running by presenting the same awards to those who finish last, as those who finish first. I'll offer no cash prizes at my races and front runners will receive no special treatment over the back-of-the-pack.

My races are designed with the utmost respect for runners and non-runners alike, local and federal municipalities, local residents, land managers and businesses. While I acknowledge that it is nearly impossible to please everyone, I'll do my very best to respect and please the majority.

My goal is to organize and direct a collection of races and running events. From the FREE Fat Ass events which truly celebrates running as a free endeavor, to full blown official races complete with unique finishers awards. I am determined to not price gouge runners, and charge them a fair price to simply cover race overhead, and make enough to allow the races to continue in years ahead. Ultimately, my races are truly going to be by runners, and for runners. I'm not going to make a one and done event. I want my races to mimic the same dedication and spirit as those events hosted by Doc Horton. I hope you'll support me.. and join me.