Thursday, October 16, 2014

The RD: Final Commentary

This is it, the final post in this incredibly long series of posts on Race Directing. My goal with this series was to offer up my own perspective on race directing. To share what I've learned and to hopefully dispel a number of myths that exist out there. I'll let you figure out what those myths are or are not. But ultimately, jumping back into Race Directing has continued to teach me about the changes in resource management, and the changes in ultra running. In this final post, I'm wrapping this series up with some thoughts, opinions, comments, and what-have-yous. Again.. this is a personal blog. It's a place where I get to share my thoughts and opinions based on my own personal experiences, and gained knowledge over time. You may not agree with what you read here, and I'm OK with that. To each his own.. take it with a grain of salt I guess and remember.. we as Ultra Runners have been encouraged for a few years now to "Vote with our wallets."


First, Over the years I have made a number of comments on this blog about race directors making a living doing what they do. In becoming a Full-Time Race Director myself now, I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt that Race Directing is a LOT of work and is more thankless a job than you'd imagine. However, being a race director was my choice. I feel I am ultimately owed nothing. I decided to be an RD for a number of reasons: To give back to my sport, to bring Ultra back to the roots that I know and understand, and to offer something different in Colorado. Now.. yes, RD's do in fact deserve to be compensated for their time and effort. That was the hardest thing for me to admit and it took 13 of my friends to nail that into my thick, stubborn, ultra running skull. I still do not believe it is appropriate for an RD to make upwards of $35,000+ on the directing of ONE race. However, throw in training camps, other shorter events, and/or an entire series of runs.. and I can see where the salary is warranted. One of my goals was not to come into race directing with the idea of getting rich quick or capitalizing on the "boom." Because, even though business is business, treating Ultra like that is personally insulting to me. So I designed a series, so I could make a little money off of each event, that some day might equal a decent yearly salary for my entire year of work. This is what I view as fair and appropriate and I think this line of thought will help keep my entry fee's respectful towards runners.

There are a number of people who think that I'm new to this. I'm not. Again, I co-directed a popular and tough 50-Mile run in Vermont. In 2008 I directed North America's First (and at the time only) 200 Mile Trail Race. That same race was also host to a 50 and 100 mile distance. I've personally run in nearly 50 official ultras, and have finished 15 official 100-mile races. This isn't a fun little hobby for me. I take what I am doing and what I'm capable of doing for the sport of Ultra very seriously. I'm NOT a new RD, and I'm NOT just some guy trying to capitalize on the boom.

I've written and re-written this post a number of times now. There is a LOT of information I'd love to share, but in the end, it's just not worth it. It also goes against the very thing I'm trying to build here in Colorado.. which is ultimately a better Ultra Community. What you are about to read is the final, most PC version I could write. The version I could write without doing to other RD's the kind of carnage and unethical business tactics they've done to others. That's right, I said it. A majority of race directors lack real integrity, they lack very real knowledge of the sport, they are careless of it's past, and they are unethical in their business practices.

With that in mind.. Race Directing is more cut-throat in this area than it ever needs to be. I am actually quite disappointed by what I have experienced over the last year in my quest to do this. It is very clear that the ultra "community" is now the ultra "business" on all fronts. I've been denied advertising my races at other ultras because I'm "the competition." I've been ignored by other RD's with the same request simply because he "doesn't like me." I feel I am unfairly judged by some of the RD's in this area, based solely by the fact that I'm apparently in some kind of competition with them. I don't look at it like that. This is a community. A community that I'm trying to build, bring closer together, and make better for the few thousand ultra-runners here in Colorado. That's my goal. Either you're on board with that.. or you're just looking to make a buck.

As I've muddled through the long process of creating a race series and obtaining permits, I've hit a number of road blocks. Road blocks that have been put in place because of the costly mistakes of a few other race directors. It is no secret, that UROC has done some damage in our mountain communities that now prevents anyone from getting a race permit for anything in White River National Forest. Not a 5K, or a 10K, or a vertical mile.. nothing. For no one.

Regardless of what you hear.. the effects of the 2013 Leadville 100 are deeply rooted in the high country communities. Every single time I approach a land manager, town/city, county.. proposing a race, I have to spend more time talking about how I'm not Leadville, and how I'm different than Leadville, than who I actually am and what I want to bring. The small local communities in Colorado's High Country want nothing to do with Leadville or that type of race series. Only Leadville wants anything to do with Leadville. Surrounding towns call it a fiasco. When they hear that another race is coming to their town, they immediately come out to fight it. That's sad... and these two races have proven that everything everyone else does out there, affects all the others. There are no two ways about it. I view it as Greed vs. Community in our sport. Again.. what side are you on? This recent article provides more insight into what Leadville is about.. which is the money. Whether that be for the town, or Lifetime, matters not. It's a corporate money making machine that slips through loop holes and is doing more damage to our sport than good. I truly believe that, regardless of what the politician Mr. Chlouber will tell us. I'm not in this for the money, I'm in this for the community and the sport.

We have Races that are one and done. Races that are cancelled before they even happen. We also have the races that cancel because, "Not enough elite runners signed up" (looking at you Red Bull Rise). We have race directors giving runners Ibuprofen at the finish line for their discomfort. We have races that do not follow through on the promises laid out in their permit, leaving course markings and litter out on the course for upwards of a year post event.. leaving land managers no choice but to deny re-permiting of these events, and also putting a block on any new events coming in. We have RD's who don't even preview the course they design.. not themselves, and not another runner.. before sending runners out there.

The examples I've listed above do more damage to those of us looking to do thing right; do right by the runners and land managers; that it's becoming increasingly harder to host an event and earn the trust of runners. No one wants to run a first year race anymore.. because sometimes the mistakes make the training all for not, or the expense to travel a bust. Imagine if you paid a few hundred dollars to run a race, a few more hundred in travel expenses, just to take part in a race directed by someone who has no idea what they're doing.. you'd be pretty damn pissed. This is the stuff that's happening.

If you are interested in becoming a race director.. I beg you.. please don't do it for the money. Do it because you LOVE ultra running and you want to give back. Don't try and "throw it together" or "make it work" or whatever... Find out what the community needs, wants.. and create it. Don't just do it to do it. Don't just build it to have it.. think. Work! WANT! But be prepared.. it's HARD work. You'll be plunged into the world of dealing with various bureaucracies and no two are alike. You are a business owner. This "community" is gone, it's dead. It's not about the runners anymore.. it's about business. Plan to weave your way through that. You are not just a business owner. You're not just a logistics guru. You are the risk manager. Your job is to create a quality event and keep people safe. Business, money, greed, the numbers... that should all come last. In my opinion of course. Good luck