Are we too focused on Ultras?

July 30, 2013 in Article by Eric Eagan

Each month I participate in the TrailRunner Magazine Blogger Symposium – This months question hit home for me instantly.

Is there too much emphasis in the (trail-running) media on ultra distances?

I opened up the September 2013 issue of TrailRunner magazine to take a look – After all – They are the ones posing this question.  There were your traditional pages – Then there were the “coverage” or the “feature stories” as I call them, You know, the long ones. –  Let’s take a look at how this month shakes out

In The Company Of Strangers – Ultra (and friendship) but ultra

Entrepreneurial Endevavors -Not Ultra

Making tracks – Ultra

Masters Class – Ultra

Unlugged – Not Ultra

Trail Towns – Not Ultra

Venga! Venga! Ultra

Skirting Tradition – Not Ultra

Ask The Coach – A mix

Crank Up The Cadece – Not

Nutrition – Mixed, photo used from an Ultra Race though

Toxic Soup – Not Ultra

What Is A Trail – Not Ultra

While TrailRunner did a decent job of mixing things up, the two main works in this months edition covered ultra running – While both dug deeper, and told a story – the story in the end was about running a distance that was more than a marathon.

I think we do focus on Ultras too much in the trail running community. We know who won Western States but not who won the cross country or mountain running championships (unless we are avid fans).

We know the guy in our city who runs ultras all the time and we talk about him almost in reverence, but we may not know the guy who can crush an 8k of climbing single track.

Here at #TrailsRoc we put on our first ever race The 0 SPF in July (www.TrailsRoc.org/0spf )- a 1/2 Marathon on trails to great success . Before everyone was even across the finish line someone said to me “That was a great race, you guys should think about producing an ultra event – I would sign up.”

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In the trail running world – not just the media – Ultra Running is becoming the go to distance for coverage – I suppose the same thing occurs in the road running scene where the marathon is king.

I would like to see overall numbers, but the “eye test” is telling me most of our sports coverage is on the long and far of side of things- How many guys who won 15 mile trail races have best selling books? (yes plural) – You gotta run 100 miles to sell that book!

We have a page on facebook called ” #TrailsRoc – Trail and Ultra Runners Connect”. It is a place where we can organize runs so people do not have to plan long trail runs alone –  Everyone can post saying how far they are running – what pace – and where -Then people can join them.

This week, this comment popped up in there “I’m kinda Jealous that I’m just training for a marathon and not an ultra trail cause I’d rather be on the trail, is that normal? but i know logically I need to complete my steps one at a time…”

See what’s happening here ? In the trail running world  people are starting to get the perception that in order to run trails – You need to run a 50k. It is scary for a new runner – Heck it is scary for an experienced runner to think about an event that will take you through the woods for 30+ miles. Intimidating might be a better word.

The runner who left that comment missed the “Trail Runner” part of Trail and Ultra Runners connect and immediately felt that a looped run in Mendon Ponds must be  prepping someone to run the Mendon 50K this fall… Not thinking how fun it would be to run 1 loop (6.2 miles) on trails with friends to prep for a short trail race.

Rochester is fortunate to be loaded with great trail races – and yes a few Ultras – This might be the best trail RACING scene in the country - Yellow Jacket Racing - Goose Adventure Racing - Eastern Grip Trail Series - GVH - Dam Good - And yes, #TrailsRoc all produce trail specific events that compete at less than the ultra distance-

As far as I can tell only one has ever received proper media attention and that is the Segahunda Trail Marathon; “Best Trail Marathon You’ve Never Heard Of” in RunnersWorld -

 

****** EDITORS NOTE *******

It seems we missed that the Muddy Sneaker - one of the best trail races around has been named by Runners World as one of the “5 best trail races in America” Hows that for some fantastic local news?

Segahunda actually rolls in at 26.3 miles so it can call itself an Ultra – - Wonder why that one got the press? Besides being truly deserving – The distance surely helped.

I think it might be time to give some love to the little guy in our magazines – twitter accounts – and race organizations –  Shorter trail runs have value – in fact they are how this sport will grow – Not Ultras. They are the base and the future of the sport.

I heard from about 20 runners that our race – the 0 SPF was their first ever trail run – or first ever half marathon – We had 4600 feet of elevation change (ultra runners love knowing your elevation stats) – They tackled our event with the same vigor some runners tackle events like Transvulvcania (83k). The finish line smiles and joy and sense of accomplishment were worth no less to them than they are to Killian,  Anton,  and Sage -

Greeting runners at the finish is so rewarding!
The Joy of the finish is great no matter the distance

Well to the runners they weren’t worth less – the running media doesn’t seem to pay these events as much focus. I get it – Big events draw big readership which draws big money-

It’s a business -

Yet to most of your readers – running is just the opposite of a business – It’s raw – it’s joyful – It’s therapy – it’s a number of things – They all deserve their story to be told too, don’t they?

Sure someday #TrailsRoc might put on an Ultra race – It probably will be amazing with tons of elevation and  beautiful single track, but for now – Our next event will be fun -

Ready -Set – Glow! A night time trail run with the trail lit with glow sticks and a black light party at the end – It’s “only” 5 miles.  But it’s 5 miles of fun – 5 miles of single track – 5 miles of laughing and jumping rocks and logs with your friends while wearing a headlamp – Those 5 miles  deserve as much attention as the winner of  Leadville -

Why?

Because those 5 miles might be someones Leadville.

That’s why.

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Eric Eagan Eric Eagan (52 Posts)

Eric Eagan is is an avid and passionate runner living in Greece, NY. Eric tells his stories about the Western NY running scene in a unique way while sprinkling in his goals of motivating others to start running, keep running, and love running.When Eric is not running or writing about running, he is hiking the Adirondak Mountains, the Finger Lakes Trail, snowshoeing the trails and hills of Western NY, or canoeing the waterways of New York State.