Race Organization Responsibilities

Yesterday afternoon, I was alerted to a troubling pattern at a particular ultramarathon (more on that later) and that got me thinking as to what I think a race organization is absolutely accountable for and what aspects I think deserve some leeway when they occur at a minimal level in isolation from a generalized failure to follow through by a race organization. Obviously, a totally screwed up race is a totally screwed up race even if it’s death comes by a thousand little mistakes. The following lists of Absolutes and Acceptables are off-the-cuff thoughts to spur conversation rather than dogmatic proclamations. Please be civil in your discussions and try to keep the examples generic (i.e., don’t do as I do and name race names).

Absolute Responsibilities

  • Assessing whether the race can be run safely by the entire field. We all want to run the races we prepare for, but I feel that a race organization has an obligation to make the tough call to postpone, re-route, or cancel a race to avoid putting runners an unanticipated or otherwise unreasonably dangerous situation (i.e., wildfires and freak snowstorms).
  • Adequate water for every runner at every location at which water access has been noted.
  • Food or some type for every runner at every location at which food has been noted.
  • Aid stations set up before the first runner arrives … even if he or she is well ahead of schedule.
  • Marking all intersections and confusing course sections (unless the need to navigate is prominently noted as an aspect of the race).
  • Pay all prize money and vendors in a timely fashion.

Acceptable Lapses

  • Running out of a certain type of food or drink, even if advertized, if other options are available.
  • Sparse course markings by which I mean very infrequent markings, but with all intersections adequately marked. Very sparse course markings are 100% acceptable at races that prominently note the lightly marked nature of the course.
  • Little to no race day coverage/live web updates.
  • Slow posting of race results.
  • Inadequate supply of promised race swag (i.e. shirts, backpacks, belt buckles), when promised swag is later delivered.

Again, I think that there are bounds to the amount of wiggle room a race has regarding “acceptable lapses.”

In addition, I think slight miscalculations regarding food, beverages, swag, etc and well as less than perfect course marking are acceptable and almost to be expected for a first-time event. I’m sure directing a race is a learning process and all we can ask is that all-too-human members of race organizations continue to improve their races year-after-year as they learn from their mistakes. As runners, we should provide ourselves with the means for greater risk tolerance when running inaugural events.

UltraCentric’s Ultra Failure
I am hesitant to call anyone out in public. In fact, I can’t remember ever having done so on iRunFar. Today that changes, hopefully only briefly, as I bring to light a longstanding and ongoing wrong in the ultrarunning community by the UltraCentric races in Texas.

According to Adam Chase, the attorney for Hungarian runner Vozar “Laszlo” Attila, the UltraCentric race director has failed to pay Mr. Attila, the 24-hour champion from 2008 the $4,000 in prize money he is owed. (He ran 146.034 miles.) [As of November 22, 2011, I have confirmed with Mr. Chase that Mr. Attila was paid after the original publication of this article and after nearly three years of non-payment.] The RD has similarly failed to pay the Irish winner of the 2008 48-hour race, Tony Mangan, after the last minute addition of a minimum mileage requirement. (He ran 203.984 miles.) In the case of Mr. Attila, he is a Hungarian who traveled to UltraCentric on his own dime.

In my opinion, Mr. Chase’s accusations are sufficiently reinforced by the email correspondence I’ve been provided, my conversation with him, and his many years as a highly visible and respected member of the trail running community himself. Mr. Chase is representing Mr. Attila pro bono, so I further trust that Mr. Chase’s statements are made out of ongoing respect for the sport and its runner rather than monetary gain. Furthermore, Mr. Chase’s statements are echoed by similar accusations both here on iRunFar and on other running and mountain biking websites that the race director, Robert Tavernini, has repeatedly defrauded prize money winners and failed to pay the race’s vendors in a timely manner over the course of many years. I have never seen a similar string of statements directed against another race director.

I am not alone in my reproach of UltraCentric. Sponsor Hammer Nutrition has temporarily pulled its sponsorship of the events until the matter with Mr. Attila is resolved. Furthermore, the USATF has admonished Mr. Tavernini and withdrawn its sanctioning of the events. I’m all for supporting independent events and for continuing longstanding traditions. (Approaching their 25th running, the 24- and 48-hour events are the oldest such events in the country.) That said, I will not stand idly by while a race organization disrespects members of the ultrarunning community and the companies that assist in putting on such events.

Should Mr. Tavernini provide Mr. Attila and Mr. Mangan with their hard-won winnings, provide an adequate explanation of his failure to do so previously or apologize for not having done so, and demonstrate that he will be operating in a more forthright and honest manner going forward, then I will happy reverse my stance and welcome the race back into the ultrarunning community. Until then, I will not run, cover, or otherwise recognize the UltraCentric races here on iRunFar. You can make your own decisions about the event.

Call for Comments
What do you think are acceptable and completely unacceptable failures on the part of a race organization? Do we need trail and ultrarunning race sanctioning such as USATF does for road races? (For more on trail race sanctioning by the American Trail Running Association, check out my article in the latest issue of Trail Runner Magazine.)

Again, please keep these comments civil, constructive, and, preferably, without the use of race names. (Yes, I realize the hypocrisy in this request.) Inflammatory anonymous comments will be deleted.

Significant Edits
9/30/11 12 p.m. – Identified Adam Chase as an information source.
11/22/11 10 a.m. – Removed call for boycott and final substantive paragraph calling for avoidance of Mr. Tavernini’s other business ventures. Note added to reflect payment of Mr. Attila after the original publication of this article. Added note to further explain the issue of Mr. Mangan’s non-payment. Revised the sentence beginning “Furthermore, Mr. Chase’s” to remove ambiguity.

There are 81 comments

  1. Andrew Brautigam

    There was a huge thread about this over at MTBR (endurance mountain biking forum, specifically) and the same stuff was confirmed. The dude is a jerk.

  2. Eric Grossman

    Bryon,

    Your list is well informed by experience and bound to be similar to what most of us would say. One variable you didn't define, though, is how professionalized the race organization is. I'd cut a lot more slack to an all-volunteer organization that keeps race entry costs low and returns all proceeds to the running community. I completely respect race organizers who also make a professional career of it, but I also have higher expectations in that case.

    And if I may call you out a bit (since you are now a professional journalist!), you haven't reported the response you got (or failed to get) when you tried to contact Mr. Tavernini for comment. Given the potency of your statements against him, I'm hoping you did try.

    Eric

    1. Bryon Powell

      Eric,

      I'm still learning the journalistic ropes in terms of writing, but Mr. Tavernini has failed to adequately respond to my source and has not yet responded to my own inquiry.

      As for you points on volunteer vs professional race organizers, I'd completely agree. The standard for the latter is higher as they've learned skills, needs, and pitfalls from other events that can be transferred to new events. There are still probably still some course-specific issue that still might slip through the cracks, but in large part they should be anticipated and mitigated.

      Thanks for the great comment (both parts).

      1. Nick Clark

        Bryon – one other note on journalistic standards I would raise is on the use of unnamed sources, which quite frankly is akin to leaving anonymous comments: not credible. If people are not prepared to go on the record and be accountable for their assertions, then quite frankly it is not worth reporting.

        I would suggest a degree of caution with these kind of articles – or at least a little more objectivity. If the UltraCentric RD has indeed not responded to your inquiry, and you feel that you have given him sufficient time to respond, then you need to report that.

        Remember, you are defaming someone personally in this article, and potentially damaging a livelihood. You need to be very careful that you are reporting facts and not emotions.

        1. Bryon Powell

          Nick,

          Thanks for the comment. The use of an unnamed source is certainly worth exploring. I've not taken a journalism class nor have a read widely on the subject, but I've read many a news outlet's work and it seems that unnamed sources are quite common even in the most trusted of media outlets.

          I would agree that I must use caution with such articles. However, I've previously received complaints re the RD on iRunFar itself, found many other examples of similar activity from a wide range of sources online, have contacted the RD (the time for response was quite short, but I consider this a breaking story given how this was brought to my attention), and would personally and professionally trust my source with iRunFar's credibility without hesitation.

          Again, your comment is MUCH appreciated. I'm just laying out my thoughts here.

          1. Alex

            Having been through journalism school quite recently, I can say that the currently taught model says unnamed sources are perfectly viable, if not always preferable. There are certain circumstances in which information can only be obtained – or more often, reported – without naming the source. That may make some uncomfortable, but it's the nature of the beast.

            1. Nick Clark

              With all due respect Alex, and not to get too tangential, but I hardly think this qualifies as a story where a source's identity needs to be protected.

              Bryon – the problem with unnamed sources is that the veracity of their claims cannot be verified – often a reason they don't want to be quoted. I guess I see quoting unnamed sources as no more than rumor spreading – and this is not a knock on you, just an opinion.

              To Tim's point below on the inaccurate elevation details – a major oversight indeed, especially for a short loop type of event.

              However, in my experience, races are often way off in their elevation change estimations – usually grossly exaggerating (or miscalculating) to the upside. For a mountain type of event, I would categorize this as an acceptable lapse, as long as an accurate course profile is also offered on the website. For a loop type of event, probably a more serious oversight.

        2. Bryon Powell

          The source is now named. It's Adam Chase, a person for whom I couldn't have more respect for as a trail runner or as a fellow attorney. My apologies for not naming him from the outset. I am always willing to learn from my mistakes. Thanks for helping me along with that process.

        3. Mike Place

          I think I agree with Nick. Though I trust and admire Bryon personally and professionally, this sort of thing gives me a little bit of pause. I think I'd feel slightly more comfortable if the article simply reported what's known and who knows it instead of calling for action based on unnamed sources.

          In fact, on my first reading of this I felt like the emotional aspect actually undercut the power of what are almost certainly real and accurate facts. What's known about the situation ought to stand alone instead of being over-seasoned with an appeal to action.

          That's my preference, though as always, I appreciate the great work Bryon and his team do with the site.

          1. Bryon Powell

            Mike,
            I've now named the source. As for calling for action, this is a very rare instance where I've taken an editorial bent in addition to providing the facts. As someone just pointed out to me in reassurance of my calls for action, such calls are often made by organization in the power to or with the desire to effect change. Here, it is readily apparent that there has been an ongoing series of wrongs to a community I care deeply about. That caring does inject emotion into the mix, for sure. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for me to simply state the facts and leave the response implied. In this one instance, I could not sit on my hands. I've considered retracting the call for a boycott, as I'm cognizant of the person effect it could have on Mr. Tavernini, but comments in this thread only reinforce that there's a situation that needs to be corrected and I will use my position to try and urge those corrections along.

            1. Mike Place

              I don't disagree with you regarding the importance of the story at all. Clearly, it's something that needs to be brought to the attention of the community. I'm grateful that you're courageous and diligent in doing so.

              I'm just pointing out that editorializing and calling for action by its very nature taints the presentation of the facts. Though I trust you (and in turn trust the story) because I know you personally, if I were new to the site, there's a chance that I wouldn't.

              Perhaps I'd feel better if articles were clearly marked as 'News' vs. 'Opinion'? I know I shouldn't *need* that distinction because it ought to be self-evident, but somehow it makes me feel better as a reader? I'll have to think more about why that is.

              Obviously though, the real point here is that we need to go for a run in the Wasatch and then drink some beers until we figure this out. ;]

            2. Bryon Powell

              You're final point is your best point. ;-)

              Seriously, I'm open to all this discussion. As I usually keep my opinion as far away as possible from most "issues," I'm still learning my voice and getting a feel for how to handle such situations in which I feel I need to take an issue head on. I agree that calls for action and even editorializing inherent call into question bias and the presentation of facts. I really like your idea for labeling…. though this one is a bit news and a bit editorializing sandwiched in a standard iRunFar discussion piece. Oh boy!

  3. Jeremy

    Absolute Responsibility: Providing the drop bags entrusted to the RD and staff, at the locations promised. Watching my fiance hobble for the extra 13-ish miles to get her knee brace was pretty sad. No excuses 2010 "Pee See Tea, Nifty."

  4. adamiata

    For whatever my opinion is worth, I don't see any need for sanctioning of trail ultras. Having more centralized organization will unavoidably add more overhead and cost, as well as increase the risk nit-picky rules and a less casual atmosphere. In exchange for this, what does the race community get?

    USATF affiliation didn't prevent any of UltraCentrics abuses.

  5. Terry Miller

    I agree completely. I think having you out there reporting this sort of thing is invaluable, because there is no other way most of us would hear about this sort of thing, which enables either shady or irresponsible types to operate without accountability.

    I heard about another disturbing situation as well, in which a RD's personal emergency(which I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for) caused the entire organization to not show up for a race. The runners showed up, many of whom traveled to the event, to find no race. Seems having a few trained volunteers or at least finding someone to step in as a backup RD wouldn't have been too much to ask. Not actually putting on the race or making an attempt to contact the entrants is an unacceptable lapse, in my book.

    FTR, I have in the past heard nothing but good things about that organization, and was planning to travel to one of their events in the Bay Area, but now have to re-think things. I simply don't have the time or money to train for/travel to an event that might not be there…

    1. frances

      I was one of the runners that showed up and sat around for this race. While it's understandable that the RD had a personal emergency, I agree that there was really no excuse. Even if one person is in a coma, others should be able to pick up the slack. One person doesn't mark an entire course for four separate distances and set up/ man multiple aid stations and start/finish.

  6. Curtis

    This is a troubling to read because the couple times I ran Ultracentric it was a great experience. It met all the requirements you put down. They even went beyond and sent a personal note thanking me for running it and gave great personalized awards.

    I haven't run the race in a few years (since they moved it from Lake Grapevine). I heard some complaints about the course elevation gain being wrong after they moved it. But I never heard winners say they weren't paid. Didn't David Goggins win one year?

    Anyhow, if all these allegations are true I don't think I'd run it again until a new RD takes over. But I'd like to hear what the RD has to say, if anything. I'm also curious if these runners have sued for their prizes? It wouldn't be too difficult or even expensive to do in civil court if it's this black and white.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Curtis,

      I've emailed, but not yet heard back from the RD, but would welcome his response any time. As for the court option, I know there's a $350 filing fee in the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. That's steep when you're talking about a $4000 award. The fee is likely less in local court, but I'm no expert in jurisdiction.

      1. Curtis

        I also noticed on Ultra Centric's website that they claim he only won $3000 (and a 1 ounce gold coin?). See, http://www.ultracentric.net/results/2008/running….. But $2650 is better than nothing. On top of that I'd also ask for attorney fees and court costs which would probably be awarded and even interest on the amount over this 3 years. But my point is more just that it seems weird they haven't done more than this article mentions to get a lot of money owed to them. I'm skeptical about this right now.

        1. Bryon Powell

          Mr. Attila' attorney has been attempting to resolve this out of course since January. It was only when Hammer Nutrition pulled its sponsorship in late September that Mr. Tavernini responded to Mr. Chase at all. I have no idea where this will go from here.

          1. Curtis

            Thanks for the clarification about the source and that an attorney is working with him. That's a lot of money. I'm sad to read about this because they seemed to treat participants well. But you've removed my skepticism. I'm also interested to see where this goes.

    1. footfeathers

      Yeah, Olga, that was the same year the course loop was reported as being "9.5 ft climb". It was actually 150, so 100 laps would be 15,000 ft climb! You could imagine someone who trained for a fast flat course showing up and seeing the reality. 24hr loop events are more mental (in my opinion) than 100 mile courses and that misrepresentation of the course would be a big mental obstacle.

      Just to further clarify what Bryon has written here: Laszio received two checks, both of which were insufficient funds. Bryon's "source" also brought this matter to Inside Trail's attention. He is representing Laszio pro bono. I read through the string of emails in the attempt to reach the RD, who has refused to talk about it or accept responsibility.

      Several people from that race, both runners and mtbers have commented that the awards presentations were "disorganized" at best, and dishonest at worse. The men's solo mtb 24hr winner was sent home to FL without being paid. I've attempted to contact him to get a comment and see whether/when he received his prize money.

      I'm working on an article about it and am using a more journalistic and objective methodical process. This is a guy's livelihood and it's best to get all the facts before crushing the race and the RD. I did event management and chip timing for a living for 5 years and defamation over one year's event could ruin a career.

      With that said, I have no problem exposing someone who doesn't follow through with advertised incentives to gain participation.

      Tim

  7. StephenJ

    One other absolute requirement I'd add: Reasonably accurate millage descriptions. I realize not every course can be measured with survey grade accuracy, but millages should be at least close. During the Wasatch I talked to a girl that said she ran a 100 miler in BC that actually ended up being 125 miles.

  8. Tracy Thomas

    Mr. Tavernini also failed to pay up on multiple, high-dollar, full page, color ads in Marathon & Beyond. Perhaps in other made also. Not sure if he ever did pay them or not, but I do remember the publisher working on him for months to no avail. I will attest that as a participant, I experienced first hand, how dishonest Mr. Tavernini was and how he deceived runners to get them there and then failed to pay prize moneys. It will be a while before/if I ever go back.

    1. footfeathers

      Hey Tracy,

      Were you paid your prize money (if you qualified for it)? If so, was it delayed and mailed to you after the event? That seems to be the pattern I've heard from participants.

      On a side note, I'm surprised M&B didn't get paid before the ads were published.

      Interesting stuff, for sure.

      Tim

  9. Terry Miller

    Hey Bryon

    I enjoyed the way you wrote the article. Some have questioned that you editorialized and used unnamed sources. If someone is a smart, critical thinker like that, let them read the article and view it through that filter(like I did). The thing most of us love about iRunFar is that it is clearly not an antiseptic distillation of the latest news and results, but it is obviously presented from the point of view of someone who's out there with the runners, loving the sport and the community.

    If anyone thinks that anyone who uses unnamed sources is untrustworthy, they should not believe news from any major, mainstream outlets, because they all do. There are any number of reasons why a perfectly honest source would hesitate to be named publicly. Also, it would be foolish to believe that just because a source IS named, it is automatically reliable.

    We're smart readers, here. Continue to publish what is of interest to our community using the diligence and ethics you've demonstrated thus far, and we'll keep reading it and enjoying it.

  10. christian

    all this journalism worry and concern is one reason why Run100Miles.com will never, ever have the readership that Byron does…

    …well, that, and the uber hip-hop, gone-surfing writing style of the author is a complete joke.

    But, anyway, I remember all this fluff from back in like 2008, 2009 when Tracy Thomas called the dude out. I think she's owed some dough, too. But I don't know for sure, nor did I fact check, or check emails – I just blurt out stuff.

    Rock on bad brutha's in all your elite glory and stuff.

    I'm jealous.

    Slow, DNF dude, and author of run a hundy miles dot com

    Holla!

  11. Adam W. Chase

    As the now-named source, I have to commend Bryon for doing a great public service in rather gently "outing" a race director who has been doing a real disservice to the ultra community of both runners and mountain bikers. We runners are actually quite easy going compared to the MTB forums that have given the Mr. Tavernini quite the lashing.

    Bryon likely didn't name me because he appreciates that doing a case pro bono is often a "no good deed goes unpunished" situation and wanted to limit the amount of time and energy this whole thing has extracted. I appreciate that and the way that Bryon has diplomatically handled the situation. If you saw the string of e-mails that I've had in trying to get Mr. Tavernini to do right by my client and others, you'd have a difficult time maintaining an even keel and Bryon did that admirably and should be lauded for bringing this to people's attention in a relatively objective manner.

    Thank you, Bryon!

  12. Alex

    As per this specific instance, I don't disagree in the slightest. Neither do I take offense at your disagreeing; one is certainly justified in questioning the status quo of journalistic ethics. However, though it may not be needed in this case (and indeed, is now a non-issue), unnamed sources do have value in certain circumstances.

  13. Speedgoatkarl

    It's sad that a race director can't make payment. I never understood why the few times I've won money at a race. White River years ago, I had to wait for a check for a few months. I got it, and now worries, but RD's should be able to give a check right at the finish line, done.

    At the Speedgoat 50k, it comes in the form of Ben Franklin's. Nick Clark was stunned when I gave him the money in cash when he crossed. All races should pay out right away.

    Ultracentric once offered me some cash to go down there and run, glad I'm not a circle runner, sounds like I"d still be waiting for it.

    It's ultrarunning…..next.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Karl, In thinking about and writing this piece, I couldn't help but think about how you went above and beyond to make things right prize-wise when some leaders went off course during Speedgoat this year. That's class and execution!

    2. Mike Place

      More proof that everybody should come and run the Speedgoat.

      Not only is it the toughest 50K on earth, but you get to see exactly how a race *should* be run. (Except for that one course official in Mineral Basin who was slacking. That guy sucks! Karl should make him run the race next year as punishment!)

      1. Speedgoatkarl

        I'm making Larry run the race twice! It was all his fault with that marshall issue. WE were there Thursday two days before the race and he failed. I threw Larry into his own hole after that one. :-)

        It will not happen again.

        For those who don't know what Bryon is talking about, I offered $500 to win, but the 3 leaders went off course, so instead of them running "discouraged", I upped the anti to $1000 to win. Made the race still happpen. And because Nick Pedatella got caught, Nick Clark won the $1000. Nick Pedatella got 2nd place prize. Joe Grant came in third, and was one of the three that got off course. I paid him the second place prize. Ben Lewis ended 4th, but was also in that group of 3. They said they lost about 20 minutes. Ben came in 4th, but only about 15 minutes behind Clark, the winner. I gave Ben the 3rd place prize, a Patagonia Down Sweater. I hate it when we go off course, that was the best way to correct the problem. Noone got shined. Had Pedatella held of Nick Clark, they both would have recieved $1000. Thanks Nick Clark for saving me some cash. I had enough cash in my pocket that day to take care of it, had it happened that way. it ended up being a great race till the end.

  14. Guy

    In instances such as the fiasco down in Texas, is there any real way right now of ousting a race director from his/her position? This could be a benefit of sanctioning races; although any sanctioning is trivial until it becomes the norm.

  15. CJ

    2008 must have been the 'Year of Screwing over Prize Winners'. I won a pair of ASICS shoes at a 50k trail race in Michigan Aug 2008. They said, "we don't have the certificate yet, but when we get it, we'll mail it to you." Never received it in the mail, followed up with them several times, still nothing. And temps even reached 90 degrees with 80% humidity that day!! Those shoes were certainly earned. Let me know if you want names :-)

  16. Jacob Rydman

    Sort of off-topic, but worth noting. After reading various stories of RD's not getting the job done, it reminded me of how thankful I am for those RD's who do get the job done. For example, I'm sure some, if not most of us have run a Julie Fingar event (Way Too Cool 50k, American River 50, Dick Collins Firetrails 50, Sierra Nevada Endurance Run, Last Chance 50) and I super appreciate all the work Julie and her team do during these events. Just this past weekend for Sierra Nevada, Julie was a few weeks removed from her 100-mile win at Rio Del Lago, obviously tired still as it was a brutally hot day that day, but again, put on a fantastic event with quality support all the way around. I have no idea what RD's have to go through (great insight in an article just before Western States on RD Greg Soderlund in the Sacramento Bee), but am thankful for those who do it right and for those who are open to honest feedback in order to make their event even better.

  17. Jeff

    I think this goes to Eric's point above – each race is different. I'd want accuracy on a loop course (elevation and distance) and at a more high profile event (WS, NF50, etc). At smaller races or local races I would expect the distances and elevation profile to be more guesswork.

    I think the important point here is know your RDs well and race and support their races. We are fortunate in the PNW to have several really good RDs who put on really good races. And they vary in personality so after a time you come to know what to expect from their races.

    For this reason I'm also not in favor of sanctioned trail races. What's to sanction? Each race is different in a variety of ways it's not even close to an apples to apples comparison the way a road race would be. And what's the point? The point for sanctioning road races is for world records and to verify qualifiers for other events. I suppose WS could use "sanctioned races" for this purpose but they've de facto created a sanctioning standard by listing the races that count as qualifiers. As has Hard Rock. I don't want nor need them to share from the same sanctioning list.

  18. lane

    At the end of the day it's Bryon's website and blog. He can write whatever he wants, and give HIS own opinion based on the facts presented. You don't have to have a degree in journalism to have a blog, just an opinion and some passion. Bryon has a hell of a of a lot more than a journalism degree. They call that a Law Degree folks. Give him some credit, the whole point of reading things like this is to formalize an opinion yourself. It's not like he said the sky is green today. These are documented facts with a paper trail from point A to B. I give Bryon two thumbs up.

  19. Sarah Lavender Smith

    Kudos Bryon & I agree w/ Terry Miller's comments & also Lane's. Someone needs to get these issues out in the open & offer commentary because it's affecting a lot of runners, and if someone doesn't try to report on the news, then all we're left with is gossip. I actually hadn't heard about UltraCentric, and when I saw your headline I thought you were going to wade into the unfortunate turn of events here in the Bay Area with PCTR. What a mess, with a lot of hard feelings surfacing online. Someone needs to sort it out and tell the story, so thanks for trying to do that with this race organization.

  20. Brandon Mulnix

    After getting a behind the scenes peak at a race this past fall and a different one in the spring, my one conclusion is.. "Race Directing is Hard Work". Some do it because they love the sport, others do it for the money. Making money is perfectly fine, but the race has higher expectations, and volunteers can't be expected to work like dogs.

    One need that isn't on the list is "Food list" What is going to be provided at the aid stations. If you don't have a food list, don't advertise one. Expect a lot more questions or complaints if you don't provide the information.

    Second Big Item- If you allow crew access, provide the maps to get the crews there. Without it you are not "directing" the crews that are there to help the runners. Lost crews can create chaos.

    Brian- Great Work, and its a hard article to write, but needed one to protect runners from Bad Race Directors.

  21. Jason Robillard

    I also commend Bryon in calling out the RD. I have experienced firsthand bad race directing. It ruins the sport.

    I was originally drawn to this sport because of the community. Like Bryon, I feel some responsibility to maintain the integrity of the community. If that means occasionally pointing out a wrong and making a call to action, so be it.

    Keep up the great work, man. You have a lot of barefoot/minimalist shoe runners in your corner. ;-)

    -Jason

  22. Caleb Wilson

    As a newbie RD myself, even I know that most of this stuff is common sense. Although perfection should never be expected and I do think some leeway should be allowed in a new event or for a relatively new RD, this guys actions are unacceptable. This is just fraud or complete incompetence or both.

  23. Ian

    As an ultra community we could all chip in a small amount and , i'm guessing, quickly raise what's owed. Adam, wanna set up that account and tell us where to send checks?

  24. Caleb wilson

    That sounds like a great idea. But is there a possibility of that affecting the judgment once this goes to court if the plaintiff has already recouped what he was owed in some way? Although not necessarily from the corrupt RD?Maybe Adam could answer this question.

  25. Chris

    Great conversation. Here are my one thoughts (a couple with fresh perspective and I hope they don't come across wrong!)

    1. Bryon can write what he wants. This is his blog. Keep it up! We need to know!

    2. RD is a hard job, everyone should volunteer at least a few times a year.

    3. I think a few runners expect too much. When you set out on a 50 or 100 mile run, don't rely on anyone but yourself. Study the course, ensure you carry what you need.

    On the other hand, if the RD advertises ANYTHING, than he/she is responsible for it.

    Let's make sure to hold this guy accountable but don't start the expectation that

  26. Matt Smith

    This might be off topic, but I want to commend the RD, organizers and volunteers at the VT100.

    VASS really know how to put on a great race – superb aid stations, awesome pre/post-race meals, nice prizes for making the podium (I got my gift certs in the mail a week after the race), decent swag, detailed/accurate driving directions for crews, results updated on the web during the race, and all proceeds support a worthy cause (http://www.vermontadaptive.org/)

    Most of the above also goes for the Bear 100.

    For every crappy RD, there are a bunch of others who goes above and beyond to make the race a great experience.

    Hats off to Julia Hutchinson and Leland Barker!

    1. Nat Couture

      I have to agree with this comment! I've run both the 50 miler and the 100 miler put on by VASS and I would recommend this race to anyone. Perhaps a "Rate my Race" style website would be helpful in helping people know what races are worth shelling out cash for.

      Nat

  27. Jim Blanchard

    Time to chime in. Race directing is hard work and and a great responsibility, more then I care to handle. The only thing I ask from a race director is "don't lie to me" and I won't criticize any honest screw-ups that occur. But when RD's take advantage of our good nature and lack of central organization, they need to be called out as Bryon has. Boycott race and sponsors. Let them know that we are not witless fools. We had problems in our area in the past and almost lost a great event because of it. Only huge effort by the next RD and volunteers managed to resurrect it. Let me repeat that I'm not talking about honest mistakes, I can live with those.

  28. Scott

    More often than not, I find myself asking after a race "Now why exactly did I pay that entry fee?" Exorbitant entry fees, poorly marked courses, crabby race directors, aid station food that more resembles a junior high school party than performance oriented foods, watered down sports drinks, unknowledgeable volunteers, course marshalls who don't know the route/mileage/way to go, drop bags thrown in a pile and impossible to find, missing the t-shirt or medal ('we'll send it' … they never do), and so forth.

    I hate to be negative, but truly, more often than not I feel ripped off at ultras. I used to do a race a month (and for this topic used to drive 2000 miles on several Thanksgiving holidays to do Ultracentric way back when it was on the SMU track), but now do just a couple ultras … not because I don't like the distance, but because the races are disappointing when all is said and done.

    Thgere are races that still 'earn their entry fee' but I see that as more the exception than the rule any more.

      1. MikeC

        Isn't that what he said, I don't do many races anymore? I agree with him. What did I just pay for is a common thought for me…

      2. Scott

        Carlos, Having run ultras both in the the USA and abroad since the mid-80s to include 30+ 100 miler (or longer)finishes, I consider myself more a connoisseur of the sport than a whiner. I appreciate a good race – and will attend one this weekend … the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 / Golden Hills Trail Marathon.

        With that 25 years in the sport (and 40 if I include the marathon distance) I believe I have enough experience to know the difference between a '5 star restaurant and Der Wienerschnitzel'. If I pay for a fine meal then a fine meal I expect … no excuses.

        I'll tell you the **finest** race I have ever attended … in all those years … The Sri Chinmoy Multi-Day Races in NYC on Wards Island. For a pittance of an entry fee, I was taken care of like I was Yiannis Kouros … they even gathered up my clothes each day and washed, dryed and folded them … fantastic, delicious meals 24 hours a day … massages … encouragement … accurate laps and timing … shelters … **PERFECTION!**

        I love the sport and hope to enjoy it for many years to come, but I also will keep an eye out for the Schmo who thinks that just because he bought a roll of surveying tape, has 6 card tables, and credit at Costco to buy some Cheetoes and Coke and read Born to Run doesn't give him the right to charge 90 bucks for a 50 km. Well, he has the 'right', but I'm not going to call my disappointment 'whining.'

        I wish everyone the best – fast or slow – prize money contender or cut-off junkie.

        Now, it's off to the shop to grind down the nubbins on my trail shoes and trim down the shoelaces … if I'm going to crush 7 hours for the marathon this weekend, I need some advantage.

    1. Frenchy

      You obviously have not run any of Joe Prusaitis' races. He puts on the best ultras in Texas, including Bandera and Rocky Raccoon. Aid stations and volunteers are top notch and the runners are a top priority. As an ultra runner he knows what runners need and does everything to take care of them.

  29. Chris

    Question: What will the influx of money do to ultra running?

    Answer: This.

    Keep the money out of the sport please. With all due regard to our stars of ultra running, I do not want to see cash prizes.

  30. Brendan

    I would also like to add the organisation 4 deserts to the do not go list.

    Last year they had a runner die in their Gobi Desert corssing due primarily through medical inattention and poor organisation. Runner was only several kms to the finish line, suffered heat stroke and it took several hours to get him attention even though staff were notified.

    Also this year they organised a run through the Kimberly region of Australia. They ran it even knowing there were bushfires in the area and not having done the correct research. End result, four runners horribly burned with 60-80% burns and another run with minor burns all airlifted out after being caught in the bush fires.

    Yes, all this is well publisized in the press so not really calling them out rather bringing it to peoples attention that some organisers really have no idea when it comes to runner safety.

    And unfortunatly I agree that more and more races are being held with little or poor organisation at their core which has resulted in races with no or little track markings as well as food etc.

    The other one I have seen are races that do not consider the needs of the runners and their support crews to easily access checkpoints. This has lead to checkpoints being in the absolute middle of no-where with no running water, toilets or anything and down remote 4wd tracks that people have difficulty getting to. And then try to convince your lovely female support crew to drive down there and back at night…. Costs a heck of a lot in points and jewellery.

    Mind you, hats off to TNF who organise a brilliant race here in Aus :) Also to Glasshouse and Coast to Kosci as well as others who all do a difficult and demanding job as RD.

  31. Art

    A race can be minimally organized and supported as long as its advertised as such.

    A race should be run as advertised, period. no excuses, even for beginner RD's.

    also

    How many RD's actually take themselves home a check after a race?

    Guess, I'm naive, but until recently I assumed most of the races I was running were nonprofits.

    I only ask this because I'm somewhat bothered by enlisting volunteer help to make a profit for oneself.

    1. Jim Skaggs

      Art, non-profit does not equal losing money. I would hope that most RD's make a profit, even if they donate it all to a worthy organization. I have to make a profit at my races, I'm not rich and my family budget wouldn't take the hit if I put on races with the intention of losing money. I can't buy race supplies on my charm and good looks since I have neither. As for volunteering at a "profitable" race, there are tons of events where that happens, think every single Boston Marathon, every single Ford Ironman Tri as well as every big city marathon. They rely on hundreds of volunteers and are clearly profit making enterprises. How many volunteers you get and their quality is dependent on their percieved reward for said effort volunteering. Still, getting back to the thread, RD's should deliver on what they promise, immediately in the case of prize money. Courses should be as advertised, etc. Set the expectations low and exceed them.

      1. Art

        Jim

        I understand what you're saying. I just figured excess funds were either held on account for future runnings of a race, or donated to charity.

        Profit to me means the RD puts excess funds in his own bank account.

  32. Julie

    I also agree. I had a bad race at one of their events, but I wasn't even upset at the end because it was so well done. The race was good enough to overshadow my own performance. They put on great races.

  33. Anonymous

    I thought Tony did not run enough miles to qualify for the award that year. I've been told the Hungarian was paid and is sending a lettert to the race director. I know last year Don and Jamie carried home valuable gold coins as promised. I'm thinking of going this year.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Well, Anonymous, I hope that all problems of the past are cleared up and that the race goes on. Still, I won't be there until (1) I know that past lapses have been fixed and (2) have been given reason to believe that runners and vendors won't be indiscriminately left unpaid in the future. A public mea culpa would help.

      1. Anonymous

        Mea culpa for what. If in fact Tony did not run the pre race posted mileage (which he did not) required for prize money, than that is a non issue. We do have to wait to see if a letter from the Hungarian's manager is forthcoming. Ask Don or Jamie if they recieved their prizes from last year (with no mileage requirement Don had a very easy win). This year there are again no mileage requirements. Winner gets silver coins. That is what the website states. It still is a good 24/48, on a good course (the 2 mile course in Grapevine) where big mileage has been recorded. My biggest complaint is that the race was moved from Thanksgiving weekend to the weekend prior, which makes travel tough. This does mark the 25th running of an event that has seen several race directors through the years.

        1. Bryon Powell

          I'm so glad that Don and Jamie received their prize money (that was never at issue) and I hope the Hungarian turns out to have been paid. That said, there were consistently "issues" with payment to winners and vendors alike over a number of years. Plenty are publicly documented elsewhere and I've been privately told of others.

          From all I've heard, the races themselves are quality races. If you're looking for a 24 or 48 hour race and are satisfied that the race organization is treating its racers and vendors well enough, have at it.

    1. Bryon Powell

      Thanks for sharing these finds. They are the first I've seen them. Someone had informed me of public comments of this nature a few days ago, but, unfortunately, misdirected me to the UltraCentric Facebook page where I could not find this substantiation.

      Re the payment of Mr. Attila

      I'm pleased to learn that Mr. Attila has apparently been paid. I have contacted Mr. Chase, Mr. Attila's attorney, to confirm that payment has been made and I will revise the original article once Mr. Chase confirms that payment has been made. This would be one of the outcomes I hoped would occur when originally writing the article.

      From all the information I was previously provided, it was reasonably clear that Mr. Attila was not paid for more than two years and Mr. Chase's attempts to resolve the situation were ignored for more than nine months. I will be thrilled if Mr. Attila has now been paid. Such payment will "resolve" one "issue," but it would go too far to say it would "negate" nearly three years of non-payment.

      Re the nonpayment of Mr. Mangan

      It's quite possible that Mr. Mangan has no legal claim to the 48-hour prize money offered at the 2008 UltraCentric races. The issue with Mr. Mangan revolves around integrity. To begin, Mr. Mangan claims he was not notified of the minimum mileage requirements: Tony's Blog and newspaper. That's a matter of he said/she said that I care not to get in the middle of. What's more at issue here is whether such requirements as found in the linked screenshot you provide were published in on the UltraCentric website in a reasonably timely manner. With but a few minutes of research I'm fairly confident that the minimum mileage requirements were not posted as late as six weeks prior to the race. I'll presume that runners were allowed to signup more than six weeks in advance for 24- and 48-hour races and, knowing a fair number of ultrarunners, suspect that a majority of participants did so. While a race director can change many of the rule, requirements, or conditions of a race up until the gun or even during the race, fairness and good taste would dictate that inducements meant to draw top runners (to quote the current website, "The hope for world class performances in The Ultra Centric 48 Hour remains by continuing to offer prize money for notorious results.") would not be modified significantly after being initially offered and, if there were some modified, that timely notice to relevant participants would be insured.

      I don't doubt the veracity of the screenshot posted on the NTTR Facebook page, but without an associated date it is meaningless. I know the minimum mileage requirements were posted at some point and were still up as of December 4, 2008. However, the minimum mileage requirements were still not posted as of October 4, 2008 and we still don't know when they were posted. On the mountain bike side of things, it was reported that the minimum mileage requirements were posted "a day or two before the race."

      What Now

      Once it's been confirmed that Mr. Attila has been paid, I'll remove my call to boycott the race and remove my final paragraph prior to the article's call for comments.

      On the other hand, I will personally avoid UltraCentric, including any coverage of the event, until such time as the community receives an adequate explanation or apology regarding the late institution of the minimum mileage requirements in 2008.

      Nota Bene

      When making comments of this nature, it's most effective to do so with attribution rather than anonymously and all the more so given that the location of the IP address registered with this comment is beyond coincidence.

    2. Adam W. Chase

      I can confirm that my client, Vozar Attila, did get paid… THREE YEARS AFTER HE WON the race in question. To say that the RD is now off the hook and a good guy for doing so would be a big stretch, at best.

      He only paid up because of the pressure that was put on him by USATF and a key sponsor both of whom were upset by the fact that his race was not up to their standards, especially with respect to the nonpayment of prize moneys. Just because someone utters "uncle" only to stop from having their arm broken doesn't mean they are in the clear or that you can now be chummy with them. I'm pleased my client saw some justice but the fact that the RD told me months ago that all moneys were paid and that he had never received the correspondence from me that I had sent for many months demanding that he remedy the situation was an outright lie. Moreover, he had the audacity to write to my law partners saying I was wasting my firm's time and he then accused me of harassing him. That type of behavior doesn't garner a lot of esteem.

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