Ultra-Trail World Tour to Launch in 2014

Ultra-Trail World TourThis morning, the Ultra-Trail World Tour (UTWT) was announced in Chamonix, France amidst the festivities of The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. To launch in 2014, the Ultra-Trail Series (as the UTWT’s circuit will be called) will consist of eight to 10 events, each 100 kilometers or longer, distributed around the world (four or more continents). Of these, five or six races will be designated as “Majors” in the UTWT.

Races will be designated a certain number of points based on their size and the race’s designation. These points will be used to formulate a championship ranking similar to those used in skiing, cycling, and tennis. Three races will count toward the ranking with two races from the Majors and one from an additional race. Some elite racers will receive support to attend series races. In choosing races, the organizers want these runners to ask “Not what can I do because I can afford it, but what can I do because I want to.”

Tentative 2014 Ultra-Trail Series Schedule

  • January 19 – Vibram Hong Kong 100
  • March 1 – The North Face Transgrancaria (Spain)
  • March 15 – Vibram Tarawera Ultramarathon (New Zealand)
  • April 5 – Marathon des Sables (Morocco)
  • April 26 – Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji (Japan)
  • June 28 – Western States 100 (USA)
  • June 28 – The North Face Lavaredo Ultra Trail (Italy)
  • August 29 – The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (France/Italy/Switzerland)

Additional race organizations have been contacted with more races likely to be added to the tour in the coming months.

Ultra-Trail World Tour - organizations and runners

Representatives from a few races in the Ultra-Trail World Tour as well as a few potential runners. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

UTWT Objectives

Here’s some of what the organizers have laid out (slightly de-Franglished):

The Ultra-Trail World Tour is an invitation to travel through the world, and to take part in the most mythical races.

What are its objectives?

  • Give the opportunity to anyone to take part, throughout the year, in the most beautiful long-distance trail races of the world (at least 100k in length).
  • Allow all trail runners to take part in popular events in which top runners are systematically associated with.
  • Allow the top trail runners to meet regularly and to be confronted to each other in an annual circuit.
  • Carry trail running’s values by giving the opportunity to everyone to improve himself through traveling, discovering new cultures, and sharing with other athletes from all around the world.
  • Use the experience, the history and the traditions of each events, to offer to the athletes a renewed vision of their sport and new experiences.
  • Associate races suitable for every athlete, in spectacular and diversified environments and with various difficulties and technical elements.

Benefits to the Rest of Us Ultrarunners

Those runners who join the UTWT may benefit from insurance, travel assistance, and discounts on running equipment. Runners who complete at least one race can request a UTWT passport and receive visa for each race they complete.

Quick Editorial Thoughts on the Championship Circuit

As I’ve covered the pointy end of the field at many highly competitive races in recent years, I’ll offer few personal thoughts limited strictly to that area.

  • I like the idea of a high-level international circuit for ultrarunning. I’m inspired by seeing the best ultrarunners from around the world race one another. That’s great.
  • I like that the series includes races as vastly different as the Tarawera Ultramarathon (flat 100k at sea level) and the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (167km mountain race. It allows differently suited trail runners to rank against one another in the same series.
  • I was worried that the ranking might encourage runners to run too many races in one year, but basing the ranking on the total of three races (including one non-major) might limit that issue. I would be interested in seeing the organizers limit maximum participation of each athlete. Otherwise, this might remain an issue, although most runners in contention will realize that it might be a fools errand to try to improve their ranking in highly competitive 100-kilometer-or-longer events by racing many more than the number of races that count toward the ranking.
  • On the other hand, keeping the races at 100 kilometers or longer means less overlap with the Skyrunning Ultra Series, which only had one 100k race and one race over 100k in 2013. As suggested by my thoughts above, I’d prefer one unified ultramarathon series with a very wide mix of distances (26.3 miles to whatever…); big mountains and faster, flatter courses; and maybe even a road race (Comrades or the IAU 100k World Championship) in a world ultra series.
  • I wish the series wasn’t limited only to races 100k and more in length. While I love ultras, more isn’t always better and I wish the same admirable diversity of terrain was reflected with a greater diversity of race lengths. I also worry about the potential harm to athletes who may race long and hard so often, as a result of the series. Perhaps, the 100k or more requirement is an attempt at branding through differentiation or perhaps it is a different conception of the sport that varies from the “an ultra is anything over 26.2 miles” concept with which I was indoctrinated into the sport.
  • Although many of the races are iconic, I wonder if travel support for a limited number of athletes will be sufficient to draw some in. Aren’t those most likely to receive travel support from the UTWT the same as those who are most likely to get material travel support from their sponsors? How to get the travel support to the excellent runners with lesser sponsor support?

Call for Comments

I’m sure this concept will draw plenty of comments both on the elite and regular runner prospective with out me prompting questions. :-) All viewpoints are welcome, we just ask that you keep the conversation civil. (A good test before posting a comment, is  whether you would say the same thing to the person who is the subject of the comment if you were out on a trail run with him or her.)

[Editor’s Note: As it has come up elsewhere, we’ll note that iRunFar has no affiliation with the Ultra-Trail World Tour.]

There are 172 comments

  1. Marcus

    Looks like profiteering to me Bryon, 15,000 Euros per race director to be part of the circuit and sounds a lot like the Racing the Planet series, where if you are an average runner and have deep pockets you get to travel to these races. What to RD's get in return ? A few tweets, a few FB updates and a couple of elites to their race ! A little underwhelming if you ask me and not a major unification of the sport.

  2. richard felton

    Agree with marcus. It feels a little bit like someone(many) have seen the skyrunning success but also spotted its limitations in being restricted by elevations and climb for a race to be part of it. It does mean technically any country and city can be part of a 'world series' but I miss the motive? Do we need it? Has the sport asked for it? That leaves us with profiteering. Also, the distance criteria is a problem- you have to run 3 huge races to be ranked, that's too much to allow for competitive running. Looking at the schedule at least two huge runs will need to be done close together. Plus what average joe can afford to do 3 huge races? I can't afford a single racetheplanet race and I won't be able to hop into europe for 3 races- I won't have enough annual leave!

  3. Conrad

    I do not understand the point in this. Does Skyrunning not offer a perfectly adequate version of this? Also, regarding cycling, the World Tour points system has all but failed and holds no interest for fans.

    1. Bryon Powell

      I think Skyrunning embraces a particular sub-type of trail running. It focuses on higher, steeper, often more technical. Those appear to be the organization's roots and future. The vast majority of trail races in many areas as well as many of the world's premiere events fall outside the scope of Skyrunning.

  4. Mike Papageorge

    While I'm not yet convinced on the concept -see cycling WT etc – I get the idea that the fees paid are for bringing elites to the races? I wonder how much the $15,000 is offset by whatever they used to ante up to host/travel elites…

  5. Matt Fielding

    The ITU world triathlon series, although set up differently has a similar sounding points system, and it has definitely created more excitement around the events, especially the grand final event that's happening soon. But I too worry about a series of races at these distances and the effects it could have on the runners.

  6. phil Jeremy

    I get the idea but not sure you can have World Tour with Majors, without Hardrock … and judging from what you've told me in the past the HR guys would never sign up to this. I could be wrong, love to know your thoughts Bryon.

    1. Marcus

      I think it quite telling what they think of the average runner – 40% of the field is still currently running UTMB and the same organisers host a press conference during the race.

      1. Dave

        Very good point indeed marcus. I livein Ireland so the european races are accessible to me but i would be totally pissed off , say for example that they reduce the number of entries for non elites at utmb or increase fees etc- not right when it is fact that the non elites make the utmb what it is

        1. richard felton

          Not forgetting that its the Average runner that makes the run both feasible and profitable (should that be the goal). Even races designed for Elite's requires substantial public entries to succeed- Like UROC or North Face Endurance challenge champs.

  7. Paul Charteris

    Hello everyone,

    Paul Charteris here – Race Director for Tarawera (and one of the UTWT races). Firstly, I was not in Chamonix, so I cannot comment on what was actually said at the press conference. Seems like it did raise more questions than answers though.

    The merits of each race joining UTWT will differ vastly depending on the goals of the race. For a race like Tarawera which is nowhere near its entry limit and is in a major tourist destination both the race, local and national tourism partners have a very great incentive to reach runners world-wide. This is an opportunity that can help me achieve that.

    I have had about 6 weeks to stew over the UTWT concept. What I really like about the idea is the opportunity it gives runners to travel and complete the entire Tour over a number of years – more of a lifetime achievement thing rather than grabbing as many UTWT points in one year.

    Personally, I LOVE the idea of some of these races coming together to create a world tour. If you have the time, resources (and legs) to do a world tour over a number of years – and you are keen to explore different parts of the world – then go for it! If not, just do one or none of these races.

    For me there have already been a number of professional benefits. Already I have been discussing timing, safety and athlete tracking with a number of these RDs. I would never have approached them if Tarawera was not in the UTWT. Expect to see greater cooperation and sharing of ideas between us RDs in the months and years to come.

    Finally, I would hate for anyone to think I am 'profiteering' from this. I truth, I have a fulltime job and organise Tarawera in my spare time (late nights and weekends). If the race got to such a level that i could make a living from it – i would be delighted – but I would hardly call that profiteering.

    Yours sincerely,

    Paul Charteris

    1. richard felton

      Paul, thanks for the insights of an RD and you raise many valid points on how it can help the runner and spectator (safety and race tracking etc). To clarify my stance the potential 'Profiteering' was not aimed at RD's. It was the UTWT organisation. I believe Marcus was implying the same. Thanks

        1. richard felton

          Without the RD's we don't have races and I definately see the allure of being part of this as a RD. I read the press release. My hope is that all the questions that get raised result in UTWT having to come up with the right answers which ultimately do lead to something very positive being created for all ultra runners. I strongly believe all ultra runners need to benefit from this as their are scores of other groups that were looking at doing similar things. UTWT were the first to put something down (which potential means others may shelf plans) and being elitist is the wrong move, it's not Ultra Running and UROC/RRR have already done that recently.

          Anyway, I don't think I have anything new to contribute now so as Bryon would say…Happy trails

  8. Tim

    For me personally, I just don't see the point. Take the objectives of the organization, and I find that I don't need an "organization" to accomplish any of these:

    What are its objectives?

    Give the opportunity to anyone to take part, throughout the year, in the most beautiful long-distance trail races of the world (at least 100k in length). – This happens already, they are not creating any new races, just unifying existing races which anyone can "take part [of], throughout the year".

    Allow all trail runners to take part in popular events in which top runners are systematically associated with. -Again, this is already happening. There are currently plenty of popular events that any runner can sign up to be a part of, and share the starting line with elites.

    Allow the top trail runners to meet regularly and to be confronted to each other in an annual circuit. -Top trail runners already do meet, and often times pull out of races because they are "over-raced" as it is.

    Carry trail running’s values by giving the opportunity to everyone to improve himself through traveling, discovering new cultures, and sharing with other athletes from all around the world. -Do we need an organization to help discover new cultures and share trail running values? I personally don't think so.

    Use the experience, the history and the traditions of each events, to offer to the athletes a renewed vision of their sport and new experiences. -Again, this is a for profit organization that is trying to create an experience that makes consumers want to be a part of. They are creating a "renewed vision" of trail running by providing a UTWT passport that we can get race visas in? I think it's silly, we have t-shirts that say we finished races, race buffs, water bottles, pictures, etc. Now we need a race passport full of race visas?

    Associate races suitable for every athlete, in spectacular and diversified environments and with various difficulties and technical elements. -Already happening by these iconic races, without unifying them.

  9. Dave

    Excellent tim . Totally agree- this is looking like a total money grab by this organisation. The only positive is for races like Tarawera – raising the profile and race entry numbers etc- but 15 000 euros?? Steep indeed

  10. richard felton

    Sorry One quick question perhaps for Bryon and Marcus. What are the organizers of UTWT individual names? Think it would be interesting to know and help the understanding a bit more- are they RD's of current races or come from business backgrounds etc…

    Cheers

      1. richard felton

        Ah jeez, it was obvious. It has big North Face look about it. There is no way TNF would just stump up 60,000 euros to a random company to credit 4 of its already hugely popular races. Its profiteering for them, no question. That doesn't make them bad though- its there business. Every consumer has an option not to 'buy'

    1. Bryon Powell

      Do we know what next year's Skyrunning Ultra Series races are yet? With so many top races out there, and only two UTWT-eligible races on this year's schedule – Ronda del Cimes and UROC, it's not surprising there's no overlap, even if it's be great to see some. :-)

  11. panos from greece

    I don't like the diversity of the races. I was hoping for somethin similar to the ironman series, ONE distance (100m), similar elevations, age groups winners and a final

  12. Goji

    €UTWT is like climbing Everest. There will be many people drawn to running them. Personally, I like climbing Denali (#HR100), you still have to haul your own ~100lbs of backpack & sled up the mountain.

  13. Mark T

    " Bryon Powell of IrunFar here with Ultra Trail World Tour 2014."

    Yep, would love to see you do a live interview with the UTWT and field questions from the iRunFar audience.

    Great dialogue thus far…

  14. David T

    I'm actually really intrigued by the idea. For years the ultra community has complained and argued about who is the top ultra runner and how we don't have a true championship race or series. Also top runners have complained about not having enough support. Now we have an organization that is offering both. Of course there will need to be a fee to participate since some runners are going to be supported to travel and the series needs to be managed. I look forward to the excitement this series brings to ultra running. Honestly, it is about time.

    1. David A

      I'm not sure you can speak for the ultra running community on this – while I'm aware some keyboard warriors have debated this issue I'm not sure it's been a burning issue in the running community I'm part of.

  15. jenn

    I honestly don't know what I think about this whole idea – a part of me kind of hates it, a part of me thinks that maybe it's fine for the people it's aimed toward. Two thoughts that came to mind though were (1) my impression was the whole passport/visa thing was helping to expedite visas for international travel, which could be useful for visiting some countries, but maybe I'm misunderstanding that?, and (2) this schedule/race list (at least currently) seems geared towards Europeans, with 3 races in France/Spain/Italy and 1 across the Med in Morocco. For runners in the Americas, Asia, and Down Under, participation in this seems like a much less workable proposition. However, since it sounds like the race list may expand, perhaps that calculation will change.

  16. Speedgoatkarl

    Good luck with a global series, NEVER will all top runners be at each race. Way too expensive, even for the most decorated athletes.

    "Although many of the races are iconic, I wonder if travel support for a limited number of athletes will be sufficient to draw some in. Aren’t those most likely to receive travel support from the UTWT the same as those who are most likely to get material travel support from their sponsors?"

    Don't always assume that elite runners get full support to race around the world….and lastly, my big question:

    Whats the prize purse? Let's just hope it's not a "ranking".

    What's the draw for it if the prize purse is not large?

    Lastly. That picture at the top: Tony K is the "governor" Awesome!

    1. Brian K

      "NEVER will all top runners be at each race. Way too expensive"

      Hence the Ultra-Trail World Tour making it financially possible to get more of the top runners to these events.

    1. Julie

      If by mistake you skipped over Calls for Comments from Bryon:
      (A good test before posting a comment, is whether you would say the same thing to the person who is the subject of the comment if you were out on a trail run with him or her.)

  17. Dave

    Girona i think that's a bit harsh about ak finishing any of the races. He raced his heart out at utmb and then got injured near the end

  18. tahoe Pete

    This is very interesting. A first step to a International Unified Body as well which could be good the sport of Ultra RUnning in many ways. Be interested to see how successful this is. Having the top elites racing makes for some very exciting racing. UTMB had so many great runners and with live video feeds at the aid stations it made watching from a far so very exciting. I wonder if some of this technology will move to the races in this series. I sure hope so.

  19. Buzz

    Interesting and inevitable idea.

    I personally like the idea of a world series, because it establishes a ranking system where none exists. Like all biological creatures, we are naturally inclined to know where we are on the totem pole.

    Mountain Running, after decades of effort and certification, now has an official IAU-approved Championship, but the distance is now considered short: 12k for Men, 8k for Women. I love Skyrunning, and they now have added an Ultra distance (both of which can never be official "Championships"). So with the crazy attention given recently to the really long distances, it's natural to establish a series and therefor ranking system for the 100km and up distances.

    Like with most such series, a few people, especially media and sponsors, will really get into it while most people won't give a shit; some will rejoice, many will squawk, and in the end, it won't matter much. After the Internet electrons have settled, we recognize that we get out of each endeavor what we put into it. It's an individual sport where each individual can determine their own reward.

  20. tom

    first thing that struck me is the reduced entries for the masses. its great that Tarawera is no where near its "limit" but what about Western States which has been there for years and with the odds of being drawn from the lottery getting worse every year, even for those of us with multiple tickets. anybody can climb mt everest with the right check nowadays and expanding the field worked out well for leadville this year, at least for the organizers……

  21. Matt

    "Runners who complete at least one race can request a UTWT passport and receive visa for each race they complete."

    Please. This is such poor marketing. As a random runner, do I need a meaningless stamp on top of my Finisher prize in such events?? As an elite, do I need UTWT travel support? Aren't sponsors and some races already do that?

    We all know what this is about. Money. Power. Control. The UTMB crew needed a series to compete ISF Skyrunning World Series. Because SWS -even if I agree w/ Bryon about his definition of sky as a "sub-type of trail running"- has been getting lots of attention this year.

    Does the fact they own the 'ultra-trail®' registered trademark make them the official voice of the ultra-running community around the world? I don't think so.

    I am French but do love the US Gran Slam because of its meaning and DNA. THIS is history.

    Wake up people.®

  22. Dean G

    Skiing, Cycling, Tennis…

    All sports where participation is limited to Professional Athletes and limited to fields of less than 200.

    All sports whose events have been limited to Professional Athletes for decades. (Technically, yes, one can win their way into an 'Open" but let's not quibble)

    All sports where the prize money at the events makes it possible to live as a Professional Athlete.

    If they want to create a Pro-Tour, I wish they would create 4-12 totally new events, limit them to 80 athletes (or run them the week before the current race), and make the prize money real.

  23. Justin

    irunfar – ''◾Although many of the races are iconic, I wonder if travel support for a limited number of athletes will be sufficient to draw some in. Aren’t those most likely to receive travel support from the UTWT the same as those who are most likely to get material travel support from their sponsors? How to get the travel support to the excellent runners with lesser sponsor support?''

    This comment is very true, in ways it makes the richer (i.e Elites) richer and the poorer (us normal runners) poorer.

    Like with all the good kit and the big races, we fork out a small fortune for reliable clothing/footwear and take part in these events, usually in order to fulfil our ambitions. Due to the profits received, mainly from our purchasing, the elites get more free races, assistance with accommodation, lots of great kit and plenty of time to acclimatize/train in these nice place.

    1. nbskis

      you clearly have no idea what it takes to be a so called elite. those guys give up chances at making real money to be able to pursue something they love. they don't get money out of it, they typically get just enough to cover expenses, not to save or live a "comfortable" life. and if you think running is an expensive sport, you should look into skiing or biking, requiring thousands of dollars to even partake in the sport in any form.

  24. Trey

    This will probably not be good for races that are not part of the series. If this concept does take hold, prizes are large etc., what will the incentive be for elites to race any other race? Will the entire ultra calendar eventually just be about these races within the series and ALL the other races are just left to fend for themselves, struggle to get elites to participate, struggle to get exposure etc.? Similar to pro cycling – if the race is not part of the Pro Tour series, its basically a non-significant race that is used mainly for training and practice. All the big dogs, big teams, funding, pressure to participate, and focus goes into the Pro Tour races, because everything is based on the points system. Points system for the individual rankings and team rankings and thus, bigger budgets and bigger talent. Its not all bad though – if the idea does take off, it could really result in stacked fields for these races in the series. In pro cycling, its IS the pro tour races (almost all in europe) that are by far the most aggressive, competitive and exciting to watch. I'm starting to sense that over time, ultra running in these big events, like cycling, will be more tactical from a team perspective. You will have teams made up of runners working to help their "captain" get into a good position for the final push to the finish line.

  25. Peter Andersson

    With the growing interrest in ultra running and exponentially growing number of ultra runners around the globe something like this was kinda to be expected. The American Grand Slam just isn't that ultimate endurance proof it used to be any more – and it's limited because races like Hardrock and Western States don't allow more than a few hundred runners.

    Comrades in South Africa is proof that well beyond 15000 runners is a possible national goal for a single event more than twice the lenght of a normal Marathon.

    And as always; never forget to "follow the money". Someone's gotta pay for that economic support to the elite they're planning, obviously that's gonna be those average Joes now encouraged to travel around to run this new Global Ultra Grand Slam (GUGS?) on a lifetime bucket list (and for some, I bet there's gonna be a rush to be the one to get the accumulate record time already the first year, to do all of them the same year).

    The ultimate proof of this theory is that elites are only gonna need to do two majors and one extra, spreading the elite PR presence out over all ten events, with any possible kind of ranking still matematically shakey enough to create deliberate uncertainty for it to be debateable among fans all year round who's the current best in the World, no chance in Hell an average attendance of as low as 30% per elite runner can decide that for certain.

    And SO EFFING WHAT? If you don't keep moving you'll get passed by those who do. Making money's the American way, isn't it? This series can happen now, with American races onboard, or it can happen soon enough anyway, without them. The sport is growing even faster in Europe than the US right now, and without the same focus on limitations to numbers of runners. Maybe the US should be glad their relatively small but classical gatherings were invited at all? ;-)

  26. Jeff

    How about sustainability? To all of the increased participation in the sport and traffic on the trails the world's trail running community is now adding round the world aircraft travel? Forget it – I'll run races closer to home and keep my impact low.

    1. Peter Andersson

      Ecological sustainability is a WAY overplayed ethical meme in the trail sports communities. Just look at those nordic sking events in Scandinavia and Italy that has more than 10000 participants in a single day each winter (not counting crews, families and aid station personel). According to popular ethics enviro-theory that should destroy those trails for years to come, yet in the early summer you can hardly even see someone was there unless you know exactly what to look for.

        1. Peter Andersson

          Obviously you've never been at the back of the pack last thousands in such a race on a day with temperatures near or above the freezing point! It can be quite similar to trail running, only with two meter long shoes… ;-)

          And people still need to take dumps at the side of the track just the same as in the summer, except that there's MORE impact from that in the winter because there are no leafs to be found and the ground can't be dug into when froozen so much more TP is left, at best just cosmectically kicked over with snow, sometimes hidden with broken down tree branches to be thrown on top.

          Yet, after a few weeks of spring and a few rain showers, it's all gone into the ground, which is then abundant with fresh grass, flowers and whatnots.

          Ever seen a flower press up through a crack in the tarmac? That's Mother Nature at her strongest. Out in the forest, resetting a trail and its collaterals from a few thousand puny human's feet, she doesn't even have to break a sweat about it below the tree line, it's hardly a months job…

      1. Adam

        Jeff's point was about the global carbon emissions associated with constant international travel, not local trail damage. Although we can argue about that too.

      2. Matt

        I believe Jeff was mainly referring to the high carbon emissions from air travel, which contribute to climate change and applaud his "think global, run local" statement. Is ecological sustainability really overplayed in trail sports communities? I would argue that we all have a ways to go. It would be inspiring to see members in these communities take greater interest in mitigating their environmental impacts. What the world really needs is something like a Zero Emissions Ultra Series: goo.gl/oWcC9

        …But I guess there wouldn't be much profit in that.

        1. Peter Andersson

          ZEUS – That's a great abbreviation!

          But if you really wanna save the planet – have a vasectomy (or the female equivalent) and stop running up your breath, as long as approx ten exhales sets free more carbon monoxide than the making of a plastic bag I'd say we should be more worried about the fact that the World's population is increasing with more than 220 000 people per day.

          Simple math: In 1999 there were 6 billion people. In 2011 there were 7 billion. That's one whole billion plus in 12 years. One billion devided by 12 is 83,3 millions. 83,3 millions devided by 365 is 228220. Per day!

          And that's on average for the period 1999-2011, the actual number is some thousand higher now…

          So yeah, I won't lay awake worrying about air plane engines and jet fuel exhaust – the global oil reserves are gonna go dry in my lifetime anyway, so that part's a self fixing problem…

  27. Trey

    I'd also be curious to see over time, if the Tour will have issues with Western States and the use of pacers, which will be unique among the races currently slated for the tour. Will they say, all races must be pacer free or will they just keep it as-is to add to the variety in the races currently listed??

    For the non-elites, I think this Tour is a non-issue as most will continue to just race more local/national races. This Pro Tour is all about the elites, who will have the backing to make these trips and about their sponsors who will now have an even bigger marketing stage……

  28. David A

    There is most definitely a part of me that dislikes this idea, I think because it seems rooted in merchandising the sport and looking for ways to mine the commercial opportunities. Some good may come, UTMB is testament to the excitement that can be generated when the profile of an event is raised regardless of the motivation behind it.

    Thankfully, trail and mountain running requires no race bib before you put on the shoes and head for the hills! I'll watch with interest but as a runner I don't feel what brings me to the sport are part of the grand plan.

    1. Miki (Finland)

      I'm afraid of that too. For almost two decades I've been active in cycling scene and seen too many times performance enhancing drugs used by even veteran and junior athletes. Can't imagine why this wouldn't happen in ultra running when they bring in all the money. But I'm still being optimistic. :)

  29. [email protected]

    From a WS100 (and United States) perspective it will be interesting to see how inclusion into the UTWT will impact its relationship with Montrail and the Montrail Ultra Cup. Over the past few years the MUC has provided athletes an additional avenue to gain entry into WS100 and increased the up-front competitive nature of WS100. I've noticed that Montrail has delayed announcing the 2014 races until after the WS100 drawing in December. Usually the new series starts with Waldo 100k in August and goes through June's WS100. Will there still be a similar series (with a condensed time frame) and qualifying procedure with the championship at WS100 or will something entirely new be presented?

    1. Craig Thornley

      Each race in the UTWT will continue to have their own sponsorship agreements. As for the 2013-14 Montrail Ultra Cup, the new MUC will be condensed to just the first half of the year (post WS lottery). I tweeted that out a month or so ago. The MUC races are still TBD and will be announced soon by Montrail. The delay in announcing the new MUC has no correlation to the inclusion of WS in the UTWT.

  30. Ben Z

    Can we please expand the number of entries to WS then? I realize this is very difficult to allow given the permits but even if 20 more spots are taken up by additional elites now that's 5.5% less entries for the rest of us :(

    1. richard felton

      Ben Z, or any other that knows. From here in the UK where I have no idea on the permit limits of WS100 but do the runners pacers get included into the permit allocation? If we remove pacers can we have more runners? Surely that's too simple and has been thought of by WS organizers?

      1. Craig Thornley

        Increasing the number of runners allowed through the Granite Chief WIlderness area (about 4 miles of the course) will literally require an act of congress or a reroute of the course around the wilderness area. Pacers are not allowed in the wilderness area and thus have no impact on the 369 runner (5-year rolling average) limit.

        1. Can't Be That H

          So you build a "Congressional Observation Lounge" and a simple Helicopter Pad at the end of those four miles – and a permanent toilet facility right before those four miles start. That should be enough to get the Congress to lift the numbers allowed and for a permit to widen the trail by a meter (or to build a second more or less parallell trail, adding some "choose the left OR right trail" suspense to that part of the race. :-)

      2. Speedgoatkarl

        Hey Richard, I believe, (and correct me if I'm wrong Craig) but the Granite Chief Wilderness grandfathers in the WS run, Nowhere in the US can one obtain a permit to run thru a wilderness area. Taking pacers away from WS, would still not allow more runners because pacers don't run thru Granite Chief Wilderness and they don't affect the permit number. Does that make sense?

  31. Brian K

    Head over to his blog and ask him yourself. He's a pretty cool dude who, in the true trail community spirit, takes the time to answer the questions of amateur athletes like us.

    1. Matt

      Money to invest back? Really? It took 11 years for UTMB ultra profitable business to offer runners a descent version B of the course in case of bad weather…

      And with all due respect for UTMB achievements, is it what we want as a model for the future? Classy race conditions for elite runners then 2,000+ runners progressing as an endless line from start to finish?

      Would love to get opinions from RD's like Karl on that matter.

  32. Brian K

    Skiing, Cycling, Tennis also have TV coverage made possible by paid advertising.

    But basically what you are saying is you want to take away the unique aspect of trail running which is…. you or I can line up next to Hal or Killian (you can‘t do that at a road marathon). Unless this series also includes an earlier start time for the pros (which seems unlikely given the distances and the fact that top amateurs will be overtaking some “elites.” Its not as if you would want to move an early morning start even earlier. Though I guess race starts could be changed to come into line with UTMB style events.

    1. Dean G

      To clarify: I was referring to their statement about their aims. The sports they hope to emulate.

      I'd hate for this to come to pass — just was pointing down the road to where tours like this end up.

      Personally, Id say If they want a big showdown, do one race a year, rotate that race through a dozen classics courses over 12 years, so at least you will get a dream field… And give the elites and non-elites the freedom to enjoy their year.

  33. Molly's dad

    But isnt that the problem with this idea; the type of races are so different that you are comparing winners of 'flat' trail races with steep technical terrain, apples with oranges and all that.

    I just wonder whether, given the proposed points system, there will be a credible winner at the end of the day or whether, as in cycling (as mentioned above) anyone will actually care about who has the highest number of points. If it doesnt hold any interest then it just becomes a money skimming exercise surely

  34. Kevin

    I was surprised I had to go this far for my main question.

    If this is a series where RDs are handing over 15K one would hope there would be a prize purse at each race and one for the overall series winner.

  35. LL

    I just don't understand what Western States stands to gain by joining. It has an amazing history, incredible demand, top athletes and no ability to expand.

  36. Mike

    I say go for it. Armchair quarterbacks/runners can debate what it means for ultra-running, but maybe seeing it in action will make obvious successes and failures of the idea, because there will be both. There are people who believe ultra-running is doomed with any type of corporate involvement – I think that's just naïve and over-reactionary. The sport is growing (accept it) and I think this simply an evolution of the sport's structure. If it doesn't work, I think that'll be pretty obvious, fairly quickly. Best of luck I say!

  37. Paul

    The sport IMHO has been divided by invested interests of greedy sponsors and race directors for sometime. A sport that was founded on honesty and a genuine connection to people is now utterly corrupted.

    And as much as I hate to say this Irunfar, your puppet master pays your bills too.

    Sad but true.

  38. John

    4 or 5 Amateur cyclists had positive urine screens for EPO at Grand Fondo's not counting races during the past 2 years. PED's will always be tempting and difficult to control. Personally I think that on the pro-side that life time bands (essentially Career ending) should be used earlier in the process.

  39. Matt

    I agree. An exponentially increasing human population is a BIG environmental concern, but the increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide cannot be blamed on cellular respiration. Simple chemistry: photosynthesis absorbs CO2 to produce the food we need to live (and breathe). In contrast, the emissions of fossil fuels are independent of this carbon absorption/release cycle and are far from a "self fixing problem." Yes, we will eventually run out of fossil fuels, but not before we jack up atmospheric CO2 concentrations to well over 400 PPM, which is unacceptable just like your proposal to spay/neuter the human population. Heroics aside: do you have the cojones to choose an ultra closer to home (thereby reducing your carbon footprint)?

    1. Adam

      Did you mean "I disagree" in reference to Peter's comment? In any case, many projections now suggest that we will never run out of oil (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/05/what-if-we-never-run-out-of-oil/309294/), and the techniques used to get at that oil (fracking, off-shore drilling) are increasingly destructive. Air travel places a huge demand pressure on oil supplies, driving up prices and thus making the pursuit of difficult reserves economically viable. Population is a huge part of the problem, but only part, given that it takes three average Chinese people to emit as much carbon via fossil fuel consumption as one average North American.

    2. Peter Andersson

      Well, if I take my cojones to an ultra by air plane – shouldn't that rather be referred to as leaving a "carbon cockprint"? ;-)

  40. NickP

    This is at least an interesting concept, and I am curious to see how it pans out. I wonder how many from the US will participate given the travel and associated expense. As Karl notes, there are probably only a handful of runners receiving travel support from sponsors so unless the organization offers significant support I doubt there will be much participation from the US. I wonder if it will just be a race among 5-10 guys (and girls) that have the necessary support.

  41. dawgrunner

    Exactly what I was thinking. Bigtime cash incentives in other sports have created situations where PEDs are seen as a way to gain an edge. The bigger the pot, the more the incentive for the elites to cheat, all the while the rest of us just subsidize their behavior with increased fees.

    I'd love to run in one of these races, so I'm willing to let this play out.

  42. Jesse

    I think there are very many arguments for and against this idea. I know a lot of people have aversions to making the sport so main stream, and quite frankly mimicking the world of road and track running, which so many of us were drawn to the trails and ultra running to avoid. I, myself, hope for the sport to stay low-key, and quite frankly done for love of the game. Not love of the reward, or to figure out who is the best? Who Cares. If you have to have a best, 2nd, etc, etc, you might have other issues you need to resolve. If I wanted large prize money, perks and benefits, as well as a ranking system, I guess I would have stuck to a road or track running career. Or road ultra running for that matter.

    I also do think it is very important for us all, to take a look at our own environmental impact through travel and consumption. Which when pondered more deeply, makes us all abusive spouses. Beating our significant other, while espousing our love (of nature). As we travel all over to see the places we love. This idea compounds and befuddles that issue further, and is indicative of where the hearts of those involved are really placed IMHO.

    I hope the amazing group of individuals I have grown to know through my love of this sport, can find better ways to do things, than mimicking ideas that have been done before. Use all that creative energy that is flowing through us from the hours spent on the trail, and think of new and better ideas for the world of Ultra Running, otherwise why didn't we all just stay on the roads??

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