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

        2. Rachel

          Don't forget that a lot of races have marketing budgets already for media & bringing elites out… This may perhaps be seen by some races as a targeted spend…

  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. erik@runningwarehous

    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??

  43. Speedgoatkarl

    actually the marketing value will be lower with less participants. At least I think so. Look at Run Rabbit Run, 35k prize purse, the largest in ultrarunning history. (in the US) and no big companies want to throw in more…..why….45 fast runners are not enough. It is what it is.

    Most "pro" ultrarunner athletes don't get as much financial support as you may think…unfortunately.

  44. Erik@runningwarehous

    Thanks Craig. Guess I gotta follow you on Twitter. Various Montrail pages (FB, ultra cup page, etc.) have not been quick to give up information on the changes this year. It's good to know the MUC will go forward in some similar fashion. I feel it has really added to the up front racing (at least for those of us who enjoy watching that kind of thing).

  45. Jeremy

    Actually, running WS is pretty easy. Just go to squaw valley and run to auburn. Can be a lot cheaper too if you do it without course markings and aid stations…

  46. Bob Gilmore

    Why not institute a 100 mile world championships instead? With a different country hosting every year….what a novel idea. Oh wait…. I think a few other sports already do that. Keep the iconic races accessible to the people that have been supporting them all these years.

  47. Johnny

    What I'm seeing is that this $15,000.00 Fee is coming from the RD, which in turn is probably money (at least partly) that came from registration fees. So in essence, part of our registration fees for these races are paying for travel/support for elite athletes. This may lead to either less course support/supplies/aid/food and/or higher registration fees.

    1. Tom

      Nothing against the elites, I love to see them at races but I don't know if I love it enough to pay higher entry fees so that elites can get to the races, many get travel expenses from sponsors, granted not all do, but personally I don't want to see our sport go the direction of triathlon and become the elitist sport that triathlon has become.

  48. Michael Owen

    Interesting. It was only a matter of time that we began to see the works of a series of such. Bryon, I agree with your last point about the travel support being offered to certain athletes. If the sponsored, already-supported, athletes are the only ones receiving support, wouldn't this lead to an elitism model where only a select few even have a chance to participate in the events? How would non full-time ultra runners be able to have the time, money, and flexibility to travel to the events without support of the full time sponsored athletes? I've always wondered how "elite" is defined. We hear the phrase "elite ultra runners" all the time, but is there a true definition of elite or just an understood one?

    I like how rankings will be based on three races – I still wonder if there will ever be an attempt to make a true "championship race." Maybe make one UTWT major-race required, one non-major required, then have UTMB as the "championship." It would put more on the line for one race and would assemble many competitive runners associated with one distinct series vying for the same thing. Or, is it kind of understood that it is virtually impossible to line up "all" the best ultra runners in the world for one race on one day for a true championship?

  49. Tom

    Do we really need an organization to "show" us the different cultures of the world? Create a "calendar" of events that already exists? The Ironman Corporation created a world circuit. Entry fees went through the roof, qualifying races for Ironman Hawaii went from excellent regional independent races to predominantly (if only races put on by the corporation). In my opinion, this is a slippery slope and one I think that will lead to the exclusion of the local population trying to participate in the events. Ideas like the UTWT are not why I left the world of triathlon to race on the trails.

      1. Marcos

        Hey Tom,

        Beat me to it, I read it and instantly thought about the Ironman franchise. I got fed up with all their crap just like you and at the same time I found the trail running community, I love triathlon, but everyday I think about selling all my gear just because of their attitude, I'd hate to see it all turning the same thing.

  50. Michael Owen

    Trey, I'm not sure that races not part of the series will be affected much. Maybe less elite runners in them, but what is the big deal about having 1-2 fast guys in a small local race? If this thing does take hold, I actually think the opposite will happen – more interest in the sport from regular non-elite runners and bigger participation in local races. Similar to track and marathons… the bigger venues like the Olympics or Olympic Trials creates more interest in running and bigger crowds at small 5k's, half marathons and marathons.

  51. Evan

    I like the idea at face value, but I foresee problems in the execution. Some of those races are really difficult to get into even for "elites"- will people doing the series get preferential entry? If not, how is anyone that is sub-elite supposed to properly compete in the series if they can't get into some of the races, and the other half are on the other side of the world? The fact that they are all over the world is appealing for travel's sake, but extremely challenging logistically and financially for most. The obvious solution to that is to have more races, but the. You are diluting the field, too. I could get excited if a certain placing or number of points earned you automatic entry and travel support to a third race, or a championship race (UTMB?) Either way, I'll be interested to see what comes of it. The sport evolves! Life is in motion and change is the rule, not the exception.

  52. Steve

    As I read the release of this the first thought through my mind was that most RDs would apply for tourism/govt/local govt funding in exchange for the publicity to the various districts . As a fellow Kiwi I've seen this work well down here many a time .

    The central North Island of New Zealand is simply amazing , so fits well with that concept .

    As Im keen new runner and not up to 100kms yet I will confirm my entry to the Tarawera100 in 2015 .(hahahaha)

    And Im sure most of us would love the chance to rub shoulders with more of the elite Athletes without remortgaging our homes to travel northwards

    So thanks paul and ill be on the sidelines in march at least watching

    Cheers Steve

  53. WeiDe

    If there is more prize money, will there be doping checks for the top finishers of each race / the series?

    Recovery time will play a major role here too…

  54. Justin

    nbskis – ''you clearly have no idea what it takes to be a so called elite'',

    How would I? I am not an elite, I only wish to give my opinion on this. I have total respect for the elite performers, my concern is that this won't improve the sport. By that I mean, if the same people keep getting all the assistance it is making things harder(not impossible) for new/up-coming talent to have the opportunity to challenge them.

    nbskis – ''they don’t get money out of it, they typically get just enough to cover expenses, not to save or live a “comfortable” life.''

    I did not say they got money or led a comfortable lifestyle! I said '' the elites get more free races, assistance with accommodation, lots of great kit and plenty of time to acclimatize/train in these nice place.'' Am I wrong?

    PS I have no interest in competing at skiing or biking, I choose to pay the money for reliable clothing and footwear. I also choose to enter these races and pay the travel costs. What I am saying is, if we didn't, then the big sponsors wouldn't be in a position to aid those who give their events/brands the opportunities they get.

  55. Lstomsl

    I like following the sport as much as anyone and I don't see anything wrong with a formal point series. As it currently stands I see some elite runners seem to focus on being consistent over an entire series, some target a specific race year after year, some will pick a year to chase the grand slam, or an FKT. Another point series just adds one more dimension but I have doubts about how successful it will be. I don't see folks dropping everything else year after year. I doubt 5 people on the planet could be competitive at 10 long races a year. Does anyone even know who the skyrunning points champ from last year is? In the end it might bring some more hype, attention and financial support to the elites. Like 90% of us, however, I will watch vicariously through iRunFar and hit the occasional grassroots local race and avoid the crowds. It won't impact my life in any meaningful way at all.

  56. Paul

    I think it'll just be something that is there. It won't have that much relevance to the Ultra calendar as nothing seems to be changing. I also don't know if it'll draw the elites to it either as in essence, most of these guys run because they love being out on the trail & the freedom of it. The commercial side of things mightn't appeal…I certainly don't see many of them doing MDS. Too touristy.

    But hey, it's great to see the sport grow. Just not too much ;)

    P.

    1. Martin G

      If I have a full time job that I'm good at and qualified for, I don't think 40k pounds per year will create controversy.

      Now take a full time runner, who's not only good and qualified for his "job" but is simply part of the best of its kind in the world, why would it be wrong?

      Let's keep in mind that it wasn't given to them but they worked extremely hard to get there.

      I am no elite athlete and even though I wish I could have been one I have no right to question their achievements and rewards that come with it.

      Now about the UTWT:

      I am already laughing at when they will have to pay travel expenses for 20 to 30 elite athletes to come to one single race. Seeing how UTMB treats elite athletes (no invitation, no accommodation, no travel expenses covered, no prize money), my bet is that they simply won't.

      So Iet's wait and see how this will unfold, but to me this is just fancy words on paper to justify the 15,000 euros fee per race to be part of the series. Soon enough they will put on a rule that will limit the field invited elites or they will ensure that only a handful of athletes will receive the title "elite 1" according to their standards.

  57. Trey

    A good number of people seem turned off by the whole idea-this change coming to ultra running. My question is, how is it affecting you if you are doing a race that is not in the Tour?? Wouldn't it stay the same?? Assuming you got into WS, once its part of the Tour – how does that ruin it for you once you actually start running the race?? If you are not chasing points or an elite, how would these changes affect your actual running of the event??

    1. Tim

      Trey,

      It affects those who would like to run the actual event by possibly: making the entrance cost higher, as well as getting a spot into the race more difficult because of more spots being saved for elites. Of course it does nothing to change the act of actually putting one foot in front of the other, and running the event.

  58. SteelTownRunner

    Some of those races seem odd to be lumped together in the same series. Why is MDS in the mix? Who is going to compete in these races? You need to have the $$$ to just even enter MDS. Does WSER need something else to attract runners? Will this have any affiliation with the Skyrunning ultra series?

  59. Robbie

    It's simple folks, support your local races. I have dozens to choose from in Oregon, and Washington State. IMO, the Pacific Northwest, has the best terrain to run on.

    1. Scott

      Let's just keep the PNW's greatness on the down low we already have a big enough problem with transient residents we don't need more :)

    1. Sabine

      Exactly – this is what I think, too!!

      I don't like the current trend in ultrarunning, with more and more big money coming into play and with all the fuss about certain races and race series. It is inevitable that middle-of-the-pack and back-of-the-pack runners, who want to participate in these UTWT races will have to pay for it – either literally by higher entrance fees or by higher difficulty to get a spot in the race.

      I personally find much more of the atmosphere that has sparked my love for ultrarunning in local or smaller races – or even in fat ass events.

  60. Josh

    Ian Corless did make a valid point that most press leaves UTMB after the top runners come through. Thus, holding a press conference after the press has left would be pointless. Not to suggest that this series is thinking at all of the average runner, but to have a press conference at UTMB, you've got to do it early.

  61. tom

    369 rolling average and 400 "selected" but only 218 drawn from the lottery on average. That seems like a lot (182?) of automatics, MUC, sponsor exempts and other special considerations. Where will the elite entries come from and what will that do to the entry fee?

  62. Speedgoatkarl

    The UTWT model seems to be the same model as Skyrunning. RD's fork over some cash to the "federation", the federation offers the assistance in gathering elite runners with the money that the RD forked over to them.

    HMMM, sounds like an Un-needed middleman. If I'm gonna fork over "x" amount of dollars to a federation, I have to then ask myself "why"?. How about I fork over that "x" amount of dollars in the form of a cash purse instead of appearance fees in the form of travel support.

    UTMB is the most amazing race in the world as far as I'm concerned, the venue in Chamonix, Courmayeur etc, etc…and oh, Mt. Blanc. It is a real mountain race, a race that Europe embraces..No pacers, carry your own shit, it's great. They also let in elite athletes after the fact, and those elite athletes get NO compensation, no travel expense, no hotel….the same treatment. Other than being able to slip in the side door at the start line and not get stuck in the beginning.

    4000 runners (all 4 races) X roughly 200 bucks each to enter…..= $800,000 is accrued in entry fees. OK, 800 thousand bucks. Towns donate to have the race go through them, other sponsors. (It's doubtful they even pay for the schwag that's donated).

    My gripe is where is the prize purse? How about throw in say 100k? No good? still a $700,000 + budget to work with right?

    UTMB is a super first class event for everyone, form the DFL to the winner, but in reality, there should be prize money with all that money in entry fees. And yes it comes from all of us entering, but so does Lebron James' salary….from spectators, via TV or seats in the stadium.

    I guess I"m starting to ramnble and I could go on and on, but in my opinion, it's just another way to make money…having a series. I could easily put together a "speedgoat series" in the Utah area, and probably make a bunch of money, but I won't do that, we'll just keep it at 50k with pizza and beer at the finish, and a few extra bucks to watch those fast guys and girls run fast.

    Run the race you want to run, don't get lost and go on the world tour if you can afford it. :-)

  63. Kory

    I second this entire conversation. The hottest topic of this past year in one phrase or another has been "our sport is growing", or "why has ultrarunning gained so much populaity?" Take those statements and look at how Ironman began in the early 80's. It was as humble as trail running until somebody realized that they could make a ton of money off of it, and they did. Granted, these are two entirely different sports,requiring entirely different needs, but, the point remains. An entity is seizing an opportunity to profit based on the demand of a sport.

    How long until it costs over $300 to get in a race?

    I dont mean to sound redundant, but "we" all exclaim that the reason we love trail running is because… well just look at Hardrock. Even if you or I never get into the race, we cant deny that it is the single race that defines everything we love about the sport.

    This organization certainly does not appear to represent that.

  64. Jeff R

    Given the general sentiment expressed in these comments, a lot of people need to start boycotting this site. It's a huge part of the "problem". Take a second to think about it.

  65. Cody

    This is nuts! Folks are getting this upset about a series of running events?

    Here's the deal: whether you like it or not, this is inevitable in any sport that's growing in popularity. Just because you were here first doesn't make the sport "yours." It's going global and garnering big money. Soon it will be like many other sports: average runners won't be able to compete in large pro events.

    If you want to run the course, run it on your own. If you want to race, race any number of incredible local events. If you want to run the pro races, get faster.

    There are so many bigger problems in the world. Running and the events associated with running are not, and will never be, a subject to be really upset about.

    1. jenn

      I think this far too facile and glosses over one of the bigger topics ongoing over the growth of the support – environmental impacts and the carrying capacity of the trails and resources where many races are run. Growth may be inevitable, but "like it or not" those of us who value the wild places we run through (I presume that includes you!) SHOULD be discussing growth, limits, and best ways to proceed. That conversation includes a lot of factors, and is bound to be a tad messy!

      1. Lstomsl

        It's valid to have a conversation about impacts and steps we can take to minimize them but let's be real, all the western states ever run don't have nearly the impact that a single horse race on that trail does. I doubt that the FS will ever allow new races through existing wilderness areas and only a few have been grandfathered in. We certainly do have impacts and we all need to be aware and do what we can to minimize them but in the larger scheme of things they are pretty small. There are still plenty of places I can go run all day without seeing another human.

  66. OOJ

    Wanna know what's truly "expensive"? The physical cost of a very small number of elite ultramarathon runners intensely racing several (e.g. 3 or more) 100K+ ultramarathons in a single year.

    The fatal flaw in this circuit (and others) is the assumption that it is an "OK thing" for individual ultra runners to compete at the highest level in more than one or two major races in a year. The physical reality is, running more than 1-2 ultramarathons (especially those 100K or longer) per year at full intensity is not sustainable and, as we'll continue to find out, results in burn-out and the end of competitive careers.

    At present, we have two major issues in the sport:

    1.) the lack of consistent, sustainably-performing "stars" in the sport – athletes that people can identify, follow, and become loyal to – in large part because they run well for 1-3 years, then flame out.

    2.) a dilution of top-level talent because of the proliferation of "championship" races and circuits, which aim to entice elite runners to race there.

    The result is…a bunch of so-so races that lack a compelling storyline (beyond who DNS'd, DNF'd or otherwise flamed-out) and even worse, a derailment – or premature end – of individual running careers.

    I don't know how to solve these issues, but I don't feel like incentivizing the running of three or more long, intense ultras is part of the solution.

    1. Pierre

      They use to say that the best marathoners in the world would compete in 1, 2 or 3 marathons, maximum per year. That's 127km of racing. Not even one 100 miles (161 kilometers),

      Completly agree with you.

      As Seb Chaigneau usually says, when you get to the cashier, the price to pay is high each time (on all levels).

  67. PezUK

    no it is not controversy it is fact & perfectly justifiable salary & response to:”they don’t get money out of it, they typically get just enough to cover expenses, not to save or live a “comfortable” life.

  68. James

    This is certainly one of those inevitable moments in our sport. Personally, it always has been a pity that SO much emphasis is put on the racing element of trail running. It’s often almost a complete detraction from why we actually run trails in the first place. That being said though, it is of course the primary element that is bolstering the growth and development of the sport so like it or not, it remains one of the most important factors in driving the sport’s future trends. To be honest, I do think that the idea of a world tour has merit.

    My only concern however comes from the slight (and I use this term loosely) exclusivity of such a tour.

    I quote one of the objectives you mentioned above:

    “Giving the opportunity to anyone to take part, troughout the years, in the most beautiful long distance trails of the world.”

    With the €15,000.00 price tag that an organiser must pay to have their event part of this series (something you eluded to in you post Bryon) I believe renders many events and communities devoid from actually participating in such a series. I get it that the big brands will be able to support such monetary outlays, but €15,000.00 on top of their already potentially high sponsorships to events, may be the “straw that breaks the camels back” for many investors of the sport. Then what? Just because the event cant cough up the money, does this mean that it’s not recognised as a “true” ultra-trail event, fit for people to participate in? What about races in places like South America and Africa where the exchange rate starts to hit double digits?

    Quoting another objective above: "Allow all trail runners to take part in popular events in which top runners are systematically associated with." When up until now has it ever been a problem before to just simply enter the race of your choice if you want to run it?

    Perhaps a very specific example, but a relevant one none the less, is the International Skyrunning Federation [ISF] Skyrunner Series. If an event organiser wants their race to be recognized as a skyrunning event, there is a bunch of regulatory criteria they need to meet (developed over almost 22 years), as well as an annual fee that needs to be paid (however quite significantly lower then €15,000.00 I might add) to the ISF. But, what this means for the runners is not only an event that is garuanteed to present a certain level of standard and offer a variety of unique and positive elements, but also a reinvestment into the sport, ensuring it's furture growth and development. In light of this, my parting question is simply, who actually benefits from the €15,000.00/event for the UTWT? I sure hope the answer to this is the runner!

  69. Dave M

    I agree with OOJ that it's probably not possible to be %100 recovered if you race more than a couple ultras per year, but 1-2 ultras per year? How boring.

    I think it is easily possible to run an 100K every other month and be really close to 100%, as long as the taper and recovery are well managed.

    And to run more than 1-2 ultras.. this is a problem? I personally don't experience any problems from this. I agree that ultrarunners aren't peaking properly at 99 to 100% to run the best race possible every time, me and OOJ included. But this is an incredibly exciting time for the sport and there are dozens of cool exotic races to run and the UTWT series is leveraging this, just like the Skyrunner series. Regarding the UTWT series itself: don't run it if you don't like it.

    Yes the term "world championship" is overused but this is the case for most grass rootsy smaller sports.

    Regarding flaming out of elite runners, there are only a handful that I know of who have faded away, and that may or may not be due to overracing, but rather due to health issues or changes in life priorities, rather than injuries or burnout. I think there has been an actual net increase in energy and vitality from racing more than what has been perceived as the limits of the human body. Ten years ago the UROY raced well at maybe 4-5 US Ultras and that was perceived as the best; now this performance level is top 20 at best.

    1. OOJ

      Assuming this is "Diamond Dave Mackey" posting this, he is one of the few top-level ultrarunners who has been consistently top-performing for close to a decade (hard to believe Dave was battling Jurek for the '04 WS title!). That said, his opinion carries a lot of weight.

      Or…how he takes care of his body – in training, nutrition, and lifestyle – is worth paying attention to. Perhaps the problem with circuits and championships is not only the drive to race hard, but to train hard – year round, nonstop.

      Either way, a balance needs to be struck regarding when to train and race hard. Only then will you see the "99-100%" performances, and top-heavy, competitive battles at these races…and I think that's what the race organizers are looking for.

      1. Speedgoatkarl

        DAve is exactly right that many of the elite runners that have thrown down many fast times are not necessarily "burnt out", but actually need to earn a living. None of us can earn a living being and ultrarunner, there is no prize money, other than a few races.

        As far as longevity…..it is possible to race 8-10 ultras a year and be competitive, because we are not racing fast, just often and as Macdaddy says, it's boring to train all year for one race. I rarely see an elite runner train for one thing and actually kill it.

        I also feel in ultramarathoning, that experience plays a bigger role than just focusing on one event or even 3 events. the more you run em', the better you get at it. The smarter you run and pace yourself. And recovery is the key element. Don't jump in too quick after running 100 miles, or you'll go home weeping…..cuz you're hurt.

  70. Dave

    Dave m- i agree with most of what you have said.i do believe that the top athletes should get paid out of this idea- that is totally fair. Being from the uk i would hope to do Lavaredo and Utmb at some point soon- i just hope that it doesnt get even harder to getinto these races as a result of this new set up either through a reduction in places for non elites or a big hike in entry fees

  71. Andre Blumberg

    Seems unconfirmed as yet although it was listed among the 14 'potential' races. It's not part of the 8 confirmed events. TNF is pretty decentralized in Asia Pacific and managed on a country by country basis through the resellers which vary by country. I suspect there may be more stakeholders involved that need to be convinced, plus the race has been selling out solid for a couple years already. Let's wait and see how it evolves …

  72. Expat in Sweden

    They is such a large range of trail and ultra possibilities, and the growth of the sport has increased the opportunities. Many races remain largely local while others attract international talent and receive extensive medi coverage. I toed the line many years back at the VT100 and recently I ran my first Alps race this summer and had a blast. Both were super exciting, but very different reasons. In the Alps mountain running has a long tradition – wasn't it the 40th Sierre-Zinal? Look at the results list for such rases; a small international elite field and then the majority are from nearby areas in France and French-speaking Switzerland – mostly fairly local. I ran in Zermatt and the majority seemed to be German-speaking Swiss from nearby areas. There are also an amazing number of local races! Some races are huge, bur still with mostly regional runners with small elite fields. The courses follow established trails (sometimes trails used over hundreds of years) and environmental impacts seem well considered. The sport is younger in the US and will have to go through its growing pains, but a similar range of small local races to large events seems to be developing.
    Sure, I miss the nearly total solitude I once had on my local training trails, but it is great to see more people being active and I am happy to share the joys of the trail.
    Is irunfar or other media contributing to the problem? No, I personally do not think so, because clearly Bryon facilitates precisely this discussion in these comment fields. And Bryon, Megan and Co are doing a great job keeping a personal and very human touch to their coverage of the sport.

  73. ljic

    money, money, money & only money…this is not trail running, this is only money for big brands, chamonix, etc…this is only points for runners ego cv…Support your local & undergrond races!

  74. Aaron

    I like this. There is a part of me (the part cultivated by my track background) that loves organization, rules, travel money, prize money, drug-testing, points standings, etc. There's also a part of me that just wants to go for a very long run in the mountains with friends. I'm glad that "ultrarunning" is a big enough tent to house both the corporate-fueled UTMB-style neon Euro-fests and the crusty old Hardrock-style mountain gatherings.

    Have no fear old-school ultra dudes. . .I can't imagine there ever being a shortage of low-key local races where the course is still marked with a sack of flour and the biggest sponsor is Billy Bob's Discount Tire Palace. I'll see you there. And maybe also at UTMB one day.

  75. NickP

    Bryon – Do you know if there has been any consideration about making this a two-year series? Sort of like how the World Marathon Majors does things. This obviously would add some complications, but it seems like it could potentially resolve some of the issues, particularly over-racing and travel (both time and expense). This was just a thought, and I was wondering if you have any insight into this.

  76. Samo

    Very interesting discussion. I have ran a few Skyraces and I also organized a local 21km mountain race. From my point of view it is very, very hard to organize even a decent small event, because you need enthusiastic team, many volunteers and devote more or less all of your spare time to the race. We got some support from a few sponsors, local government but the race costs were too high and was to risky to continue with the race although the people who participated liked the race. I would be interested to hear other people opinion what UTWT or SKYRUNNING fed. should/can do to finance/promote/develop local races if they want to be the leading organization to promote the sport.

    I see benefits only if:

    – UTWT is run as a associations of races and not as a personal project of some inside people. I don't know nothing how Skyrunning operates and distribute material and financial resources from sponsors to athletes and races.

    – All included races should have a vote on how the UTWT should be developing

    – UTWT should have a clear policy how sponsorship, TV, ads,.. money should be divided (let's say: 20% for managing the series, 40% elite athletes, 30% for included races and 10% for promoting the local events)

    My question is: Is it possible to have a system where these 10% would go back to some local organizers who demonstrate the willingness to develop the sport on grass root level under umbrella of UTWT or Skyrunning?

    Brands which support some of the elite teams/athletes will probably focus on these races which is good and what is already happening. We should admit that this is a normal process for any elite athlete. If Killian is able to run 10 races per year I would rather see him at top races but I would also like to see him at 1 small race mentioned above. I think in Tennis they have a rule that all top players must also compete at one or two local ATPs per year to promote the sport.

  77. Les

    Exactly, Robbie! That's how you ensure that the sport can continue and grow in the long-term, regardless of what global plans are put in place. It's also just a nice way to meet folks in the community!

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