In that context, in this, my last column of 2022, I am sharing my five 2023 predictions for the world of ultrarunning.
1. UTMB/Ironman Expansion
UTMB and Ironman will continue to expand and consolidate their influence over the world of elite-level ultrarunning. As UTMB and Ironman have grown, they have created a global sphere of influence that is unparalleled. As this continues to evolve, while providing increased opportunities for elite ultrarunners to compete on a global scale, it will also lead to more race director turnover, athlete over-racing, and further monopolization of sponsorship opportunities in the sport.
2. Elite Athlete Crossover
More elite-level athletes, particularly from triathlon, cycling, and cross-country skiing, will cross over to ultrarunning. As we saw earlier this year with triathlete Heather Jackson, we will continue to see more elite-level runners cross over to compete in the ultrarunning space as the sport provides more opportunity for sponsorship and funding while still being fun. I, for one, cannot wait to see world-class cross-country skier and all-around great person Jessie Diggins run her first ultra.
3. Smaller Ultramarathon Race Series
Small mom-and-pop race directors will come together in solidarity to combat commercialism and will develop their own series — grounded in the grassroots, and committed to the every-person nature of the sport that brought so many of us here in the first place. Indeed, some races will cease to exist, but for those who collect their resources and expand in ways commensurate with the respective sizes of their events, they will thrive with their own series.
4. Nonbinary Runners Support
Race organizers will improve recognition of and support for nonbinary runners. Riley Brady at the 2022 Javelina 100 Mile has taught us all that the future belongs to everyone. As events evolve and consider ways in which to honor and respect all participants, Brady’s example and their classy response to the criticism will continue to inform race organizers for years to come.
5. Ultramarathon Livestreaming Growth
More and more races will provide livestream coverage of their events. With Starlink now ubiquitous and smartphone camera technology improving, there is no doubt that more and more events will provide livestreaming. YouTube is an easy-to-use, free platform, and there are always people out there waiting at aid stations who would be happy to shoot video for a while. Video coverage of ultras, while certainly primitive, is here to stay.
Happy New Year, everyone!
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This final beer of the year comes from Mother Road Brewing Company in Flagstaff, Arizona. Known for their hoppy IPAs, Mother Road also makes other good beers and at the top of my list is their Conserve and Protect Golden Ale. A simple take on this classic variety, Conserve and Protect is robust, tasty, and a perfect New Year’s Eve beer.
Call for Comments
What are your predictions for 2023? Let us know!