Great Expectations

AJW calls for more respect and civility among the trail and ultrarunning ranks for 2015.

By on January 2, 2015 | Comments

AJWs TaproomOkay, everybody, I am afraid it’s time for a little rant here in the Taproom. I have been ruminating on this for a while and I think it’s time that I offer up a little challenge to our ultrarunning community in 2015. I know this may rub some people the wrong way but I need to get it off my chest. And, there is no time like the present to do it. So, here goes:

It’s high time we all reduce our expectations. Big time.

When I came into the sport in 1995, it was a simple time. We showed up for races, paid our entry fees, and ran the races. We expected a reasonably well-marked course, aid stations every couple of hours, and a little appreciation at the end. We also knew that there would be volunteers out there supporting us, typically a beautiful environment to provide sustenance, and often a race director working his or her butt off to make sure everything ended without incident.

It was the culture that mattered.

Call me old fashioned, call me a curmudgeon, and call me elitist, but I ask that we strive hard to not lose that culture. I fear some of what I loved when I got here is slipping away. Therefore, in that context, I challenge all of you to do your part in 2015 to sustain and maintain the culture those of us who’ve been around awhile have grown to love. Yes, I am asking you to listen to us old folks!

Too often over the past couple years I have been struck by the entitlement and greed that has crept into our sport. Too often it seems to be less about what we can give than what we can get. From race swag, to course markings, to aid station food, to post-race entertainment, we have become victims of our own success. And, nobody is immune. Sponsored athletes expect more appreciation, race directors expect more understanding from parks officials, volunteers expect some kind of specific reward for their labors, runners expect to be fully catered to, and even iRunFar followers have come to expect better and better race coverage. And, worst of all, when our expectations are not met, we are increasingly willing and able to openly, crassly, vociferously, and anonymously criticize whatever it is that has failed to meet our expectations.

From where I sit it has, quite simply, become too much.

I ask us all to take a step back. On the shoulders of those who came before us, I ask that we all take a good, hard, long look at what it takes to do what we do. What it takes in terms of money, man hours, environmental consequence, and societal impact. Then, I suggest we all find one thing, one simple thing, that we can do now, today, to support and sustain this extraordinary culture that is ultramarathon running.

Sure, the growth in the sport has been great. It has driven thousands into the mountains and allowed our heroes to make a living doing what they love. It has made a lifestyle into a life and made the improbable possible. In fact, that is the root of what we do. And, if we’re not careful, mindful, and thoughtful, it could be lost and the probable could become impossible.

So, in 2015, let’s celebrate the roots and the leaves of what makes ultrarunning great. What can you do as a start, today?

Bottoms up!

Lagunitas Brewing Company Lagunitas Sucks AJW’s Beer of the Week

For the first Beer of the Week of 2015, I am going with a Lagunitas Brewing Company favorite. From their little brewery in Petaluma, California, these guys produce a great beer called Lagunitas Sucks, a Brown Shugga Substitute Ale. To be honest, I don’t even know how to describe it, but it’s good. At 8% ABV and 63 IBUs, it’s balanced and honest, like the sport I’ve grown to love. Happy New Year everyone.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

As AJW said, his thoughts might incite debate, and that’s great. Disagreeing opinions are welcome, however, we do ask that you do so in a constructive way. In advance, thanks so much!

  • AJW wants us all to do one thing today to help ensure that trail and ultrarunning stays the sport it started as. What will you do today?
  • And, what will you do in the coming year to help our community continue down this path?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.