Happy Trails: It’s a Bird!

Happy Trails logoOne of the things that got me so excited about ultras four years ago was trying to get updates about friends during and after a race. After following their training for months on end, finding out how the race played out was like getting to the end of a mystery novel and then discovering you had to wait two days for the last page to be updated by the publisher. In most instances, despite scouring the Internet for any crumb of information on a forum or website, I inevitably had to wait for the update of the official race website that, of course, was never fast enough for me. Well, things have come a long way these days with tweets and texts, but still I find that I can never have too much information too soon. I don’t think there is any more exhilarating feeling then following a fellow athlete as they take on the challenge that they set forth to accomplish months or years prior. Earlier this month, Jill Homer fed that fire with her amazing set of fly-over photos from this year’s Iditarod Trail Invitational (see Geoff Roes’ race report).
I hope you all enjoy our new comic series, Happy Trails on iRunFar.com. It’s made for you. It’s about you.
Enjoy and, as we say here at iRunFar, “Happy Trails.”
It's a Bird - Super Jill(Click here for a larger version of the comic.)

Call for Comments

  • Are you like me and Jill? Do you find yourself scouring the Internet for results or hanging out of planes over a frozen lake?
  • What lengths have you gone to to get information about an athlete in a race?
  • On the other hand, how do you feel when others take on a personal interest in your running pursuits?

There are 2 comments

  1. geoff roes

    sometimes though i think the lack of information can be very exciting. i want to know a little bit about what's going on, but if I know too much it can take away from the experience of following an event online.

    1. EJ Murphy


      I haven't yet experienced having, "too much information". I have enjoyed the Spot technology during Ultra's. Does that consitute "too much information" for you?

  2. Jill Homer (@AlaskaJ

    Since others don't seem to be weighing in on the discussion … I certainly qualify as a Iditarod "superfan" (which is why I had to laugh at the cartoon and its supergirl reference), and tend to agree with Geoff's comment that gaps in coverage can generate excitement. However, I think those with deeper knowledge of certain events have an avantage over newcomers in that they already understand the gist of the course, conditions, etc., and use that knowledge to fill in gaps. What increased Internet coverage does is make it easier for new fans to follow and find excitement in distant events. In the past, have tried to follow a few ultra-bike events that I lost interest in because of lack of coverage. I just couldn't figure out what was going on, couldn't make heads or tails of where riders were in the race, and gave up trying. If capturing the interest of distant "fans" doesn't matter to you as a race director, there's no reason to spend any effort promoting or encouraging coverage of your event. But from a fan's perspective, I think more coverage is better. Which is why I appreciate iRunFar. You guys have definitely done a lot "fill in the gaps" for events such as Western States and UTMB. Keep up the good work.

    1. EJ Murphy

      Thanks for weighing in Jill and I'm glad you like the comic. I agree with your point about RD's sometimes dropping the ball concerning promotion of their events during and after the fact. I can only assume it is a matter of not having the resources to provide the "distant fans" with the coverage they are seeking. But how great was it that you were able to fly out on the course to get your own birds eye view of the events as they were unfolding?

  3. derrick

    I think it's so great the coverage that ultra running is getting with the immediate updates. IRF has been so great with this and had made it that much easier when coaching runners and being able to follow their races online.

    Also, on the flip side of the coin, I think it gives the runners a little more motivation in a race to keep going if things are getting tough, while knowing that friends and family back home are watching updates. That was certainly the case in my last 100 miler, knowing that live updates were happening via SPOT tracker.

  4. kendra olsen

    aha! so THAT'S why you emailed me all in a kerfuffle! congrats ej! i love it!

    as for my running adventures – a lot of people live vicariously through my insanity! and i'm okay with that!!

  5. Sara

    Nice to see you here, EJ!

    It's been a good year for winter racing coverage.

    In 2008 when Derrick did Rock and Ice in Yellowknife I had no contact or updates whatsoever for the entire race, which was tough. I found out the next year that it is better to be out there than being the one at home worrying and wondering!

  6. Laura

    I completely disagree with Geoff. I LOVE hearing about the races and live vicariously through reports, especially Jill's blog. Most of these races I'd never heard of and wouldn't have if it weren't for bloggers like Jill taking the time to give us all the details and a little insight into these experiences.

    I thank all of you who do that because otherwise it would just be another elitist level sport.

    Oh and I love, love, love the cartoon! It was awesome.

    1. EJ Murphy


      I'm glad you love, love it and you are so kind to take the time to comment. I was not really sure what kind of information specifically Geoff was referring to but perhaps there is a fine line between satisfying the curiosity of the fans and infringing on the very thing that sets ultrarunning apart from other more high profile sports. I don't think we ever want a motorcycleor bike following the lead runners with cameras pointed up their butts, do we?

  7. Geoff

    I think it's awesome that there is all kinds of information out there about various athletes/events. I love reading about inspiring athletes or events…. But, in terms of what types of races are more exciting to follow online I think you can get to a point where there is too much information, such that it takes away from the drama. For me the GPS tracking in real time during these types of events goes too far. when you can simply look a website anytime you want and tell exactly where everyone is it takes the excitement of the unknown out of the equation. The ITI has always been really exciting for me to follow online. part of this excitement comes from the fact that you really only get info on racers about once a day. the rest of the time you are left to guess, hypothosize, and get really excited about what might be happening. And then when you do get some unexpected info (like Jill provided during parts of the ITI this year) it seems so dramatic and exciting. if ITI racers were all carrying gps tracking devices, everyone would have known exactly what was going on in the race hours before the race organizers, jill, or anyone else was even able to report it. suddenly a fly over the yentna river by Jill and Dan has a lot less excitement and drama, because by the time they report what's happening, they're reporting "old news."

  8. Daniel Gamble

    I sure would love to hear some audio/voice recordings of an athlete sharing some thoughts and insights mid race. Our image driven modes rarely get us to think about how great it would be to hear the actual musings of a runner midrace, not to mention their breathing and cadence! Isolatedly hearing things works the imagination, and really captures so much that film can't and that Audio/Vid takes away from. Bring on the sound bites! Thanks to all the reporters!

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