Introducing the Under the Radar Races Series

Introducing a new series to celebrate low-key, under-the-radar races.

By on December 8, 2023 | Comments

AJW's TaproomA couple of months ago, I received an email from Kelly, a regular AJW’s Taproom reader, in response to our Race Director Chronicles series. In the email she suggested an idea for a 2024 series called Under the Radar Races, which are, in Kelly’s words, “lesser-known ultra events that deserve attention from runners.”

I love the idea and so today with this column, I am introducing our 2024 Under the Radar Races series. Beginning in January and concluding in November, I will profile one race a month that is “under the radar.”

In thinking about this I have decided to set some very general criteria for what makes a race under the radar:

1. The Event is Locally Owned and Operated

As the sport has grown and the number of races has increased, many events have been outsourced to large management companies that don’t necessarily have roots in the area in which the race is held.

In order for a race to qualify as under the radar, therefore, it must be owned and operated within the local community. The race director should reside in the general area of the event and most of the volunteers should also come from the area. And, they should all be volunteers. Events with paid staff will be ineligible.

2. The Event is a Not-For-Profit Entity

Back in the old days just about every ultra event was not-for-profit. Not so these days! With the sport’s exploding popularity, event management at a for-profit level has become big business.

Virginia Happy Trails Running Club - 2019 Bull Run Run

Runners getting their feet wet at the 2019 Bull Run Run 50 Mile, a not-for-profit, grassroots event in Virginia. Photo: Virginia Happy Trails Running Club

And, while many of these for-profit events provide outstanding experiences for athletes, they do not fit into the criteria of under the radar. Therefore, for-profit events will be ineligible.

3. The Event Has Easily and Readily Available Registration

Anybody reading this undoubtedly knows that in the current ultrarunning environment demand far outweighs supply in the marquee events. As a result, many races schedule registration many months in advance and quite a few have sophisticated lotteries.

At the same time, there are many mom-and-pop events out there that have no such processes and allow registration on a first come, first served basis, often right up to the day of the races. These events I consider under the radar.

So, events with lotteries and/or enormous waiting lists will be ineligible.

Clear Creek Ultra - Barn and Tent Set Up

The barn and start-finish area of the Clear Creek Ultra, an informal local race in Crystal Springs, Mississippi. Photo: Brooks Marion

Usually, much attention is paid to the biggest and most high-profile races like the Western States 100, Hardrock 100, and UTMB. And, while these events are truly extraordinary, there are also literally hundreds of other low-key ultra events that are outstanding in their own right. The Under the Radar Races series is intended to highlight these races.

In you’re interested in nominating a race for the Under the Radar Races, please respond in the comment section below or use our contact form, to let us know of a deserving race. This will be fun!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Iron Horse Brewery logoThis week’s beer of the week comes from Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, Washington. Quilter’s Irish Death is an excellent dark ale that is surprisingly smooth given it’s 7.8% ABV. Dark and tasty, Irish Death is a perfect winter beer for any occasion.

Call for Comments

What’s your favorite under-the-radar race? Let’s have your nominations!

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.