Introducing the Race Director Chronicles

AJW introduces his new article series honoring the race directors who make our sport possible.

By on January 13, 2023 | Comments

AJW's TaproomFor the past several years here in AJW’s Taproom, I have written an annual article series. These articles have covered such themes as trail love letters, former ultrarunners of the year, classic races, and — this past year — unforgettable moments in ultrarunning history. There has been plenty of attention on the participants in the sport, so for this year’s series, I am producing the Race Director Chronicles — an eight-part series profiling the unsung heroes, without whom we would have no sport: our race directors.

As trail running and ultrarunning have evolved over the past decade, the role of race director has expanded exponentially. What was once a pretty straightforward job has now become incredibly complex as race directors are forced to toggle between being producers, politicians, supporters, negotiators, teachers, and comforters. It is not an easy job and, at times, can be downright thankless. It is safe to say that race directors are the hardest-working people in the sport.

Craig Thornley (left), Western States 100 race director, at the finish line in 2018.

Craig Thornley (left), Western States 100 race director, at the finish line in 2018. Photo: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Most months this year, I will profile a race director from anywhere in the world who has made a mark on the sport and has contributed to the community we all know and love. I plan to interview the race director as well as others who have run their races or volunteered with them. It is my hope to celebrate eight individuals and shine a light on the tremendously selfless work they do. In addition, I hope that we will all learn from these profiles and have increasing respect for this complex profession. Having dabbled in race directing myself for just a few years, I know how exhausting and soul-gutting it can be.

In an effort to be as inclusive and interactive as possible, I am asking for help from you, the loyal readers of iRunFar. In contrast to past series where I have come up with the subjects myself, I am asking you to nominate my subjects. In the comment section below or in a note to us via our contact form, please offer up a suggestion of someone you think we should profile. We will compile a list and then decide who to feature and when. We hope you will consider taking the time to nominate your favorite race director.

Finally, I hope that we will all take this opportunity to make 2023 ultrarunning’s year of gratitude. By showcasing the hard-working people who make our sport what it is, I hope we can shower gratitude on all of those, not just those we feature, who give us so much joy.

Race director Scott Kummer and runner Bertha Lotje Woehl at the finish of the 2021 Badger 100 Mile.

Race director Scott Kummer and runner Bertha Lotje Woehl at the finish of the 2021 Badger 100 Mile. Photo: Will Harrison

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Good People Brewing Company logo.This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Good People Brewing Company in Birmingham, Alabama. Good People’s robust Peanut Butter Chocolate Coffee Milk Stout is a massive beer. A classic American Stout brewed with ample amounts of peanut butter and slightly bitter chocolate seems like it would be too much. But it’s not. Rather, it’s smooth, balanced, and wonderfully drinkable. If you find yourself down in the Yellowhammer State, be sure to pick up a six-pack of this delicious stout.

Call for Comments

What race directors would you like to nominate and why? Let us know in the comments section or via our contact form!

Race director Tim Tollefson briefs racer's at the start of the 2022 Mammoth Trail Fest kids' race.

Race director Tim Tollefson briefs racers at the start of the 2022 Mammoth Trail Fest kids’ race. Photo courtesy of Tim Tollefson.

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.