The Answer to the $100K Question? The Run, Rabbit, Run 100 Mile!

Steamboat Springs, Colorado’s Run, Rabbit, Run 50 Mile Run has added a 100-mile race to be held on Friday, September 14, 2012 (the day before the Run, Rabbit, Run 50 miler).  What will be unique about the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 is that it aims to provide prize money an order of magnitude above the largest current purse for a 100 miler.

Those who have run the Run, Rabbit, Run 50 or who have read the race reports about it, know that it is one the most beautiful, best run, and most fun ultramarathons in the country and it’s put on by and for runners.  The 50 is an old school ultra, where the goal is to put on a first-class, well-organized race and give money in excess of expenses to local charities.  The race’s popularity led to a long waitlist for the 50 miler this year.  Past winners of the RRR50 include Geoff Roes, Joelle Vaught, and Ryan Burch.  This year, Nick Clark finished second to Zeke Tiernan, who also won the race’s inaugural running in 2007.

The objective of the new Run, Rabbit, Run 100 is to attract the best field of ultrarunners in the world to Steamboat Springs.  How?  By offering real prize money.  The goal is to offer $100,000.  Run, Rabbit, Run has the ability to do that, and still put on a first class event, and still donate to charity, because of the incredible support of the Steamboat community, and because the organizers are willing to donate an awful lot of their time to give something back to the sport they love.

The idea is to have two classes of runners – Rabbits and Turtles.  Rabbits will run for 90% of the purse, with the Turtles, who are the rest of us, going for the remainder, through age group awards, fun lotteries for cash, or whatnot.  Rabbits will be running for money only and will be subject to strict rules – no pacers, no trekking poles, and strictly limited crew access.  They won’t receive buckles or win anything at the massive pre-race swag drawing.  This will direct more non-prize purse resources into making the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 a top-notch race for the vast majority of runners who opt out of running for the big prize money.  Says RD Fred Abramowitz, “We will do our darndest to make it the RRR100 a first class race for everyone, better than any other 100 at a comparable entry fee.  And just like anyone who has run the 50 knows, we put on a fun event.”

The prize money is contingent upon entrants and sponsors.  The website will feature a “Bunny Money Meter” showing where the prize money stands.  The race organizers are putting up $10,000 to start the meter running and are shooting for $100,000. [April ’12 Update: The prize purse now sits at $30,000.] The depth of the prize money will depend on the total size of the prize purse.

The Turtles will get a 4 or so hour head start and, with a few out-and-backs of the course, they will be in a unique position to see how the race unfolds among the Rabbits.  The Turtles will start around midday with the Rabbits starting in the afternoon.

The course has largely been determined, although some tweaking may happen.  The route has been designed to be at once challenging – with about 18,000’ of climbing, much of it at 10,000’ – and to be accessible to increase its attractiveness to spectators, the press, the running world at-large, and, as a result, to potential sponsors.

The race's namesake Rabbit Ears.

The ultrarunning world is constantly evolving.  (What isn’t?)  In the context of the sport’s current state and its recent growth trajectory, it appears to be akin to road racing three decades ago and triathlons a bit more recently.  Runners and races are going to make money.  There’s nothing wrong with that… so long as two things don’t significantly change.

First, for the spirit of the sport to continue without radical alteration, the sport’s top runners must continue to race for the love of running and competition with prize purses being a way to support their running lives.  If you’d seen the top dogs throw down at the TNF 50 last weekend, this very much remains the case.

Second, organizers must continue to put on races that cater to the main body of the sport while meeting or exceeding those runners’ expectations. That’s not all, those race organizations must continue to be based on passion for that is the source of the je ne sais quoi that you see at Hardrock and Wasatch and Massanutten and Stone Cat and Speedgoat and Chuckanut and all of the many other events that stir emotion in those who’ve experienced such a race, be it as racer, crew, volunteer, or spectator.  From all I’ve heard, the Run, Rabbit, Run folks put on exactly this type of race.

The website is now live. (Updated website status) Registration for the Run, Rabbit, Run 50 mile and 100 mile opens on December 15. The 100-mile entry fee will be $275.

Call for Comments

  • With significant prize money already available at for 50 mile and 100k events, are you excited to see what might happen at a 100 miler with a big purse?
  • Do you think a big prize money 100 miler will draw a competitive field akin to Western States and UTMB? Can it do so in its first year?
  • Top men and women who’re reading this… are you interested in racing the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 next year? Why or why not?
  • The elites will have to choose between the competitive fields and cash purses of the Run, Rabbit, Run 100 and the UROC 100k. Is this likely divide the field based on skill sets? UROC’s been working on next year’s field for a while with some great runners already lining up. Are elites more likely to flock toward the strong field already assembling for UROC (and guaranteed $20k purse) or set out for what could be a much larger payday?
  • How should the prize money be divvied up if the total purse is $20k? $50k? $100k?
  • If you wouldn’t be in the hunt for prize money, would you be excited to see elites battling while you were racing on the same course?
Bryon Powell: is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar.com. Having spent nearly 20 years as an ultrarunner and three decades as a trail runner, he's also written Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and co-wrote Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running. He calls Silverton, Colorado and Moab, Utah home.

View Comments (232)

  • Wow. The 50 is my all time favorite race, and I'm stoked that Steamboat will host a 100. I must say that the separate start time (especially that the fast runners will start later) could pose a major issue. While there are some areas where passing will be easy, there will be large areas where the passing will be difficult and obtrusive to both the slower and faster runner. I know it would get old to continually ask for space or give way for space to pass.

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    • Patrick, thanks for the nice comments about our 50. But the 100 is not all on the same course and passing won't be a problem.

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  • As a mid- to often way-back-of-the-pack ultra runner, LOVE the je ne sais quoi of ultras and the shout-out to the AWESOME Stone Cat ultra.

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  • Fred's a real dynamo. Steamboat is gorgeous in September. Why not make the RRR the biggest 100 in the world?

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  • Might entice Kilian to come and use PPM as a warm-up. Still so far out to commit to anything, but if it works out, I would like to be there for the 100. Sounds pretty legit and the terrain looks gorgeous.

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    • Hey Bryon, on the NF 50 survey, it asked, "would you be interested in seeing a 100mi event added?" Any idea if they are seriously considering that for next year? Thanks.

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      • Truthfully, I have no idea regarding whether TNF is considering adding a 100 miler to its Endurance Challenge series lineup. This is the first I've heard of this idea.

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        • Ok thanks. It was an interesting survey with specific questions hinting at what direction(s) they may want to take the event.

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          • Time for me to go find some little birdies on the floor of The Running Event... ;-)

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  • Ok, Kenyans are in :)

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    • Funny. I told Geoff Roes that if we get that kind of money he might have to run agains some Kenyans. His answer was "Bring em on!"

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  • I've run the 50 for the last 3 years and I absolutely love it. It was my first ultra and it set the hook deep. Now I'll feel compelled to run the 100 (because more is always better), but I'll miss the predictable measure of my training that the 50 has been. I agree with Patrick that the later start time for the faster runners sounds problematic. Can't say I understand the reasoning behind it. I always enjoy seeing lead runners returning on out-and-backs, but I wouldn't enjoy being an obstacle between them and a big cash purse as they try to make their way out. Seems like it would hinder everyone from having their best race. Hope race management reconsiders the start times.

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  • I scrolled down and was shocked the entry fee was not $500+.

    Way to go Fred, what a value!

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  • Unfortunately you're all being fooled. Sure... a large cash prize is being offered at The RRR 100... but at the end of the day, this is all about the RD making money off of the talents of the fast guys. SO.. I WON'T be heading to Steamboat to run in the 100K 100.

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    • SJ,
      What's your basis for this position? It's a pretty big assumption to make ... especially given that the two primary organizers both have professions that likely provide them with adequate non-race income. It seems to me that it's quite possible to put on a race with a cash purse without trying to cash in.

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    • Yeah - I am also interested in why the take Sherpa John.

      I know this drum has been pounded before but if the racers are happy, the community is happy, the product is bought and all are satisfied - I am fine with an RD making money. Why is it a problem in a capitalistic society if they do?

      GZ

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      • I don't agree with capitalism. :)

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    • And if you knew Fred (the Race Director), you would not make such an absurd comment...

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      • I know Fred... he's a nice guy.. not disputing that. :)

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    • Yes you are absolutely correct! Of course as an RD you organise an event that takes up time and requires a lot of effort, that eats in to any other social life you might have, writing to other organisers, preparing all the logistics, securing permits and insurance (or organising others to), just to get rich...

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    • Knowing Fred A., I don't think he's in this for the money. I think he's interested in pulling ultrarunning into the big leagues. Whether this will be good for ultrarunning or not is an open question.

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      • I don't know for sure if it's good for the sport or not, Blake, but I'm pretty sure it is. But I'm absolutely certain it's inevitable. And if it's inevitable, it seemed to us we should set the template - a race by and for runners, designed to maximize benefits to the community and to charity. It seemed to us this was the right time, in the right community, with the right people.

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    • SJ - Fred is the nicest guy in the world he does not care about making money the money from the 50 goes back to the community because that is what he cares about the most. I was there for the 50 this year, and Fred talked to everyone including myself he is a great person and dedicated to the sport.

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    • I'm surprised at you, John. Really. You and I have communicated about this before, and you know darn well (since you ran the RRR50 this past year) that we are a charity race.

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      • If he's making money off fast runners, he won't make a dime off you Sherpa John. Sorry man, has to be said.

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        • Original... I'm pretty open about admitting my pace. I have no issue with it. Never have.. never will. I enjoy the mid to back of the pack. :) Thanks though.. Didn't know this needed to turn into multiple people throwing insults.

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      • Fred,

        With all do respect...I'm going to quote you in the e-mail you wrote me:

        "but my personal view is these guys and gals train hard, make significant personal sacrifices to excel, improve our understanding of the limits of human performance, add a nice profile to the sport, are almost uniformly good self-effacing people, and are vehicles for quite a few folks to make money."

        I know as much as anyone that you're a great guy. But I think, personally, that the lines are blurred in regards to if you're in this for charity, or the money. I chop this statement you made to me back in October.. into two parts. 1.) Where the folks here are correct. You're a great guy and you want to see the sport excel. You want to give these top runners a place to play and run their asses off against each other. I say.. Kudos to you on this front. But then comes the second part. 2.) "..and are vehicles for quite a few folks to make money." This is where I take issue. When I read this the first time.. and numerous times since.. it sounds to me like you're looking to make a buck off of these guys.

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        • I'll also add that I ran the 50 back in September and had an awesome time. Fred was an incredibly hospitable person. He gave every single person a friendly hello who asked him for his time.. no matter how long or short.

          Fred also took some time to explain to me why he felt there was a need for this 100 mile race.. actually... I never ONCE stated, at any place and/or time that I felt a 100 in Steamboat was a bad idea. I think it's a great idea. But for some reason, Fred felt the need to send me a very long drawn out e-mail trying to convince me of the need for this race. I DO take issue with prize monies in our sport.. and I don't think there is a need to charge $300 or more for folks to enter one of these races.

          I'm entitled to my opinion as are the rest of you. One thing that is truly starting to surprise me about our sport is the number of folks willing to jump on the back and beat the crap out of a guy with an opinion different then there own.

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          • Yeah, and you know, if you'd just said you had problems with prize money in ultrarunning, I suspect no one would have grumped at you at all. I'm of two minds about it, myself. What you're getting jumped on about is your implication that this is some scam to make the Race Director money. Since the RD you're insulting is both liked and respected ... yeah, you're getting shut down. Not to mention the fact that you were basically calling us dupes, which is fairly insulting to the rest of us. And frankly, not having the rest of the email for context, your excerpt doesn't mean a whole lot. There are at least 3 readings that I can make from that excerpt - one is the reading that you're giving it, another is that he's referring (somewhat awkwardly) to being able to reward the winning ultrarunners that he's praising so effusively in the clause before, a third is that, since these races are for charity, he's referring to the amount of funds that can go to those charities. From what I know of Fred, albeit secondhand, your reading is definitely the least likely.

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        • "and are vehicles for quite a few folks to make money.” Sounds like money-making to me.

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  • Anybody know if Hardrock or Western are willing to call this a qualifier in it's first year? I'm seriously doubting it. I'd love to run it, but will probably have to go elsewhere.

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    • I will beg, borrow, grovel and do whatever is necessary to get Blake, Dale and the rest of our good friends over at Hardrock to make us a qualifier. As for Western, the Run, Rabbit, Run 50 miler is part of the Montrail Ultra Cup - top two finishers get automatic entry. Can't imagine they'll have a problem with the 100 serving as a qualifier.

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      • Thanks Fred. I am way stoked for this. I think it is great and even though I have no chance of winning any $$ I will do my best to make it to the starting line. At the same time, it would mean a great deal to me to have it as a qualifier for Hardrock. If it is I will likely show up this year. If not I may need to wait for a later year.

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  • Ok, so after UROC, there will be another race which will try to draw a lot of fast guys and separate them from the rest of the field. How can you not call this a "radical alteration" of the sport ? Whether it is good or bad for ultra as a whole is a different story, but we should call it what it is. Elites are becoming more elite and less and less "guys just like us". You can't just go and shake hands will Paul Tergat or Haile Gebrselassie in the finish of a race, and in a couple of years it may be equally difficult to bump into and chit chat with next generation Geoffs, Dakotas, Nicks ... anyway, I will keep running my Jemez, Zane Gray and Deadman and keep dreaming of Hardrock.

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  • This brings up the question of whether it's time to start drug-testing at money ultra events. This has never been an issue in ultrarunning before, because there was little more than bragging rights on the line, and thus there was little incentive to either cheat or for RDs to go to the expense and effort to have the testing done. I think that will change quickly, once there is substantial money on the line.

    However, ultrarunning lacks a strong national rule-making body like road racing and T&F has in the USATF. Sure, I realize that the USATF has an ultrarunning committee, but very few ultras seek USATF sanction, so they have little pull. The problem is that, even with big money on the line, there is little incentive for private companies (like TNF) or individual RDs to impose a drug-testing regime, because it could scare away top athletes who ARE doping (not to imply that any of today's top athletes are doping, but big money WILL attract doping athletes to the sport.)

    Without a bit of foresight, it is easy for me to imagine that ultrarunning could go the way professional bike racing initially did, where to be competitive you HAD to be doping. Ultrarunning would be poorer for this.

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    • The point about professional bike racing is an interesting one, but in my opinion it's not likely to happen. The popularity of bike racing in Europe is on par with the popularity of baseball, basketball and football in the US. Top cyclists can make millions of dollars. It's hard to imagine that top ultrarunners are ever going to be pulling down hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money, much less millions. And as another poster mentioned, there just aren't many guys who are going to risk their health for $20K. I think cases like Eddy Hellebuyck are few and far between.

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      • Scott... I understand your point of view and agree... The only thing that I'm really starting to wonder about is when folks say "it’s not likely to happen." Did anyone ever think Western States would have nearly 2000+ entrants into it's lottery? Or that Hardrock over 700 or Leadville would have 800 entries in a single year? I don't think so.. when I joined this sport, the guy who got me into it said, "So few people are doing this kind of thing." Not anymore. :)

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  • Why is there no mention of this on the race website?

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    • Patience, please! The Turtles are in charge of the website and it is still under construction!

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  • To echo some of the previous comments, Fred (and the others involved) put on a top notch event. It is well-run in a great area. Plus it ends with plenty of pizza and beer!

    Interesting that they are going with no pacers, limited crew, etc. Personally, I think this is great but I wonder if a lot of people will not like this?

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    • The no pacers rule is only for the Rabbits, only for the guys going for the bulk of the purse! It's mano-a-mano and we want to avoid the temptation of rendering assistance! Everyone else can have pacers.

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      • I think the rules for the Rabbits section are awesome. It sets up this interesting dichotomy of a very old school approach (no pacers, limited/no crew, no poles, etc.) with a very new world purse. I like it!

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  • So Great! I was a volunteer for the inaugural RRR 50 and seeing it and the tight ultra community was one of my main motivators to join the ultra running world.

    Fred is an amazing ambassador for the sport and I'm super excited to see how a 100 pans out in my favorite running town. I will definitely take part! (Well, as a volunteer :)

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  • Curious if any of the $ would go to the top 50 milers (not that I would ever be one).

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    • No, and a good question. We will keep the 50 as it is.

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  • To kick a dead horse, it doesn't much matter if you agree with the direction that trail ultrarunning is going or not. There are obviously enough runners/fans interested in prize races that it really does seem inevitable at this point. UROC100k, TNF50m, RRR100m or WTFever, its just a matter of time before big money races are here to stay as long as the interest and $ is there to support them.

    I don't think that should frighten anyone into thinking the sport will change all that drastically. There just aren't many people out there willing to put in 20-40 hours a week into training, start doping to earn a few bucks ($90k divided by gender, podium, possible age category, etc. and the top guy gets what? maybe 20k tops? Ive never met another runner willing to wreck their health for a slim chance at what still amounts to poverty wage)or run 100 miles in general.

    Ultrarunning by its very nature will always be a fairly fringe sport, most people are just too lazy to care. Seriously, how many times have you heard "100 miles? I get tired just driving that far."

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  • Darthrunner. Exactly. You hit the nail on the head with that reply. Now maybe this tread will address the questions posed by Bryon, as they seem directed at the elites, or those that feel they are. As for the last question, which is aimed at the non-elite. Speaking for myself, I would care little about the elite race while I'm running my own race. I would have other things on my mind, I would imagine.Besides, it sounds like I could have aleady won something in the pre-race raffel, so I'm good to go.

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  • Wow, only two weeks before UROC who has a mission to bring in the top ultra runners on the same day. This could divide the talent from UROC to RRR100 - it might end up dividing competitors on a regional basis. Elite runners who train and live in the West might be more inclined to run RRR100, elite runners who train and love in the East might be more inclined to run UROC. Or some might do both.

    I think another question could be raised about the frequency of races offering a substantial prize purse and what it does to popular, historical, prestigious races like WS100, HR100, etc. that do not offer prize money. Does is pressure them to offer prize money? Do less runners want to participate in them if they do not offer prize money? Or does the prestige of them outweigh no prize money (I mean, nearly 2,000 people entered the WS lottery this year.)

    Someone should put together a list of the top races that offer prize money ( I predict many more in the near future) and the top races that do not.

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    • I think there is room for both elite 50's and 100's, but the number competitive runners is certainly not huge right now. How many western guys were at UROC this year? I think UROC could still thrive even if the field only consisted non-western ultra runners.

      Looking at the elevation profile for the RRR 50 mile, unless you live at elevation, have a hypoxic tent, or head out to the race for 2-3 weeks to acclimate, you have little chance of earning any money.

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      • Ben.. BINGO!

        There is definitely still a rift between West and East in our sport. Remember when Leigh Schmitt was tearing up the record books back East.. and no one noticed or cared because he wasn't from, the west? It's the same way for Jack Pilla.. tearing up his age group and no one pays a notice because he's not part of the "main-stream" western ultra- culture.

        Having moved from the East to Colorado.. I see the difference now more then ever! It's a completely different culture.. and you're right. No east coaster will have a chance at that prize money unless they live at Elevation for 9-12 weeks prior to the race.

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  • What drew me to the sport and continues to draw me and many others is the usually low key, challenging, and humility of these events. Even though people were running these "crazy" distances you wouldn't know it if you attended the event. What is wrong with having a day job and running? That in itself is appealing: Someone who can balance their lives but also maximize their running potential. Does it have to be their full time job? The low key lives of ultra runners where their passion and pride drive them will be put to the test. Will they forgo other events because of the lack of cash prizes after they've had a taste of this? How often do see Ryan Hall running marathons per year? I can count them on my one hand and I'm missing fingers. And why these large sums? Do runners really need grandiose sums of $100,000? Can runners just run for its own sake? In my opinion, the prestige and honor of running 100 miles in nature with others will be tarnished. If my points make no sense and this is the way ultra running is going then drug testing and its dark world will need to be examined.

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  • It is not clear to me where the other 90k is coming from. Is that based on other entries and sponsor support? That is a lot of bucks to get from sponsors ...

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    • Yep, it seems like a whole lot of publicity based on the pipe dream of 100 k of prize money (Rumplestiltskin 50 k offers*** 15 MILLION in prize money!!!!!!! ***if and when we get it).

      Let me know when they have the cash in escrow, then I'm going all Floyd Landis and a touch o' Lance and get me some.

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    • I'm surprised it took over 40 comments for this to come up. Sure the sport is growing but ultrarunning is still a pretty fringe sport. For example, there is far more money in darts, backgammon, and race walking.

      I applaud the race directors for thinking big, putting up $10k, and seriously doubt they are trying to get rich like that one [commenter] suggested. However, I think this is a little bait and switch by promoting prize money that doesn't exist. If the money does come I think many elites will jump at the chance as most any of us would in their shoes. It is pretty easy to be idealistic about something you have no chance of attaining.

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      • ... but AJW said the elites don't run for the money, right ?

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        • If you don't like the money, that's fine, don't run. Your negativism isn't wanted there anyway.

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          • it is not about money nor negativism. it is just about being honest and calling spade a spade. Can't you just see how hypocritical part of the elite ultra-running community became ? On one hand they claim (or enjoyed being claimed) as the ambassadors of the sport, which is open to anybody and is based on equality, who don't care about the cash purse, who are down to earth guys, who toe the line with the others ... yet half of the ultra-blogosphere talks nothing but money and cash prizes, new events with unprecedented rules are being setup - different for "rabbits" and "turtles", early start time for "elites", cash purse eligibility only for the "invited ones" - it is just popping around like mushrooms. I certainly can see the arguments for professionalization of the sport, maybe I am not a big fan of it, but OK, it's inevitable, it may be fun to watch from a sideline, it can bring more exposure, perhaps richer sponsors and the community as a whole can benefit from it. But this pretending to "not care about money" yet obviously being drawn to events with big cash purse is pretty ridiculous. I am not really a big fan of Karl M., but he at least has balls to say it out loud, that big dogs deserve big bugs and special treatment.

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          • Anonymous, thanks for contributing to the conversation. Please know that using one's name is much preferred in such discussions. I aim to keep iRunFar open for discussion with input of all view points. However, discussions and communities function best when points of view are attributable to individuals. If the community on iRunFar cannot provide this attribution willingly, I'll have to consider either (1) providing attribution or (2) requiring it through an authentication system. I assure you that I'd prefer the voluntary route. Thanks.

            -Bryon

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          • Bryon, I am not sure how to directly reply to your post ... it seems the system does not allow to go 7 levels deep. I have deliberately chosen to remain anonymous. I have my reasons, which you may or may not accept nor understand. I think that possibility to stay anonymous is a great feature of the internet. it of course comes with risks, but in my opinion it brings great benefits as well since it allows many sincere people to be more open than they could afford - should they reveal their identity. Your system allows to remain anonymous, and I took advantage of it. If you don't like it, please change your site. I hope that the fact that my contributions (as harsh as they may sound) lack any profanities separates me from the group of "internet trolls" who use their anonymity only to abuse the others. In my opinion, every idea has its own intrinsic value regardless of who's its author. Anyway, i really wish you keep the possibility and respect the choice to remain anonymous. I think most of us are adults and can elevate ourselves above the trolling of the few. On the other hand, mitigating critical and often unpopular voices by requiring authentication will just make your (ever more influential) site intellectually poorer.

            regards A.

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          • If you could make your yearly salary by running, you would. The end.

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          • What about the other folks above... like one's named "Scout"? That's not anonymous? Let's face it.. anonymity allows the trolls to speak their peace without a care in the world for feelings or relevance. :)

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      • Shad M.. thanks for ensuring that you included the insult in there in calling me a [derogatory name]. It is incredibly relevant to this conversation and I'm so glad to see that you're capable of accepting the opinions of others without the need for insults. :)

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        • Sherpa.. thanks as always for your honest opinions. It is indeed sad that some of the sport is polarized to the point that insults need to accompany opinions. Whether Fred is a nice guy or not, looking to get rich or not.. your willingness and ability to share the "other opinion" on things is refreshing. Thank you

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      • As long as the promotional materials are up front about how the prizes work, it doesn't sound like a bait and switch to me. They just need to be honest, which I don't think is going to be a problem. And

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    • THIS... is why I won't be signing up for the race. THIS RIGHT HERE.. and thank you George for bringing it up. It is inevitable that SOME of the entry fees will go to pitch in for the prize money. Personally.. I'd rather my entry fee go to these charities the race supports rather then the fast guy. I all ready know who's faster then me.. why don't I just give them my $1 share instead?

      Fred will need to be careful that this $100K is actually available.. and presentable the day OF the race. He doesn't want to have the same tarnished reputation as Ultra-Centric who claims big prizes but never pays out.

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