Interestingly enough, I wrote about a similar topic earlier this summer. As more and more people are toeing the starting line of trail and ultra races, the dynamic of our quickly growing sport is changing. The question of whether or not too much emphasis is being placed on competitive results is a bit of a paradox, and one that ultimately is at the mercy of an individual runners goals and aspirations.
Perhaps the real issue here is understanding the evolution of a sport as it grows and everything that comes along with that growth. We are seeing amazing records being set, and feats conquered that nobody would dare to dream of a decade ago. There’s talent out there now that’s at another level. However, we are also seeing entry fee prices increase, heavy corporate influence, and sponsorship’s come into play. I think this is where a lot of people philosophically and morally separate, and start to be at odds with each other. Where is the line drawn between a community with a grassroots beginning but an impending transition to a more “mainstream” crowd? Personally, novelty and stylized runs/events have never really held much interest for me (and even less now) as I find them to be more about monetary gain and notoriety as opposed to what I believe are innate aspects of trail running like community and minimalism. I’ll take a small-scale race with an intimate crowd and nominal fee any day rather than an over-inflated, overpriced, over-hyped event that (in my opinion) just dilutes the entire experience, not to mention raises other issues that have come up recently like environmental impact, runner safety, etc. And while I have been fortunate enough in my experiences to cross paths with 99% very cool and humble people in the sport, I do believe there is a small percentage of trail running athletes and organizers that could use a fundamental overhaul of their attitude and self-awareness. More frequently as the sport grows and distances and difficulty increase, there’s an unfortunate minimization I think one feels of their accomplishments, at least that’s the case with a person like me. All of a sudden I find myself feeling insignificant because I haven’t run 100 miles yet, then it’ll be 150, then 200. In some respects I think this energy and attitude in the scene is healthy in that it certainly pushes the envelope and breeds spirited competition, but can’t help but think where I will eventually draw the line between a challenging personal journey and extreme, possibly dangerous masochism.
In conclusion, I think it’s important for runners to realize that the journey they have with the sport is their own. You want to run fast and attempt to place in the top brackets? Wonderful, train hard to run fast and place. You simply want a healthy outdoor activity to stay fit? That’s great too. I think the question of whether or not too much emphasis is placed on results is really a personal question that can only be answered by that individual, and possibly part of larger questions like “where is the direction of trail running really going?” Only you can be the judge.
“I’m just a regular guy who likes to hit the trails.”
TrailRunner Magazine: trailrunnermag.com