UTWT – Ultra Trail World Tour analysis

“We could make runners stash their own gatorade bottles (glass) and run with the horses, but it’s not 1974.” Craig Thornley, Western States race director.

It’s a good place to start. The world of trail, mountain, road ultra running is changing. In recent years we have seen rapid growth. Runners, elite and non elite want to test themselves on ever demanding courses and ultimately test themselves against each other and see who comes out on top.

However, ultra running is not quite like any other sport. It places extreme demands on the body. Pushed too hard and the body breaks… ask Geoff Roes what he thinks.

So, although an Ultra Trail World Tour sounds attractive caution is needed. But before we worry about those aspects, we first need to look at what this UTWT entails.

The UTWT was launched on September 1st amidst the Ultra-Tour du Mont-Blanc. The fact that the race was not over and that many runners were still trying to get to the finish line may well have been a touch of bad timing. Admittedly though, many press leave immediately after the event so this may very well have been a logistical issue.

One by one, the initial races were announced and with them a representative from each race came to the stage.

2014 confirmed races are as follows:

  • January 18th Vibram Hing Kong 100
  • March 1st The North Face Transgrancanaria
  • March 15th Vibram Tarawera 100km
  • April 4th to 14th Marathon des Sables
  • April 25th Ultra Trail Mt Fuji
  • June 27th The North Face Lavaredo Trail
  • June 29th Western States
  • August 29th The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc

So, this takes us up to August and apparently other races have been asked to participate and we can expect confirmation of these, on or before September 15th.

Of course, alarm bells initially ring at the presence of Western States. Secondary alarm bells ring at the presence on Marathon des Sables but I will come onto that later.

How does it work?

The UTWT will propose an international competitive circuit in partnership with the International Trail Running Association. The events should already be open to the widest public and will offer ‘everyone’ a unique chance, throughout each year, to participate. Question: How does that relate to Western States with limited capacity and demand far outweighing places available? Also, Marathon des Sables… UK entrants for example are on a three year waiting list.

In each race points are awarded to every runner and therefore at the end of the year, a male and female UTWT world champion will be announced. To attract elite athletes, certain events will have Ultra Trail Series status and these will offer more important weighting in the ranking. (I assume this will be for races like Western States?)

Runners will be presented with a Passport. This can be ordered online before the end of the year, it was not made clear if these passports need to be paid for? When you complete a race, you are awarded a visa, this is added to your passport and shows your completion.

The minimum race distance will be 100km, races must have had two previous editions to qualify and already have 500 minimum participants (again, Western States has less than 400). A minimum of twenty countries will be represented and be emblematic venues.

So, how do you become World Champ?

All finishers in every race will be awarded points according to his performance. These points will be added to the International ranking and updated after each race. This ranking will be available on line at the UTWT website. The circuit will be an International competitive circuit in partnership with the ITRA (International Trail Running Association).

As mentioned, a limited number of races will be called Ultra Trail Series and you may only use two best performances from these races in building up points for the world title. In total, three races score, so, you could have two UTS races and one other.

A world champion lady and male will be announced each year.

ANALYSIS

Okay, first and foremost, we don’t have the complete picture, so, you will need to be patient.

The press conference was slick, enticing and all was going well until a call for questions came. I jumped in and asked about Western States…

It’s not just ‘any’ race, it has a limited field, it’s a desirable race, what is the impact and so on a and so on.

The answer was vague and very unconvincing. In actual fact it was embarrassing. One comment that came from the stage was, “it’s early days and we haven’t worked these things out yet”. Not a good start.

One journalist asked several questions:

Will you have doping control? YES

Will you have prize money? EACH INDIVIDUAL RACE CAN HAVE PRIZE MONEY, IT’S UP TO THE RACE. We did not have clarification though if the world title had a prize, other than the ‘title’ of world champ.

What will the elites get? ELITE 1 RUNNERS WILL GET TRAVEL AND HOTELS PAID FOR. But they never clarified if that is open to all elite 1. Lets say 50 want to do Western States, will they all get hotels and travel?

The series very much seems like the Skyrunning concept, is this competition or are you offering something different?. THE RACES WILL BE 100km OR MORE AND ON VARIED TERRAIN, SKYRUNNING WORK TO A SPECIFIC FORMAT AND WITH THE ODD EXCEPTION, ALL RACES ARE UNDER 100k. I agree, the UTWT is very different to Skyrunning, it is taking some principles from the Skyrunning ethos, for example, a series of races, three qualify out of five and the winner is world Skyrunner champion but the terrain is varied. Skyrunning look at altitude and technical.

At this point, the stage participants could feel more and more questions were coming and the conference was drawn to a close quite quickly.

Overall, it started well and ended badly. It certainly appears that the UTWT team wanted to maximise the UTMB as a platform to launch but they had far too many question marks and lack of answers to leave me feeling reassured or convinced.

POINTS TO CONSIDER

I have to say, I like a championship that includes mixed terrains and distances. That will provide a true rounded athlete. However, the UTWT never specified how runners enter, so, for example, to qualify, do you have to do one 100k, one 100m and one stage race? Do you have to do one on sand, one in the mountains and one jungle for example? Without this specified, I could maybe do three 100k races on fast trail and get maximum points if that is what I was best at? We need clarification.

World destinations, iconic races are great. I can see the beauty and excitement of going to New Zealand, Hong Kong and so on, BUT these races already exist and to be honest, if I went to one it would be highly unlikely I would go to another. Far too expensive for the average pocket.

Travel and hotels for elites are all well and good but who is paying? Surely that is what sponsorship from a team is about. I am we’ll aware that places are offered and expenses paid already exists but this is very much in conjunction with a race, the RD and the athlete. Blanket travel and hotels need to be paid for and by someone and that will come down to the everyday runners and the races themselves who I am assuming are paying a yearly fee to be part of the UTWT. Transparency is needed here. Many figures have been mentioned that ravces are paying 15,000 to 30,000 euro to be part of UTWT. I believe this to be speculation.

The UTWT title needs additional incentives. Prize money! However, that has no bearing on all the other runners. I can’t help but think that only a small few (who are rich enough) will travel to several continents to experience the world tour.

What will the races get out of it? Well, recognition and exposure for one. But, I know I go back to Western States, does that race need more exposure… Does it need more entries, does it need more PR? Same applies for UTMB, you already have to get points and enter a lottery, so, if you get a ‘Passport’ does it mean you get automatic entry in a UTWT event? Confusing!

MDS is a completely different race to all the others, to have just one stage race and no others would be long term problematic. In addition, I am not even sure it should be in this series. A great race but is a unique race.

We also need to think about the runners, all the runners. The calendar is increasingly becoming larger with more and more choice. Do we really need to insist that participants run three races over 100k to be a world champion? In addition, for this to be a true championship, one of those three races would need to be a 100-miles.

Ultra is not always better when longer. I wonder if some races under 100k should be allowed?

Why not have an Ultra World Tour and include road? Comrades is an iconic race for example and surely a true ultra world champ should be able to run road too?

Are we seeing the creation of an ‘Ironman’ for trail or is this ‘just’ a series of races with quite simply a world title?

I’d like to know who is beyond this with clear transparency. I have experienced many things in the last twelve months that I have questioned and now suddenly they all add up. For example, late 2012 WAA (What an Adventure) became the official pack for MDS. At the 2013 MDS, Catherine Poletti was present at the finish in the Sahara and then WAA became the official supplier of the blue UTMB bag. Also, I believe that Catherine Poletti visited Western States to view the event… So, is the UTWT an extension of the UTMB organisation and what does it mean? Is this good or bad? I merely ask the question.

At this stage we do not have any answers. Paul Charteris from Tarawera ultra was prepared on Sunday at the press conference, although he did not attend he was online and responded to my tweets. He also had a press release ready and he has been open and transparent. Equally, Transgrancaria have been proactive and the team at Lavaredo I spoke with personally. They all want the races to be valued, increase in size and stature and be part of something bigger. I think Craig Thornley and team are having a harder time. Western States is the holy grail and change here will be difficult and in many cases not welcome. The sport must move on and grow and that means all the sport, Craig in many ways is correct when he tweeted, “We could make runners stash their own gatorade bottles (glass) and run with the horses, but it’s not 1974.”

So what do YOU think?

I don’t have the answers and I will have missed many points. Please provide some input.

*Please note, for reasons of clarity, I do work alongside the ISF Skyrunning Federation and my thoughts and comments in this posting are impartial and with the pure objective of what is the best for our sport.

34 thoughts on “UTWT – Ultra Trail World Tour analysis

  1. Agree re MDS, it shouldn’t count, it is a stage race and
    this should be for assorted ultra races from 50km to 100miles. Same
    with the events like western states, any that have a lottery
    selection method shouldn’t count. There are plenty of new and just
    as tough races in the world so maybe these should be included to
    help give them a boost.

  2. I totally agree with you points Ian. Ultra means more than
    42.195 K, not over 100K. From what very little info I have read, a
    €15,000 fee is required for a race to be part of the series. Will
    this drive up costs for us non-elite?

    • Not sure how they came about €15000 fee. A fee per runner might be appropriate. A race like the UTMB or MDS should pay a lot more than a smaller race.

  3. I can’t help but think that someone has seen big money in
    trailrunning, since it is booming the last year(s) and wants
    his/her/their part of it. The SkyRunning series seems a lot more
    balanced and thought through. You mix up terrains, distances etc.
    As Ian mentions; UTWT races overlap or are too close together
    sometimes, so theoretically the World Championship can be battled
    without even meeting your opponent. And it is definitely not
    something for the “every day Joe”, I can’t see how this would make
    those iconic races more accessible, sole goal seems to have more
    “Elite 1” at the start…

  4. It sounds like UTWT has a half-baked concept, that they want to go with and need support and feedback. Just because it is half-baked now, doesn’t mean it can’t be a success. The challenging questions you ask can only help to evolve the concept, or kill it if that is best. While ultra-running is booming, it is still a small fish compared to other sports. While the concept of UTWT sounds good, it seems natural to me that this would be another series in the Skyrunning portfolio, so to take advantage of the ISF experience and infrastructure. You ask great questions, and they need to be answered. How they are answered will probably determine if UTWT is a success or failure. Either way about it, the effort is going to be expensive….

  5. Thanks Ian,

    Firstly in any sport you cannot have a world champion that is decided by a small body of races/events. The title will just not be true and certainly in this format without your questions being answered. For there to be a true world champion there needs to be a body that categorises all the races that want to be in, say above Marathon or Ultra 50. Then a certain number of points awarded to placings within each type of race or distance. Difficulty also needs to be decided and taken into account. Then runners make a choice as to what they enter to gain enough points to win the battle of the best..

    Sadly this seems like a select group that are looking at the financial implications of clubbing together to save their race or elevate it to something it is clearly not. And sadly again, there seems to be little in terms high performance professional sport knowledge on the board of UTWT.

    That being said, it has to start somewhere and I am pleased to see some of the races recognising that there is a need to knit together a competitive season of races. This does for some of them, though, seem to be a way of taking advantage of other races success in terms of gaining sponsors because their own the race would not warrant sponsorship any longer due to lack of world class runners. Perhaps thats just business.

    I come from a tennis background where tournaments stand alone and gain a status. ATP takes care of the rest with lower national bodies taking care of the smaller events. And very well too. Lessons can be learnt from looking at how other sports do it as they have been at it for over 40 years, however trail running is only a few years old. Working out good and true world rankings is a great idea but needs to be done properly otherwise its just a farce and makes the events look very amateurish leaving them better standing alone.

    • (Paul Charteris here – RD for Tarawera – one of the UTWT events).

      “Sadly this seems like a select group that are looking at the financial implications of clubbing together to save their race or elevate it to something it is clearly not”.

      Yeow! I hope that’s not aimed at me Mark 🙂 Let me give you (and Ian) some reasons why Tarawera joined UTWT.

      1. Personally I love the concept of a World Tour that allows runners to complete a defined circuit over a number of years – I think it’s a great way to explore the world while enjoying the sport you love.
      2. There are great marketing benefits for Tarawera. This race is nowhere near full and so more runners will undoubtedly help make this race more financially viable. As you can appreciate NZ, is a (relatively) small market – so gaining the attention of major international markets is important for Tarawera’s growth.
      3. Tarawera exists in an iconic tourist destination (Rotorua) and there is very strong local and national tourism support for events like this (and there are several throughout the year) that bring international exposure and international travellers.
      4. We Kiwis absolutely pride ourselves on being hosts to the world. Being part of this tour and hosting more overseas runners is something that just seems like a natural fit.
      5. For me there has already been greater professional contact with these other RD’s and a greater sharing of ideas.

      Finally, over the past two days one of the messages that seems to have been completely lost (to me at least) in all of this that Ultra-Trail World Tour is about participation. travelling, experiencing new races and new cultures. I personally don’t see championship or any rankings component being anywhere near as important. For me – participation, new experiences and growing the (global) community are of overwhelming importance.

      Questions and comments most welcome 🙂

      – Paul Charteris

      • “Finally, over the past two days one of the messages that seems to have been completely lost (to me at least) in all of this that Ultra-Trail World Tour is about participation. travelling, experiencing new races and new cultures.”
        Paul, believe me, I am extremely fortunate in that what I do, it has allowed me to travel to races and different countries to work and report and bring the stories and images home. But, look at the list of seven races in UTWT, Hong Kong, New Zealand, France, Gran Canaria, Italy, USA and so on… who can afford to go? Anyone who goes to New Zealand for a race from Europe will need to go as a holiday, stay for 2 weeks, probably take the family and in the process blow thousands and thousands of pounds. That would wipe the travel budget out for most people and it would be the following year before they go anywhere again. I can see why Tarawera wants to be in the series, it will attract more people, boost tourism and help that local economy but they are all financial concerns and NOT ultra running concerns.
        As a runner myself, I would look at New Zealand one of two ways:
        1. I want to go to New Zealand and I will on such and such dates as it will allow me to fulfil my passion and run Tarawera.
        2. I want to run Tarawera and to justify it to the family etc we will make it a holiday and stay for a couple of weeks.
        Both of the above already exist and being UTWT affiliated would not make me want to go because I know I would not be able to go to two other places to get points, I wouldn’t be able to afford it.
        UTWT ultimately will provide Tarawera and New Zealand a greater world platform and exposure. Will it mean more people go to your race? I am not convinced.

      • [Yeow! I hope that’s not aimed at me Mark Let me give you (and Ian) some reasons why Tarawera joined UTWT.]

        Hi Paul, Firstly thank you for your reply and secondly, no it was not aimed at you or anyone in particular. I have direct links with MDS and have been a runner for many years. I have also been involved in professional tennis until 6 years ago so bring to this argument a lot regarding rankings and competitive sport.

        I think your motives are all valid, however Ian’s point about travelling as a runner or as a family are important too… I travel most of my year and I need to justify things like this. Many or in fact most will choose and event like yours as a one off trip of a lifetime and not do 5 like it over a year. However, that being said the landscape is changing and the professionalisation of the sport is starting. With this comes sponsorship but sponsors are interested in names, and names come through rankings, not people on a once in a lifetime holiday. And finally, the best will follow the purse. So unless there is significant prize money the runners will not afford too many of these. If their is then some runners will make a living from this eventually.

        As the sport moves forward there will be races for points and races for the challenge… and some that fit both. There needs to be an international body that takes care of a ranking system. It would not be too difficult to rank events by distance, terrain and environment. However, this takes time and may already have been started by a more knowledgable group. Who knows?. Its ludicrous to think a “World” champion can be found with this set up, though. It was also silly to announce this series as they did with so many unanswered questions and so much work to do.

        The Tour has clearly been pushed by the MDS and UTMB. Two big events that have held the status of “toughest” for many years. Now they don’t. They are beginning to be seen as “cash cows”. But by doing this they will only dilute their prestige and by becoming part of, or the creators of the UTWT to me looks a little like “running scared”. The MDS struggle with sponsors but for valid reasons. They are a running tour or holiday and sponsors want names as I mentioned before. There are no sportsmen or people from a competitive background behind the MDS, the UTMB I am not too sure of their backgrounds but suspect not otherwise this could not have happened..

        Races like yours are very unique in their destinations and given time will floursih or fail – this bit is you, not a tour which is normal. It will be because of your passions not a tour series.

        I am sure this will all resolve as everything always does.

        Mark

  6. Thanks for this great posting Ian…awesome work!

    I hope you can follow my bad English.

    Why MDS?
    Maybe they need a race in Africa to complete the five continents.

    Do we need UTWT?
    Good question. I also think that they have not the best concept at the moment, but time and UTMB were running and so they needed to come out with their plans.
    At the moment I think we don’t need this new Tour. We already have the “Western Slam”, “Rocky Mountain Slam”, the “Grand Slam of Ultrarunning”, and so on…what comes up next? “The awesome World-Slam”? Finish an Ultra every day on another continent, 365 times a row?
    We have a lot of great races all over the world and there are more races every year.
    For the “normal” runner, it is to much and too expensive to take part in a professional series. They must earn money in their regular job and can’t travel around the world once a month.
    The professional runner maybe wants to earn as much money as possible with his sport and so he will take part in the most lucrative series.

    So we will see what is getting on during the next months. I am excited but also a little bit worried.

    But…this is sports!

  7. “they had far too many question marks and lack of answers
    to leave me feeling reassured or convinced” My big question is Why?
    For such a high end concept, it just sounds like a commercial push
    given the lack of thought into some of the obvious questions you
    raised above. It just doesn’t strike me as something that an Ultra
    runner came up with, more a business venture pushed by someone with
    perhaps good intentions but lack of knowledge in the sport itself.
    As mark says above, one way it might work is if races were graded
    in a similar fashion to qualification points (for say, UTMB) and
    participation granting points towards a grand title, but then again
    who decides which type of race merits more – it brings me back to
    the first question, who’s driving this? My initial thoughts are
    that the world of Ultra running is too varied for this kind of
    ‘Grand title’, there has to be some kind of standard to measure
    against and in the world of Ultra running the only balanced league
    you could present is to have a series of champion’s-leagues by
    distance (such as 100 miles, 100km etc), or type/category, (sky
    running series, road racing etc), with those types of race graded
    against each other for difficulty and prizes derived from success
    in each category. If you do great in each category then perhaps,
    just maybe, someone could claim to be (on average) better than
    someone else across the range of distances or types of race but as
    we all know there isn’t an actual ‘best at everything’ runner out
    there, just a few notable Elites who are very hard to beat in their
    arenas.

    • I think the why is quite simple. There is in their eyes huge money to make and its also about saving or keeping some races valid. Where 10 years ago the MDS was the father of all endurance events, it is now a running holiday for some very wealthy individuals with a few good runners in the top 30. Not a bad thing but its not run a professional sport should be. It is run very well indeed as a great week away running in the desert, however.

  8. I wonder how many runners (elite + non-elite) are currently thinking to themselves, “this looks good, i’ll be getting my name down for four or five of these events next year.”?
    I would hazard a guess that the answer is – not many.

    MDS as part of a world trail series.. hmmmmm. errrrrrrrrr. This can only be a commercial decision. I really don’t think that you can start mixing in multi-day stage events into a series of trail races. Trail running can indeed cover a range of distances, terrains etc, but chucking the six-day Marathon des Sables in with a bunch of 100km-100miler single-day races just doesn’t work. (Not to mention the entry issues, already touched on in this article).

    In fact there’s already a pretty good world series of trail races. It’s called the ISF Sky UltraMarathon Series. And you can’t argue that Sky UltraMarathons are purely technical concepts, and therefore very different from what they’re trying to do with this new trail series. Yes, SkyRaces generally are techy, but the longer ones (Sky UltraMarathons) are more “traily”. (Not many long, hardcore, technical Sky-type (Kima style) races actually exist. Hence we see that particular series filling up with races like les Templiers, UROC, Speedgoat, etc.. Transvulcania’s not technical… So, we already have a world series of (medium-to-long, mainly mountainous) trail races.

    I struggle to see where this is going. If the ITRA want to launch a series, it has to be clear, coherent and they really should be able to answer questions from the floor. Do we not already have a better version of what they’re aiming for, which we must also note, wasn’t exactly a great success in its first year on the scene (just look at the numbers of series finishers in the Sky UltraMarathon series last year).

    If it’s a winner or a flop, well the runners will decide I guess.

    • Thanks Andy. You are correct, we do have Skyrunning and the ‘parameters’ that dictate a true Skyrunning race do become weakened as a race becomes longer. However, with events such as Ice Trail Tarentaise, Ronda del Cims and so on, the Skyrunning principal is upheld.
      I am all for the UTWT concept of a world champion who performs on multiple terrains and distances and is crowned ‘King’ or ‘Queen’. What I and many others are struggling with is how will this work, how do you get into Western States? How do you go to Marathon des Sables and then travel to France to run UTMB?
      UTWT almost sound like they are becoming a travel agent for the World Ultras. It’s less about running and more about boosting economies, “Finally, over the past two days one of the messages that seems to have been completely lost (to me at least) in all of this that Ultra-Trail World Tour is about participation. travelling, experiencing new races and new cultures. I personally don’t see championship or any rankings component being anywhere near as important. For me – participation, new experiences and growing the (global) community are of overwhelming importance.” Paul Charteris, RD, Tarawera Ultra, New Zealand.

      • International Ultra Ranking Example – Not difficult

        All races around the world are sourced and asked to join the body for $50 (admin fees). Then send in their race details. Most will be known. And remember the world is not just America and Europe!!

        Then the limit is set to 50 miles or 80 km upwards to be considered for ranking.

        Points are for winners then graded downwards thereafter

        50 road 10 Points (this is like Eurovision!)
        50 Trail 15 (normal conditions) Extra for extreme.
        50 Extreme Desert Jungle, Arctic 30 points. Double because there is extra training considerations, environment and cost. Different mindset to a weekend road event of 50.
        Then a similar layout for 100mile, 150 mile and then the mega races of 300 plus.

        Max out at best 10 races. If someone enters only Long stage races, this has to be figured out. 4 of those is probably about the same training effort as 10 50’s..

        Then the mix if people decide to mix them up can be calculated but a clever math genius…. As this is a quick fun few minutes I am having here..

        Maybe for a few biggies like MDS, UTMB Western States and so on Extra points because of the mental factor.. Like a tennis Grand Slam event.. Same court but tougher to win if all the best attend! Which they will if the prize money is there.

        Each race is responsible for itself. Sponsors, race applications and attractiveness to runners. Runners will follow the money. Tourists will follow destination, their wallets and egos.. Thats all fine..

        Finally, drug testing. Forgot it for the time being. If anyone wants to EPO, let them. They probably already do. And so what? That is a mine field and until the sport is truly ready for Olympics or other world status, don’t even go there… look how long its taken tri’s.

        I suppose this might not work for international athletics bodies getting involved though.. Mmmm.

        This is only a semi series few thoughts as I was bored this morning and just chatted to Ian on FB which also wound me up as always… I actually think he is in the best position to grow this type of structure so would like to see him get involved.

  9. It all sounds a little wishy-washy without any real though on how it will all work.

    Maybe this will all become clear in the coming months but I can’t help think ‘if it ain’t broke…..’

  10. Like most people, I’d like to think that, similar to golf or tennis (or most individual sports globally for that matter), trail running could one day develop and initiate a plausible and above all credible world ranking system, something that puts the performance of athletes on the world “measuring stick”. Deep down we all want to know who the best is, or at least play “sporting voyeur” to the scandals or rise-to-fame moments of our sport. But unlike golf or tennis (even though there are links vs. parkland golf courses, or clay vs. grass tennis courts) the variety in trail running is far too great to be able to provide a good overall view on a single ranking system.

    Andy Symonds referenced the International Skyrunning Federation [ISF] in an earlier comment, but it’s defintely a continued reference point and a book that, in my opinion, we as the trail running community should be scurrying to take as many leaves from as possible.

    To put it into perspective (and of course this is greatly summarised, more at http://www.skyrunning.com):

    – The ISF (more so it’s basic constitution and ethos) has existed for more then 22 years, offering credible formalization and tried-and-tested solutions to developing the sport to the point at which it’s at now

    – They have successfully defined a variety of disciplines within the sport that curtails any confusion or discrepancy as to what they represent in terms of distance, technicality etc come race day (i.e. SkyMarathon, SkyTrail, Ultra SkyMarathon etc)

    – They have actively promoted both a European and World Series with a selection of disciplines in each, offering a credible and easy-to-use ranking system amongst all competing athletes in each discipline, ultimately crowning a world champion in (most importantly) each discipline

    – They provide stringent criteria that host event organisers are obligated to meet, in order to provide an expected global standard amongst runners, all forming part of an extensive constitution

    – They undertake a bidding process at their annual General Assembly, allowing new events globally to participate as event hosts in future annual World Series’s

    – [addition to the point above] They have 23 voting member countries around the world, all of whom assist in governing the sport on a local level, thus offering a wide variety of perspective amongst their own localised communities, in order to ultimately put forward local events for that consideration on the World Series

    The formation of a Ultra Trail World Tour, should it be trail running’s “measuring stick” (which, by all accounts from Ian’s article above, is intended to do), is in my opinion a “cart-before-the-horse” scenario. Yes, the International Trail Running Association exists (although I’ve yet to see a constitution) and yes, they do have a basic definition of trail running (http://www.trail-running-association.org/page/259/Definition_of_trail-running.html) however, should this stable not be in order first, before announcing a world series of any sort?

    Which brings me to my final question, who are the actual initiators of this UTWT? Many onlookers have already noted that this a commercial venture being made by a small group. If the alleged price tag of €15,000.00 to have an event “recognised” as a UTWT race host is true, then why is this deduction not at all surprising?

    I think it is inevitable that, as the sport grows, the need for a global voice (whether that be an association, federation or governing body) will become more and more aparent. Who that voice is, and how that voice is managed, is ultimately the crux to the future of our sport.

    • James, thank you for this as it puts a lot into perspective about Skyrunning. I think you will find the initiators of this are Patrick Bauer of the MDS, his new investor WAA, UTMB owners Catherine Poletti and her husband and Cyril ?? of WAA who sponsors and invests in the two races.

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  12. So – isn’t this just a “World Tour”.
    An easy way for these X number of events to band together in an attempt to create something ‘special’ ?
    The same way people want to do the 6 ‘big marathons’ (World Marathon Majors?). I know of quite a few people who want to run London, Boston, Tokyo etc. They will gladly collect the race shirts over a number of years….

    If this is just some gimmicky way to collect stamps in your ultra passport, and then eventually be listed on some random internet page of obscurity – then great. Complete the set over a number of years etc… Isn’t this the same as people tracking FKTs, or Strava, or stamps in a *real* passport?

    However, If this is a money making venture, and/or an attempt to crown a ‘World Champion’ (who cares btw?), or some other business venture – then it will fail.

    Having run Tarawera, and seen firsthand how Paul operates a great event, I’d hope that this is simply a “Tour of awesome events sharing a similar strong ‘culture'”, and its simply been launched horribly….

  13. The jury is out on this but I love the idea of a championship circuit. I think we should give them some time as it sounds like things are still being figured out. At this point it is far too easy to criticize and pose questions (in fact it is always easier to criticize and pose questions). Let’s see how it comes together.

    • David, you are correct. The UTWT does have merits, however, what gets me and many people who are reading about the UTWT is the lack of fore thought and planning before going to a live press announcement. Do you announce a circuit, say what the parameters are for inclusion and then include two races such as Western States and MDS, that clearly don’t answer to the ‘standards’ that the UTWT has set themselves? It’s right to ask questions and I know that UTWT are reading what we write… I am sure this feedback, good and bad is just what they need to make the UTWT not only work but be better!

  14. is it only me or this there no one else who is very wary of introducing large sums of money into ultra running. one thing that we have all learned is that financial incentives create the potential for corruption ie doping. lets keep ultra running poor and pure

    • Martin, the sport will progress. Nothing you can do about it. Better to accept and help mould it into the sport we want it to be in contrast to sticking our heads in the sand, only to remove them 1,2,3 years down the line and find that what is left is a disaster. That is why this debate and discussion is good. Change will happen and IT IS happening.

  15. I don’t see how this UTWT idea benefits the sport or the vast majority of runners who participate. I also don’t see how this would create an exciting year of racing for spectators, either. In short: I don’t understand why this is necessary or a good idea. After 2013, all I want from the organizers of ultra-events is a deep breath and that they take a moment to clear their heads. I hope to see older, quality races tighten up and get better. I hope to see new races work out their issues and become mainstays. None of this would be achieved by the concept of this race series. (On a more impassioned note: please WS100, stay out of this. It’s just clearly not a cool idea at all.)

  16. its the eternal question for small sports that grow and even more so for Ultra. Ultra is Gordy Ainsleigh. Its Al Arnold. But its also Killian. When Dean wrote his book i think some of us saw that as selling the soul of Ultra. But it made Ultra more appealing. The sport has grown. The soul isnt so obvious. It is something Ironman has been through. From John Collins and the 12 people in Hawaii in 78 to today where Ironman is a big beast, and the soul of it has been redefined. I think this is what we are seeing in Ultra. A redefinition of the soul. To me as long as we still have races like the Berkley where the RD does as he pleases, and other races where the first prize is a belt buckle we can still accommodate both desires. The sport has to grow. and that means money and rankings and marketing. But we can still keep the soul of Ultra but running a small backcountry race with just 50 people or do as Killian does and create our own adventures. Ultra is having growing pains but it will still provide to people whatever experience they are looking for.

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