Winter, trails, darkness, and all the weather.
One last hurrah before the end of the year. Runners, get ready for a fun and festive holiday treat along the trails of Squaxin Park.

Winter, trails, darkness, and all the weather.
One last hurrah before the end of the year. Runners, get ready for a fun and festive holiday treat along the trails of Squaxin Park.

Matt Walsh interviews Greg Volley, Director of the Golden Trail World Series. Here are a few things that stick out to me.

  • Our sport is so focused on the ultra distances that the Golden Trail series is still somewhat flying under the radar. Yes, there are certain races that a big on the annual calendar, Zegama and Sierre-Zinal for example, but both races are in Europe and especially here in North America this events haven’t attracted the biggest talents or created the biggest stories.
  • Salomon itself is somewhat flying under the radar with this marketing effort. And that is, according to Vollet, what this race series is for Salomon. We’ve been talking about how Hoka seems to be owning trail with their partnership with UTMB, or certain shoe brands with their introduction of hyper shoes for hyper prices and we’re looking at how other businesses are ‘shaping our sport’ with their strategic investments. Salomon is proudly doing just that by investing a shit ton of marketing Euros into an international racing series with the aim of redefining the sport. The series’ focus is on shorter trail races, away from the ultras. Shorter races would allow runners to race more often. And it creates a more concise media product, and gives more runners a chance to go pro according to Vollet.
  • One thing that is missing for me with these shorter Golden Trail Series events is the focus on the beauty of the landscape. The story of ultras is just so cool, run through the night, around a mountain, you just can’t beat that. And the Golden Trail series events are too short, that they feel more like traditional cross country race. Less adventure, more competition. Nothing wrong with that, but for me, it skews the story into a direction that’s not quite my cup of tea.
  • I do appreciate Vollet’s candid responses to Walsh’s questions regarding UTMB. Expect the point around him seeing the Golden Trail Series alone and uncontested. The Skyrunning Series exists and certainly operates in the same space.
  • The Golden Trail Series website is shit. I really wish that with these event series someone would put the effort in, and comes up with a good way to market this year’s event date, tell the story of the location and trail, and keep a good historical backstory and results. All in one place. Is that too much to ask?

I’ve focused here a lot on UTMB, and in many ways deservedly so, it is the biggest global event in our space, by far. But it’s also been a personal thing, I do want to race UTMB one day. Clearly what these past few months have been showing is that UTMB is in a rock and uneasy space. It’s good if other players in our sport assert themselves and play strong competition in our sport’s media landscape as well as helping create story lines around athletes and places and thus foster dreams for runners to go chase their adventure.

After two years in the Pacific Northwest the show is moving across the country and announcing some much needed changes:

We are already planning exciting changes to the Conference content for next year, along with major organizational changes to the Conference structure as well. More details on these exciting developments to come in the near future.

Over the past two years the conference focused its content almost entirely on race directors. Not sure if a conference can be sustainable with that sole focus, but why not go all in and really make race directors the focus in name and marketing. RDs surely are playing a crucial role in the way our sport is growing and experienced, giving them a place to learn, and a platform to come together wouldn’t be wasted time or effort. Sort of the way the elite athletes are gathering under the umbrella of the Pro Trail Runners Association as their ‘union’, this gathering could become this space for race directors.

From the press release:

Craft Sportswear North America plans to move its U.S. headquarters from Beverly, MA, to Seattle, WA, in 2024 to “bolster the brand’s expansion in outdoor and specialty retail, all while streamlining operational efficiencies.”

Sweden-based New Wave Group owns both Craft and Cutter & Buck. Cutter & Buck is based in Seattle, WA.

Good move and I got nothing to add other than I love when outdoor brands move to my neck of the woods. This usually creates jobs and interesting marketing opportunities. Hey Craft, wanna sponsor Beast for 2024?

In lighter news from Apple PR:

This year’s winners showcase the scope of creativity, technical innovation, and design possible across the App Store and Apple’s ecosystem. AllTrails nurtures community through comprehensive trail guides and outdoor exploration for everyone.

This just gets to show how “the outdoors” are trending… Trails, are the hot thing right now. Good thing we have a Film Festival coming up to share this with the world.

Corrine Malcolm on her Instagram account:

Well team, I’ve got some bad news for you. There is one place I won’t be in 2024 – and that’s behind the mic for UTMB Live. As of yesterday I’ve been informed that I can no longer be part of the commentary team that I’ve worked with for the last four years because I’m too outspoken. 

I just don’t even know what’s going on over there. This is not normal corporate behavior. This is one insane PR blunder after another. Of course, businesses can “business”, and will do things the community doesn’t like, but usually the way corporations move is that they announce new stuff, hype a new direction and vision, and the community and it’s beloved people are collateral damage. What is currently happening with UTMB Is that they seem to be nuking their biggest fans in brought daylight and aren’t giving us a reason for why they are doing this. Now we will need another series of explainer podcasts where the Ironman/UTMB team has to make the rounds and play damage control. This is asinine.

Of course, Corrine was outspoken. Not just on the broadcast, celebrating and fighting for equal coverage of the women’s races but also in the aftermath of the Whistler announcement on Twitter. I actually am a bit surprised she would’ve wanted to return to the UTMB broadcast. In some way you could be callous and say “what were you expecting”. But our sport is in a weird place. Are these announcers just employees that have to just stay on message, or are they allowed to speak freely and celebrate the sport? If UTMB controls the message so much that the announcers are just doing infomercials then maybe this whole thing is starting to loose a bit of shine and a reckoning is needed. But, I am also not too knowledgeable in sports media and don’t understand what the professional decorum is. If you are an announcer for the Superbowl, or the Olympics, do you get to speak freely? Or are you getting access to the mic by showing how ‘well-trained’ you can be?

Add on:

  • Usually I refrain from reading the comments on social media posts, but in this case it’s worth it. Many of the big voices of our sport (mainly North Americans) are commenting, but even Kilian chimed in.

In an official press release posted on CMTR’s Facebook page Gary and team announce their take over of the Whistler Half Marathon.

Following the 2024 edition of the event to be held June 1st at Whistler Olympic Plaza, the event’s ownership will transfer to Coast Mountain Trail Running whose principals are Geoff Langford and Gary Robbins.

Registration for the 2024 edition will open New Year’s Day. Race weekend is May 31 – June 2, 2024.

This is all getting very confusing up there in British Columbia.

Kevin Fallon, co-founder of Speedland on his personal Instagram account, on the opening day of TRE:

I’m flattered that Speedland inspired another small brand to challenge how shoes are made, and follow our lead. It would have been much better story, and product, if NNormal had collaborated with us.

I wish the best to Killian and the NNormal team, but let’s be clear on who’s following who. And imagine how much cooler it could have been to team up and do something awesome together.

NNormal had a booth at TRE and was almost nonstop busy. Speedland did not have a presence at the show.

Skyrunner World Series is putting out the call:

We are expanding our search for the next Skyrunning super stars. If you think that you, or someone you know, has what it takes to compete in the world’s most technical racing circuit at elite level, fill out the form and tell us more.

I’ve got a course for you to train on.

Earlier this month Freetrail announced a ‘Good Morning Austin’ show, that was supposed to be featuring brands and organizations from TRE. Does anyone have the scoop on where to find this show? Is it not happening?

Edit: Oh, there it is, on the Freetrail Youtube channel. That’s why I couldn’t find it. This is totally on me. Youtube is a platform I just never think about. I was expecting the shows to drop on the podcast, and be announced and shared on Instagram. I guess I’m showing my age.

From the Canyons Instagram:

We are thrilled to confirm The Canyons Endurance Runs by UTMB as the 2024 UTMB World Series Americas Major! 

While this is a reasonable option, announcing it so late, and after the 100K distance has already been sold out, makes you wonder if they had plans to host the American Majors somewhere else.

It’s officially lottery season in the trail world. (In the soccer world this is called silly season, refers to something different, but it feels apt. This season is a bit silly, as our sport is growing and runners worldwide are making their plans on where they get to race this coming year by entering lotteries.)

If you’re silly enough to want to race in Chamonix this coming summer and want to race on of the World Series Finals races (that’s UTMB, CCC, OCC) then these are the dates you gotta keep on your calendar:

  • 30 November 2023: Registration opens for Charity Bibs (€2,000 Euro let’s you bypass the lottery but you still need to qualify for the race you’re wanting to enter with stones and index.)
  • 14 December 2023: Pre-registration opens for the UTMB (UTMB World Series Final) lottery
  • 11 January 2024: Pre-registration closes for the UTMB, CCC, OCC
  • 16 January 2024: UTMB, CCC, OCC lottery draw
  • 29 January 2024 : Final date for runners to confirm registration for UTMB // Second lottery round if runners don’t confirm their registration

This year I finally have an index and a few lonely stones, so I will enter the lottery and make my offering to the luck dragon.

Even though the WTM currently has only nine races and thus the annual calendar isn’t as convoluted yet, I decided to still throw all the races into a manageable spreadsheet so you (and I) can have access to all the important information at a glance. And just like with the UTMB events calendar my goal is to keep this spreadsheet updated as changes are announced by the organization.

After losing Transvulcania just two month ago UTMB announced a new race, just one island over in the same Canary Island group, but this one on the main island Tenerife, which is officially part of Spain.

The races will be held on June 6-8 with distances ranging from 110K, 73K, 47K and 24K.

Tenerife Bluetrail by UTMB® will become the second event in Spain to join the UTMB® World Series in 2024, giving the large community of runners across the country the opportunity to explore the highest peak in Spain and its surroundings. 

UTMB seems to like these island destination races, which sort of goes counter to their sustainability efforts which state that runners should have access to lots of races close to where they live in order to minimize air travel. Getting to an island requires almost everyone to fly into. But it does hint at UTMB’s strategy that they are positioning their races as tourist magnets.

The Electric Cable Car UTMB Events calendar is updated.

With the promise of an even bigger and better Switchback:

Switchback at The Running Event invites outdoor retailers, brands, and industry leaders to build new partnerships, access actionable information, source quality products—and celebrate the greater specialty retail community.

The Running Event is for all running, mainly road, but their Switchback section of the trade show floor will be dedicated to the outdoors and trails.

I’ll be there, wearing my Trail Running Film Festival hat, among my other hats, hoping to catch some of you in person.

From their official press blog:

RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town 2023, now part of the World Trail Majors, delivered a host of stellar performances and exciting racing from both South African and international ultra-trail runners over the weekend. 

The official social media accounts of WTM were quiet all weekend during the race and didn’t announce any of the races or winners. But I’m glad to see that they are giving the racers some visibility now.

Dylan Bowman on Twitter:

Wow, Anta is now the title sponsor of a major trail race! The multi-billion dollar Chinese footwear and apparel giant is the latest mega brand in trail running.

Anta owns Fila (for mainland China only) and a majority share in Amer Sports who owns Amer Sports, who in turn owns Arc’teryx, Salomon and a few other companies. This is all a bit convoluted but needless to say money seems to be pouring into the sport, as expected.

This is a big get for Hong Kong 100, but does not, at this point translate into a sponsorship for the entire series of the World Trail Majors.

Hardrock Lottery is the same day as Western States‘. Why? No idea.

Preliminary numbers (as of 11/20) show 2,801 people are hoping to get one of the 146 entries.

These numbers are just crazy and give lots of ammunition to the folks (UTMB and et al.) who believe that our growing sport can handle more races in more places. And even the ‘die hards’, who love these historic races and see their changes to ever getting picked in the lottery decrease every year should be happy with more races drawing attention away from the few that are way way way overbooked.

As Ryan Clayton on Twitter points out:

Okay, this is crazy. Almost 10,000 people in the #wser lottery?!?

So, there are almost 10,000 people vying for the 369 spots. And really it’s a lot fewer considering that there are so many special consideration entries awarded. In 2023 there were only 274 spots for the open raffle.

The lottery will be held December 2, 2023 8 a.m. PST at Placer High School and live-streamed here with viewing parties all across the globe.

Paul Sawers for TechCrunch reported this a few weeks ago and I forgot to post it:

Powered by Fatmap acquisition, Flyover is only on Android for now

Kind of cool to see acquisitions to actually amount to something useful for the end users. Also worth nothing that I doubt there are many features/apps that are Android first, this one is.

I had Wes Plate on Singletrack a couple of weeks ago and we chat among other things about his epic 200 Mile run around the Puget Sound. Now Wes release a video on Youtube sharing his journey. Worth a watch.

Kilian on his YouTube live event posted during my turkey trot run this morning:

A modular shoe that encapsulates the core values of NNormal, namely authenticity, commitment, usefulness, and No-Normal.

Normal is looking for some beta testers to help with developing the elements and in-soles of the new shoe that’s meant to last you longer, while allowing you to interchange various components.

Has a bit ‘fuck it, we’re doing five blades‘ energy.

SingletrackEpisode 290:

Daniela Oemus, German trail runner for Salomon, ER Doctor and parent of two joins Singletrack to talk about her breakout year of racing, including a win at Zegama and Wildstrubel and a 6th place finish in the trail short discipline at the World Mountain and Trail Running Championships in Innsbruck. We chat about her favorite racing distance, her love for the Golden Trail Series, and her challenges of navigating her career, her athlete life and her family.


Bart Schaneman for Outdoor Retailer’s ‘The Daily’ reports:

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis’ economic data shows the outdoor industry generated $1.1 trillion in economic output for the United States in 2022.

The article breaks down the industry by segment, running/trail running not included. Is that because trail running would be considered a sport and not an outdoor activity? Strange.

In the headline I’m linking to the event website, but this blurb below is from the English Wikipedia entry:

Since 1973, the race has taken place annually in May. It used to be the biggest popular sport event in East Germany, and is still one of the biggest ultramarathons in Europe, attracting more than 10,000 participants, including those for other distances.

I love learning about these events that have been going on for decades, run by volunteers, drawing a huge crowd without any of the fuss and attention it deserves. More of this, please.

Kilian Jornet on Instagram:

Born from a Vision. Reveal awaits on Nov 23rd on NNormal Youtube Channel. Be part of the change.

Is the announced change a change in direction at NNormal, or just a new product that’s continuing their vision for change?

Secondly, this announcement is slightly ill-timed for a global company. While headquartered in Europe, the US must be one of their biggest markets and announcing a press event on Thanksgiving 10am (PST) is literally smack dab during the time most runners are either at their local turkey trot or are already in a food coma.

From the Western States Endurance Runs press release:

The Board of Directors for the Western States Endurance Run has named Lamont King, Western States volunteer, ultra runner and accomplished public pension fund lawyer, to the board, WSER president Diana Fitzpatrick announced.

In an increasingly diverse world, or as WSER president Diana Fitzpatrick calls it in the official press announcement: “an incredibly dynamic moment in our sport”, this is a great move for Western States and for our sport.

Scott Jurek – 2023 Hall of Fame Member:

During his ultrarunning career, Jurek had at least 34 overall wins that included ten course records. His last known ultra finish came at age of 39, in 2013

I was today’s year’s old when I found out that there is a Ultrarunning Hall of Fame.

In an excellent interview on the Ultrarunning Sam podcast host Sam Hill sits down with Paul Huddle – Senior director of global trail running and Keats McGonigal – Vice president of North American operations for Ironman/UTMB to ask some hard questions and gives them the chance to share their side of the story. I will even link to the Youtube version of this podcast, I think it’s that important of a conversation for our trail running community.

Here are some of my takeaways:

  • UTMB reiterated that they didn’t engage with Whistler/Vail until after CMTR announcement they were definitively leaving Whistler for good.

IF you believe this version of the story things end up looking very different. UTMB is a business, saw an opportunity and took it. That’s it, that’s the story. No nefarious backdoor deals, no collusion, no “big trail” bullying the little guy. CMTR closed the door on Whistler with their public post in February, UTMB jumped on the opportunity to bring a trail race to Whistler.

Could’ve, or should’ve UTMB reach out to CMTR and asked them about Whistler? Maybe. It’s not a common business practice though. It might’ve been nice, but not sure what results we expected to come from this.

  • UTMB via Ironman does have history in Whistler that predates WAM.

So for them to be able to move reasonably quick in selecting a site/course and be willing to do what it takes (pay permits and perhaps higher fees) seems entirely feasible. Even I saw the excellent potential of a trail race in Whistler many years ago. Their timeline from initial contact to race announcement to actual race is longer than what Gary proposes for his yet-to-be announced competing race on the same weekend next year.

  • Whistler as a feeder event for UTMB World Series Final in Chamonix.

Whistler clearly is a beautiful location in itself, and creating events just to give people the opportunity to obtains stones to get to Chamonix is a limiting marketing message. But, that’s how some of us travel and experience cool places. I had never been or even heard of Big Bear Lake before the Kodiak announcement. Is it bad for the community that I arrived, spend money and ran the race. I loved it (even though I DNF’ed and didn’t get any stones). In fact I am pondering of going back.

  • UTMB was clearly shocked by the vitriol they received from ‘the community’. They don’t see themselves as a big bully, the outsider, or even the only big player in the sport.

Not sure, this was our finest moment. I even posted a comment on the official Instagram announcement of the new Whistler race saying ‘good luck finding volunteers’. I have since taken this post down. It doesn’t serve anything, other than help create division. I do still agree that volunteers are the achilles heel of any organization in our sport positioning themselves as a business, but this, UTMB knows.

How fast the community turned on UTMB and made it a us vs. them story is still quite upsetting to me. I do think people were lead down a path making them believe lots of untrue things, but what worries me is that ‘our community’ won’t take the time to clean this up. Everyone will move one. Everyone will feel ‘there was smoke, therefore there was fire’, without anyone asking who started the fire. It’s not a good look for ‘our community’ which claims to be different and better. This is also entirely not surprising, as every community who sees themselves as ‘precious and special’ deals with the same issues at some point. So, in a way this was an important moment for trail running to grow up. We’re not the one unique flower that is innocent and pure. We’re just like everyone else. We just like to run for a really long time, and some of us want to run around Mont-Blanc once in their life.

What will be interesting to see in the coming weeks and months is what the ‘elites’ make of all of this. They in many ways are the show horses for our sport. The media follows them around and shares their stories and in turn the story of the races and places they happen. They introduce folks to new events and their efforts inspire others to follow.

Ultra Trail Cap Town’s Stuart McConnachie Race Director on Instagram:

“We are extremely saddened and concerned by what happened to Tom Evans and have reached out to him to offer our support and access to counselling. We were excited to have him race at this year’s RMB Ultra-trail Cape Town but respect his decision to return to the UK….”

Earlier this week Tom Evans was attacked at knifepoint while training along the route.

Not making light of this at all, this is an awfully shitty situation and I wish Tom Evans all the best in his recovery and wishing all the runners and the organizers of the race a safe and successful race.

This comes mere days after the announcement of the World Trail Majors, which includes Ultra-Trail Cape Town and who’s stated objective is to create a wish list of races that runners ‘must’ compete once in their lifetime. Oooof.

Zach Miller for iRunFar:

Even if all the races ceased to exist, we’d still have running. We’d have the power in our legs and the breath in our lungs. We’d have the mountains to climb and canyons to cross. We’d have sunrises, sunsets, and starry skies. We’d have the ability to wonder how far and how fast we could go and the means to find out. We’d have joy, awe, and wonder. We’d have tired legs and overflowing hearts.

I don’t disagree here at all. This is what it’s all about, and this is why we run. After a busy summer season of racing the pendulum swings the other way. One looks for the essence, and even peace in our daily movement. But I also see this as a natural swing toward the other end of the spectrum of our sport. Summer is far away, and I bet once racing season upon us the runners who aren’t just born to run, but love to race will find themselves on some of the most competitive starting lines. And come end of August most elites will toe the line in Chamonix.