America's only certified Skyrace course. Race Beast of Big Creek on Mt. Ellinor in Hoodsport, WA on Aug 3rd, 2024.

America's only certified Skyrace course. Race Beast of Big Creek on Mt. Ellinor in Hoodsport, WA on Aug 3rd, 2024.

I’m not usually someone who cares about the prize money argument for elite runners, but since this has come up with UTMB again as part of this week’s meeting with the PTRA I thought I would look at one of the US largest (in total racers signed up) and most prominent races (hotly contested Golden Ticket race): The Black Canyon Ultras presented by HOKA and directed by Aravaipa Running.

We already know that Western States and Hardrock100, two of the world’s most prominent races don’t offer price money due to them being nonprofits. (Is that the official answer?) They also have tiny fields due to permitting issues, but in my perspective price money shouldn’t be taken out of race entry fees anyways so, the number of runners running shouldn’t be the issue here.

The argument for prize money is, from what I am gathering, that elites help put these events on the map, and help grow the sport. Thus it’s fair and right that if the sport should move forward and grow, races should offer price money to allow the top athletes to properly be compensated for performing their craft.

Alright, back to Black Canyons and some numbers (pulled from UltraSignup):

  • 100M – 47 signups – entry fee: $470
  • 100K – 991 signups – entry fee: $325
  • 60K – 422 signups – entry fee: $225

I’m not adding this up, because I definitely don’t think that prize money should EVER come out of entry fees. I am listing these numbers to show that there are really big races in the US. The notion that every race is grassroots with a few dozen folks at a dusty trailhead might be the general picture we’re painting but isn’t true for every event.

So, back to the question about price money at Black Canyons:
Black Canyons pays the entry fee to top runners who win a Golden Ticket to Western States. That’s $425. (I don’t know what happens if you are already qualified or if you decline your Golden Ticket.)

Now to be fair, Black Canyon is part of the WTM and winning the series would make you eligible for a chunk of that price money if you run at least two races in the series.

In comparison here’s UMTB’s prize money for 2024, which is only for the top 10 places in the Finals in Chamonix. Winning other races in the Series qualifies you to run in the Finals, but doesn’t give you any cash.

As I said above, I’m not one to raise a flag and go campaigning for prize money for elites, but I do wonder why Black Canyons has never been mentioned as a race that should be offering prize money. Has the PTRA been in contact with Aravaipa about it? Have elite runners spoken up?

Why not?

Bonus (this post is about prize money, but since I was looking at UltraSignup entry list anyways, I thought I throw the gender splits numbers into the same post):

  • 100M starters: 47, Women: 15 (32%)
  • 100K starters: 990 Women: 289 (29%) Non-binary: 4!
  • 60K starters: 422 Women: 182 (43%)

Some of the best numbers I’ve seen for a long ultra with a large field. Impressive.