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.

Here’s a common song from the ‘anti UTMB’ crowd:

The new UTMB stone system is bad, and a corporate money making scheme. UTMB should go back to the ITRA System.

Alright, let’s look at that ITRA system:

In the past UTMB required 15 ITRA points to be eligible for the UTMB lottery, 8 ITRA points were required for CCC & TDS (at least according to the spreadsheet I had created back in 2017). Those points you could acquire by running any races where the race director decided to pay the annual ITRA membership fee (which wasn’t much, but wasn’t free either and was definitely one of the pieces that RDs complained about.)

  • 6 Points were awarded for 100M races.
  • 5 Points for 100K races.
  • 4 Points for 50M races.
  • 3 Points for 50K races.

So in any case you needed 3 races at a minimum to accumulate enough points to qualify. Even running two 100 Milers in a year wasn’t enough. You could collect them in multiple years though.

But here came the rub:

Each runner had to plan their year(s) of running according to an ITRA calendar HOPING that independent race directors would re-upp their membership with ITRA. So, if you planned year one to run certain races, and wanted to run the next year another set of races to complete your points hunt, there was no guarantee that a race director would have their race included in the following year’s ITRA calendar.

So, that’s the system we want back?
Did that make it better for runners than the current system?

The current stone system creates stability for runners wanting to run UTMB. We know where the UTMB World Series events are happening and we can plan our year around it. We could augment our index by running independent races, but that does require race directors to submit their event to the FREE event calendar on the UTMB site. Did I mention it’s free, and easy?

If the complaint is about wanting to ensure that UTMB doesn’t create some sort of chain-store juggernaut “monopoly” and needs to be kept in check at all cost then yes, sure, let’s break it apart and give runners wanting to run it a shittier experience chasing their dream.

I’m taking this now back to the other big lotteries out there.

Lotteries to enter a trail race that has limited capacity and can’t just allow 10s of thousands of runners on the trail has not been perfected.

The Western States and Hardrock lotteries are difficult and frustrating for many runners wanting to run these races. Many have given up trying to yearly get their qualifiers.
What UTMB has decided to do is that, rather than just letting people try for close to decade, over and over again to get into their races, they’d build a series that would allow a sort of triage. Folks could get a chance and taste at the UTMB experience at races all over the world. This is a work in progress, the World Series events needs to strike a delicate balance by fitting into the local community while giving you a taste of the spectacle that is UTMB in Chamonix. They are working and improving this marriage of local flair and global experience.

The alternative for UTMB is to HOPE that local race directors make the races available as qualifiers and hope that the experience locally on the ground sets runners who are wanting to come to Chamonix up for success. You could say now, that UTMB needs to try harder to appease local RDs to ensure that they are interested in being a sort of ‘feeder event’ and many rightfully might decline. Some see their race as an experience in itself, some just really don’t want to partner with others. That’s a fine perspective to have as an RD, but obviously not a tenable solution for UTMB. If they want to give access to runners from a specific region they can’t just throw their hands up in the air and say “sorry, if you live in that region you’re out of luck.

In the road marathon world it’s a sign of pride for race organizations to be a Boston qualifier. It attracts runners from all over the region, increases sign ups, and generates tourism dollars. Does it hurt the local marathon if a few fast people show up and try to get their BQ? They still pay the entry fee and are part of the event. There is a more stringent control over the accuracy of the route length, and this requires a USATF certification but beyond that I don’t see the downside.

So yes, if you don’t want to run UTMB ever, either because you don’t like Ironman, or UTMB, or France, or the Alps, or don’t care about vacation races, by all means, run any of the thousands of independent races around the courtly. They won’t go anywhere.

And yes, if your favorite local trail race was purchased by UTMB, why not reach out the RD that sold that race and is still operating it. Buy them a cup of coffee and hear their story on why they decided to sell to BIG TRAIL and stay on managing the event.