100 Mile Championship

Feb 17th, 2011
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Geoff Roes (above), the current Western States champion and therefore by de facto one of the best in the world at what he does, really wants there to be some sort of “championship” type race in the ultra-running scene. Nutty huh?! Preferably 100 miles (though hypothetically a race could be held for any/all of the 50k/50m/100k/100m distances, though the 100 mile would probably grow the fastest and be the most prestigious) and with a good amount of climbing. He initially broached the subject here (with a laundry list of ideas for rules, regulations, etc), said more here and today expanded/clarified his thoughts some more. It’s very long (even longer than a post I did on Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day“!) but very interesting.

I’ve combed through all posts a couple times and really can’t find anything to argue about other than what sounds like lamentations that the Hard Rock 100 (in Colorado) is deciding NOT to be the race that steps up to the plate and produces something like what Geoff’s calling for. Aside from some of the most spectacular race photos possible in any race, anywhere, I think that’s probably for the best. As Geoff said in his own original post on the topic in his list of “wants” for this theoretical race:

  • 150 to 250 ft/mile of elevation gain – not too little nor too much climbing
  • Average altitude less than 7,000 ft. and high point less than 9,000 – you don’t want to eliminate from the race those who don’t have the time or money to acclimatize for several weeks before the race.

Hard Rock’s at about 330’/mile of gain, which works in the favor of a specific type of runner much more than another, and it’s avg altitude is about 11k. You pretty much have to live that high up all the time or you’re going to be at a severe disadvantage. (Special shout out to Adam Hewey, who got 8th at Hard Rock last year [about 3.5 hours behind the winner] but as far as I can tell was the first sea level-breathing finisher. Five of the seven ahead of him live(d) in Colorado, another in Utah, and another in Montana.)

As it is, Hardrock will continue with their weighted lottery format so it’s a moot point.

Everything else about this “championship race” theory is pretty spot on and something I would love to see myself. The sport of ultra-running is inarguably growing exponentially and it’s only a matter of time before someone with money and possibly television connections steps in to take advantage of the growing market. Races that used to never fill up now fill up easily…races that did fill up but slowly now fill up in hours. It seems people are getting their fill of boring and repetitive Rock & Roll/Team In Training marathons on highways and other unappealing roads, and looking for something a little more interesting, substantive, and/or rewarding. I was one of those guys a few years ago. I’m confident many of these people will whet their appetite with a trail ultra and never look back. As weird as it is to say, finishing a marathon isn’t *that* monumental an achievement these days, compared to what seems like just a few years ago. Despite what Runners World and The Biggest Loser might have us believe.

In one of the comments someone brought up possibly wrangling the event into the X-Games somehow, since the broad definition of “extreme sports” could definitely be applied to 100 milers, and I must admit I could envision it fitting in quite well. But then my mind drifted to all those 16 year old skateboarder/BMX brahs and I chuckled at the thought of Anton Krupicka wearing a Monster Energy Drink singlet, being strong-armed by his sponsors to chug a can right after winning. “Tony, baby, make sure to hold the can so the logo is visible in the shot!”. Obviously the event could not be televised in realtime…it’d probably have to be condensed into some hour long highlight presentation with lots of pre-packaged feature stories on the more marketable names so we don’t get too bored with them looking pained at mile 74. If Uli Steidl was moved enough to bump up to the 100 mile distance, he could be in a featurette on himself as he wears a flat-brimmed Rockstar hat & stunna shades and talks about training “with his bros” out in Seattle (while awkwardly making a show of the can of Rockstar he’s sipping tenderly). I mean…*I’d* watch it, but…

And of course I’d implore Greg Crowther to show up to the race in character:

In some respects the NorthFace 50 Mile in San Francisco at the end of the year is sort of a “championship” mainly because they give out the big bucks, which brings out the talent. But it’s only 50 miles and it’s in mid-December, not exactly the prime time of year for many runners’ fitness. Guys who run the big dog races in the summer usually need the winter to recoup, not race for 10 grand.

Bottom line is this will happen one of these days. The sport is growing too fast to ignore for much longer, despite the attention this country does not give ultra running compared to European countries. The question is how, where, when, and spearheaded by whom? And which energy drink will Geoff Roes pimp?

Maybe I can get Marlboro Sport involved.

Filed under Running, Theory

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