UTWT splits trail running opinion
The UTMB was a significant milestone in the evolution of world trail running. The performances by Xavier Thevenard and Rory Bosio were jaw dropping from a performance point of view…
I watched (along with thousands of trail fans around the world) the event unfold via social media – thanks to some great coverage on iRunFar and Talk Ultra – and was left with the sense that these two runners had taken global trail running to yet another level.
The two are also indicative of how trail running has evolved in the last few years – they (along with the likes of Kilian Jornet, Tim Olson, Emelie Forsberg, Sage Canaday, Anton Krupicka etc.) are part of the new school of trail runner, with that perfect blend of speed, endurance and technical ability.
The UTMB of 2013 was also significant from a sporting evolution standpoint too, as there followed a press conference on the Sunday, and the proposal of a whole new strand to the sport.
The Ultra-Trail® World Tour was unveiled to the media, with the objective of:
- Giving the opportunity to anyone to take part, troughout the years, in the most beautiful long distance trails of the world (at least 100km)
- Allowing trailers to take part in popular events in which top runners are systematically associated to
- Allowing top trailers to meet regularily and to be confronted to each other in an annual circuit
- Carry the trail values by giving the opportunity to everyone to improve himself through travelling, discovering new cultures, and sharing with other athletes from all around the world.
- Use the experience, the history and the traditions of each events to offer to the athletes a renewed vision of their sport and new experiences
- Get together races suitable for every athlete, in places, spectacular and diversified environments, with various difficulties and technical elements
At the launch some the organisers of the following races were present to ally themselves to the Tour and announce their partnerships with the Tour:
- The Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run
- Marathon des Sables
- The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®
- The North Face® Transgrancanaria
- The North Face® Lavaredo Ultra-Trail
- Vibram® Tarawera 100km Ultramarathon
- Vibram® Hong Kong 100
- Ultra-Trail® Mont. Fuji
Some top athletes were also present in the form of Anton Krupicka, Nuria Picas and Jez Bragg. (Though in this image from Bryon Powell those three don’t seem to be ecstatic at the launch!)
So, what does this all mean for trail running events, the competitive element, race entry costs and so on? It is an interesting and emotive idea, and one thing is for sure, the community is split.
There certainly hasn’t been a universal excitement generated by the news, with many commentating that it will push up prices of the events (as each race will need to pay 15,000€ to be part of the series), lead to the ‘over racing’ of some of the top athletes, also excludes some other iconic world events which would inevitably mean that top athletes would have to make some difficult decisions on the races that they can and cant do.
One of the liveliest debates is over at this iRunFar posting. Some really like the idea of running in a event with such prestige e.g, “I look forward to the excitement this series brings to ultra running. Honestly, it is about time.”, and others are less enthusiastic, with observers commenting on:
- The loss of their sport to big money
- The possibility of it attracting PED’s
- The environmental impact (and cost) of travel and increased numbers on the trails
With the universal growth of trail running, the interest in the sport from the big brands escalating, the elite competition aspect becoming more competitive and also more ‘global’, the UTWT was perhaps inevitable. We should expect ‘progress’. Whether we all want it or not, is almost immaterial – it’s happening. Whether it will be a sticker, or an expensive flash in the pan, remains to be seen.