Mark Gillett

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Posts Tagged ‘UTMB

UTWT – Launch Analysis

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Its been two days now since the launch of UTWT, UltraTrail World Tour and there has been a fair amount of discussion on the TalkUltra site of Ian Corless. Just check here http://iancorless.org/

My own assessment will not be as detailed as Ian’s and not as authoritative but based more on my last 40 years in sport. Ian spends most of his time following Ultra’s and is probably right now, even tho I hate saying it, the most clued up in this area. So take a good look at his blog too.

My involvement over the last years has been in a media capacity for some extreme events/races and also as a runner or marathons and the MDS.

As I mentioned in my last post the ultra running world is a moving feast right now… Its exciting, growing, professionalising and attracting a very high level of disciplined runner. A new breed has appeared over the last three years that even when covering the MDS you can see a noticeable difference from year to year. Stronger, faster and and harder runners are appearing from nowhere.

With this, professionalisation is inevitable. Money will flow (unless we all go to war very soon, that is) into the races. Runners will become known and branded and there will be a call for a true ranking system.

It is here that I believe the UTWT or UTW[a]T as someone called it on Facebook, will sink or swim. Right now in its current form I think it will sink, be tossed around, choke, spit, and come to the surface spewing. It will then recover, maybe with new members or even a different name and be stronger. Its what normally happens especially when you rush in. A bit like diving in at the deep end at 3 years old with no armbands.

For a start they have put commercial reasons for setting up the tour in front of progressing the world of ultra racing. This can never work. Put the races and passions first and money will come and seek out the passionate. A ranking system is a logical next step for the ultra world. Also the categorising of races who wish to be considered competitive.

At the moment there is a mix of events. Those that are more “man challenges” and those that are races. This needs sorting out. Then the two, categorising and rankings system, go hand in hand. Races begin to flourish and the the sport becomes truly competitive and effective. More people get involved on a recreational level as a result because people love to follow their heroes. Its how the world works in sport.

So for me right now the analysis is quite simple. Its a bit of a cock up that will sort itself out in time. Or someone else will come up with a better thought out version that is true to the sport, true to the events and not solely a purpose of generating revenue and increasing personal exposure.

Written by markgillett

September 3, 2013 at 12:56 pm

The Running World Challenges and Changes

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Over the last 5 or 6 years I have seen huge waves of change in the running world. Just 15 years ago the challenge was a city marathon, New York, London, Dublin or one of the many around the world. The mega challenge was the UTMB or the Marathon des Sables.. Then popped up a few more copies of the MDS format like the four deserts, Jungle Marathon and a few others that came and went or still fumble by. And when you had completed one of these the next challenge seemed to be a 600km non stop or one of the Poles. Or even Everest.

MB5H7331

Yukon Quest – 1000 miles of -40 degrees

But now the landscape has changed so massively that those big challenges have become or are becoming the new norm and the professionalisation of some of the ultra world races in terms of competitors and sponsors is just so great to witness. No longer is the MDS the ultimate or the UTMB the toughest out there. They are certainly tough but with 2300 runners competing this years event and the MDS reaching 1200 and rising to 1500 runners in 2015, these are more catering to the masses on a tour basis.  Everest is about booking your trip and being guided up by an expert. The MDS is 1500 runners shipped by bus to the desert, fed, wined and dined for three days, run and shipped back for some R&R in a hotel. 2300 in the UTMB is certainly a good money spinner! City Marathons at over 30,000 runners. Although its good to see so many people active, these events are not cheap with Everest at 50k average, stage races like the 4 deserts and MDS at around 4k per runner. All very good business for the races but really cater to very few who can afford or jump on the charity wagon.

However, during my cycling hours through the streets of london, I see people running these equivalents in a week or so on their way to work. People cycling 20, 30km or more a day just for commuting.  How things have changed!

MDS from the air

I have watched my FB newsfeed with interest this summer. In particular the events covered by iRunFar and Ian Corless at Talk Ultra. I have seen a new breed of tough race and some of the toughest races out there being run by real competitors. Races that have good sponsorship behind them, tough competitors and professional runners. But the top are truly in a league of their own. Marathons have become their training runs, stage races their warm ups or ignored altogether as not worth it. And now mountain trails, non stop 100 mile races and more extreme races are the new challenge. Some runners are completing these running sub 3 hours marathon times. A truly different level. Races like the lakeland100 in UK are now seen as much harder to run. I cover the Yukon Quest which is truly a man challenge not to be ignored. There are cycling challenges everywhere and the growing number of city dwellers now running or cycling to work is growing so fast that city councils do not know how to manage the change. Or how to make money form them yet!

This does not detract from the toughness of a desert race. Heat is a killer. Or the challenge of the humidity of a jungle race and freezing cold of the arctic. But it does make some of these races more the norm.

Jungle Marathon 08

Jungle Marathon, Amazon

So what does this tell us? For me I see it as all positive. More races means more competition which in turn leads to better and safer races. It leads to more choice, more destinations. It weeds out the poor races or those that maybe unsafe. But more importantly it also means the creative can be more adventurous and dream up something that is so different that we are presented with a new “MDS” for the next 25 years. And I truly believe this will happen. There will be another mysterious, man challenging event that emerges. A race that entices because so few have done it. A race that people can run and really feel they have done something that the masses have not. Something I felt when I first heard about the MDS back in the 80’s…

I really look forward to the next few years to see what arises. What I might be involved in media wise. What I might even find I want to challenge myself with.

Written by markgillett

September 2, 2013 at 10:16 am