Why Oregon?

AJW has a poll on his new Keep It Simple AJW blog: What state is America’s Ultrarunning capital?

Final Result of Poll

While there have only been 55 votes cast so far, probably because his huge fan base doesn’t know about his new blog yet, Oregon is leading with 42% followed by Colorado at 28%, California at 21%, and Virginia at 8%.  No other states are listed in his poll.  I’ve been known to poke a little fun at AJW once in awhile, and his polls are something I’ve mocked in the past.  But, I find this question interesting.  No, this isn’t a scientific poll by any means, and it is possible that a couple of tweets by Oregonians yesterday have swayed the results in favor of the Beaver State (as a Duck it is hard to write that).  That said, perhaps it’s worth exploring what makes a state a strong ultrarunning state?  Is it the total number of ultrarunners?  Number of fast ultrarunners?  Number of races?  History? Access to trails?  Climate?  Or is it something that is not quantifiable like community or passion or panache or chutzpah?  I doubt any of the people who voted thought about it much before casting their vote.  It was probably more of a visceral reaction.  I’ll admit that I went there and immediately voted (guess how I cast my vote?)

With the history and populations of California and Virginia one might think that hands down they would be leading, but they aren’t.  I wrote a post titled Oregon Ultra Domination a couple of years ago where I listed all the fast runners in three different regions of the state (Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon, Central Oregon). In addition to the fast runners, I listed the championship races and the Oregon Trail Series.  In the comments I sparred with a pesky Californian about why California was losing its edge.  Perhaps this question shouldn’t even be asked?  It’s not like there is anything to be gained by “winning” the first poll on AJW’s new blog.  That said, I will attempt to make a few generalizations about Oregonians:  We are passionate.  We don’t take ourselves too seriously.  We have fun.  We just get the job done.


The Big Guy reenacting his Mt Blanc adventure


  1. I live in Oregon, but actually voted for Virginia. The reason being the ultra community in the VA area–there is nothing like it out this way in my opinion. The VA ultra family is warm, open, inviting to newbies, in large part because of the VHTRC. Ultra running is about a community to me, and I find the community more welcoming out in VA. Don’t get me wrong, I love running in Oregon, and at this point wouldn’t give up these trails for anything. But I’m glad I began in VA. And I did find the poll through your tweet….

    • Amy, VHTRC does seem to be unique in the country. Lots of good people have come from there, including you, Scott Mills, and Tommy Nielsen even spent some time there… Lots of races, albeit rocky as can be 🙂 Oh, and they have the most transparent, random lottery ever designed in MMT 100. Good stuff, indeed.

  2. I’ll posit some other reasons to Vote Oregon:

    Abundance. Tons of public land with excellent tread.

    Variety. More than just mountains, we have Boreal Rainforest, “new” volcanic activity, high desert, and coast ranges.

    Sustainability. Excellent geography at aerobically-sustainable altitudes – most under <6K'. On vacations in Oregon as a "youngster" was when I realized that mountain trail running was doable. This opens up the sport to wider ability levels.

    Fuel! http://oregonbeer.org/

  3. Which to pick- OR or CA? If it’s number of races or finishers, then it’d be Cali, but it has been a downer to see RDs stepping on eachother for race dates, courses, and locations. Love the Oregon trails, but long term the rain and less sun might get me.

    Lets split the difference and go State of Jefferson.

  4. “It’s not like there is anything to be gained by “winning” the first poll on AJW’s new blog”
    Guess I forgot to explain the part about the prizes for all the RD’s in the winning state:)

  5. Oregon. What Joe said, and fun people tend to attract other fun people, so more fun people move there eventually. While it rains 250 days in the year, it provides the most lush green there is. And it has variety besides green, too, to want to come back to.
    I remember always sayng about the constant rain: then we appreciate sun that much more. Living in TX now, I have to say sun gives me much fewer warm fuzzies unless it’s been out for a stretch of few days (a rare ocasions).
    As for community, I haven’t lived in VA, but I sure heard and met a lot of people and done a number of races. I have to agree with Amy. Seems that besides Ashland and Hal’s store last few years, OR is lacking an all inclusive large one at the magnitude Happy Trailians have. Something to extend on.

  6. I think Oregon needs to start its own Ultrarunning magazine, if for no other reason than the increasing backlog of photos that absolutely need to be cover shots, somewhere. First, the Lord Balls-Jizzle Wizzle ice massage and then this…Mr. Sub14 in a saran wrap skort of sorts with SLF and Aztec bowing/kneeling in some sort of rickity trail runner version of genuflection. I mean what else do you need to know about the vagaries of the ultrarunning crowd?

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  8. Take your eyes from the screen and relax your hands. Lean back and let your mind’s eye wander. Imagine running- a long distance- along the most perfect setting you can think of or have ever experienced.


    Now let me ask you…in your day dream: was it daylight? If yes, was the sun out or was it raining? If sunny, was it really, really sunny? Was the sky bright blue? Were you surrounded by mountains? What did they look like? In your day dream, where were you? My guess is that many readers of this blog and others dream of a place that looks a lot like Colorado when they imagine themselves ultra running in their most desired setting. Of course, this is just my guess.

    No place has the ultra running culture like Virginia’s. It is superbly unique. Quirky is one word that sums it up nicely. Honestly, I am surprised there are not more top runners from Virginia. Perhaps there would be if guys and gals (like Oregonians, apparently) weren’t so laid back about their running and racing. No doubt California and Oregon have their own cultures, though I imagine California’s as more fragmented- in large part, likely fallout from taking up so much damn geography. To be truthful, at the risk of sounding insulting, I am not even so sure Colorado actually has a congealed ultra running “culture”, much less one that is known of from a far. Let me be clear on that, Colorado most definitely has something of an ultra running culture but I just don’t know what it is. If nothing else, though, Coloradoan ultra running culture definitely consists of kicking ass and taking names what with the state housing so many top runners and sought after events.

    People who know me or have read my own recent writing rants know that I am no Colorado hater- quite the contrary. In fact, for the record, I voted Colorado because I think that it is the current (if not the future…) Capital of ultra running in the US whether many people recognize it or not. Ask Bryon Powell where else will he be covering more races this summer?

    Craig, on another note, looking forward to visiting more at WS in June and we Virginians certainly hope to see you running and racing more here in the future.

  9. The ultra capital is like a carnival. It migrates constantly. NY (yes NY), WI (midwest), VA, CA, OR, CO, Utah’s solid too but the weak beer disqualifies it. It seems to be in CO (for the last two years) but also seems to be diluting with the addition of new fast guys from all over the US popping up at races.

    For shear training and dominance (I think will wane in the next year): CO
    For numbers (population): CA

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