Meaningful Contributions

The last few weeks have been some dark moments for the ultrarunning world and it’s left a bad taste in my mouth. Lots of armchair quarterbacking and just plain nasty disrespectful commentary, especially on the big blogs. I am all for people speaking up and sharing their opinion. In fact, I started this blog in 2008 and, after poking fun at my friend, started the 2009 synchroblog project where five of us wrote letters directly to the Western States Board of Directors, my current employer, asking for change. I’ve been outspoken on this blog when I’ve seen people or races do things I think are wrong for the sport. So, it would be hypocritical of me to condemn people for speaking their mind. But the tone of the commentary has reached a new low in my opinion. Several of us said that the commentary over at iRunFar this weekend deteriorated to the letsrun level. I don’t think this is good for the sport.

So what do we do?

I challenge each of us in the ultrarunning community to ask ourselves if we feel good about our contributions to the sport? I challenge each of us to ask ourselves this question right now, and each week or month for the rest of the year. “Did I make a meaningful contribution to the sport today?”

Well, did you?



  1. So, last year I ran my first ever ultra, the Running Village 50K. I had burned out from shorter distance running (1/2 marathon and under) in 2011. My friend, who owns the local running store, (The Runner’s Flat in Cedar Falls, IA) helped me get going again and run a distance I had only dreamed about running as I read issues of Trail Runner back in the early 2000’s. I went from never having run over 13.1 mi and burn out, to completing my first 50K. I fought off tears finishing the run last year. Now, I have a trail marathon in 10 days, then a 15K the week after, and three weeks later my second RV 50K. People like you and Ann Trason and so many out there today inspire me. Slow down, be patient, listen well, and reply wisely. Thanks for all you do!!!

      • Thanks Craig! Appreciate it! Having been an RD for some local small races, I know a bit of the stress. RD’s are often attacked and under-appreciated when all they really want to do is pour out their passion into the sport and see people enjoy it! Western states is a great race and should strive to keep to its values as guided by the board. Do well!!!

  2. Craig,
    Arm chair discussions come about when a new project is launched at a press conference and then when questions are asked, nobody provides answers. Had answers been available, had press releases been forthcoming, we would not have the speculation that is currently out in the ether.
    In my opinion, the UTWT should have held fire and waited, had the press conference when everything was in place and although a debate would have then started, it would have been more informed and with less speculation.
    Debate is good. I am all for it.
    I was at the press conference and I relayed my thoughts and my ideas on my website. I welcomed feedback and I moderated all content. To be honest, I don’t think any opinions or expressions on are nasty or disrespectful. If that is not the case, I welcome you to let me know and I will moderate as appropriate.
    Ultimately, change will come in our sport. If that is with UTWT, then so be it. But all of us; runners, watchers, RD’s or journalists are entitled to provide input. Ultimately, this input may well steer what the UTWT and those like them are trying to do in a more positive direction.
    Certainly, some of what has been proposed has merit. The question marks are around what has not been discussed. Like it or not, Western States and yourself as the RD was always going to find inclusion in the UTWT a rocky road.
    Based on the criteria that the UTWT have provided for inclusion in UTWT, Western States fails on many levels and that leaves me and others thinking, is WSER going to have more entries, will the race become bigger, will elites get more priority and so on and so on.
    The sooner we get clarification from UTWT and each individual RD, the better.
    As for ‘Lots of armchair quarterbacking and just plain nasty disrespectful commentary, especially on the big blogs’ that is not acceptable and will not be tolerated on my website.
    Rest assured Craig that my commentary and discussion is about what is good for the sport and how we can make it better and not about anything else.
    I am sure that you will control the destiny of WSER down the correct path, respecting the history but securing the future.
    Good luck. Yours in sport, Ian.

      • Of course Craig, you must release a press release in your time and the boards. However, considering the process for UTWT started this time last year with the formation of the ITRA I would have thought that the UTWT, the panel and the representatives would have been able to avoid any confusion by providing detailed answers at the press conference and in addition, preempting any additional questions with press releases from each race and/ or RD either on the launch day or immediately afterward. Tarawera did this as did Transgrancanaria. It would maybe have helped the debate that is currently happening and avoid some of the negative comments that have arisen.

          • Yes, or are you trying to make a different point? Craig asked. ‘“Did I make a meaningful contribution to the sport today?”
            The answer is still yes, every day I devote 14+ hours to the sport, it’s my job and Craig’s post is in direct relation to UTWT so I am seeking clarification so I can continue with answering the question, “Did I make a meaningful contribution to the sport today?”

            • so how many different social media and blog platforms do you need to be told that a press release will come shortly to address some questions that you and others have? if this is “your job” and this is the community you work within, are your familiar with Journalism ethics and standards because the way you have gone about this, at least to me, looks more like someone who is a self important blogger, not someone seeing to make a meaningful contribution to our sport.

              • Interesting that you should become somewhat aggressive in your tone and also call me a self important blogger and also question ‘my job’. I have 100% concern for the sport and I have not gone ‘about this’ in anyway? Read the post and tell me what is wrong and how this breaks Journalism ethics and standards? –
                UTWT announced it’s tour and I was at the press conference, I am therefore entitled to ask questions. Pure and simple.
                At no point have I insulted Craig or yourself, UTWT or any of the other races or RD’s who have chosen to participate in UTWT. The points I have raised are perfectly legitimate. As I stated, UTWT was 12 months in creation, if not longer. If you announce a press conference it is because what you are launching is ready. UTWT is not ready. As I mentioned, Tarawera were ready and Transgrancaria were ready as they released press releases but others were not.
                I am not prepared to stick my head in the sand.
                And if you need any additional clarification, check out my podcast, Talk Ultra. I think Craig will confirm that my podcast is 100% in support of ultra running, runners, races, RD’s and everyone else.
                You know, it’s okay to agree and have a debate. What is important is that the debate remains balanced and cordial. Unfortunately your tone above is falling into the letsrun level that Craig commented on in his initial post

                • Sorry MB. Have to agree with Ian on this one. Your coming off sort of like a tool. Ian is in the right. You issue a press release you better be prepared to answer questions. Sounds like everyone jumped the gun a bit.

                • ian, i know you support ultrarunning. i don’t need to ask LB for clarification of what your blog or podcast or anything else does to support our sport.

                  i apologize if you read my tone sounds aggressive. i didn’t intend that. it’s clear that there is a lot of passion regarding this subject and I intended to point out that you and others should please have patience regarding getting info from WS. i haven’t seen any other event attacked in comments or blog posts more than WS. The tactics you have used in trying to gather answers are what i have a had a problem with. you were told over twitter that a press release was coming and you chose to use this comment section to continue that plea under the representation that you are speaking for/representing the ultrarunning community. to me, that is not showing patience or respect to LB, Western States or the Board. That is my opinion and I shared it with you in my comment above. i read the post your linked above yesterday and frankly it contained a lot of what i had already read on and the UTWT website. i do applaud you for keeping the comments section civil and productive, rather than deteriorating into the area referenced in LB’s initial blog post.

                  As a member of the online media representing our community, I DO hold you to a higher standard of reporting and journalism. It is what gives you legitimacy. My impression, based on comments here, elsewhere and via twitter is that rather than contacting LB via email with specific questions for him to address, you have been making your pleas in a public forum. I expect better from members of our media. anything outside of that, and you present yourself as a self important blogger. I apologize if my comment offended you, but I won’t apologize for standing up to trolls or members of the “ultrarunning media” who don’t hold themselves to standards that other journalist live and thrive by.

  3. I think my first priority with the Wild Idaho Endurance Runs has been to maintain a low-key, personable atmosphere. As the rate of success with my races have increased, I definitely feel a warrant to keep the atmosphere of the event true to the roots. We had a runner from Australia at IMTUF this past weekend who is starting to run more ultras because he doesn’t like the way the Ironman sport is headed, which gives me even more reason to focus my attention to the quality of events I have.

    • KG7FDE – There will always be a niche for low-key personable races. Keep doing what you are doing Ben. And thanks for sharing what you do on the RD lists. I’m using the satellite modem I learned about from you at Pine to Palm 100 miler on September 14. And I’ll continue to answer questions you have or share what I know with you.
      73 – KF7IMJ

  4. Craig, the problem I see with your challenge is that there’s tremendous confusion over what “good for the sport” means. Get 20 people to put their heart and soul into improving the sport and you’ll have 10 of them swearing that the other 10 are ruining it. We need to increase participation/limit participation, bring more money in/keep the evil corporate dollars out, sustainability and environmental protection is paramount/ sustainability is a nice side goal, etc…

    • I agree with you, Jeff. Each of those tensions you describe will be resolved in a different place for many people and races which reflects their individual values. And that is ok. I want to get those 20 people together to share and learn from each other so we can work collaboratively and cooperatively in a respectful manner to help steer the direction of the sport into the future.

      If you go around on a daily basis assuming the worst in people and races and spouting negativity without any basis I suspect you might have a difficult time answering my question affirmatively.

  5. There are lots of ways to slice the “good for the sport” melon, which is changing all the time, and will continue to change.

    Are newbies doing their homework? Education, honesty, comedy and sarcasm in proper doses can be useful.
    Are Race directors doing their homework? Here are several problems: date-expired race-entry requirements, acceleration of demand come to mind.

    In the matter of 100s—Recently a brave woman confessed to me that she was one of the “ultra-squatters” I’d excoriated elsewhere for signing up for the AC100 with, brace yourself— *not a single ultra yet accomplished*. All on the basis of her “coach”, who incidentally, has not finished a 100-miler, ever. Miracles can happen, but its a wide curving ramp up to the killing floor.

    Finally, the soup we all swim in is apps, keystrokes, and re-sets if something goes off the rails. Ultras are not like this. They are intensely analog endeavors. You cannot fast-forward to the game-highlights here. There are a seemingly-diminishing number of people who will do their goddamned homework. There is no patience for the process. A cursory survey of visual slush on social media is all of the Uplifting Bullshit Meme.

    Allow me to disillusion you here:

    • Mr Pre-press, and I thought I sucked at the selfies. Thanks for making me feel better about myself… for the moment at least… I know things are gonna be OK when we’ve got comments from a guy who has run a single 50K all the way through to someone who ran with aunt jemima water bottles and dolphin split shorts. As for newbies doing their homework. Many of us commented that a 72% finish rate at WS in the second hottest year in 40 years suggests that many people are doing their homework. As for the ultra squatter running AC without having run an ultra before even though the requirement is a 50-miler, shame on her. But, I want to believe she is the minority, but then again we had over 100 people apply for the WS lottery last year who had not run a qualifier so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

  6. I think we all respond to change differently. This is a change. What does it mean? Where are we going?
    Ultra runners tend to be passionate people, and most all, have very strong feelings about WS. I think if WS had not been included in the UTWT we would not be having this conversation, and there would have been little response on irunfar. I also believe that WS is as much yours and the board’s, as it is mine and everyone else’s. That being said, It is your and the boards responsibility to be the stewards that navigate the murky waters of the future of ultra running. I know you and members of the board and believe that together you will take us in the correct direction.
    I also hope we all keep in mind that the community of ultra running has always been far superior to the competition and “payoff” of ultra running, and that is what has made it the amazing sport that it is, and has been. I feel we should all stay cordial in the process, even if we vehemently disagree, because that’s what a “community” does.

  7. Craig,

    I’ve followed some of the recent commentary but not all as there’s plenty of vacuous and uninformed stuff out there (it is the internet after all). Seems there’s a direct relationship between the number of comments on an online story and the rudeness and thoughtlessness of those comments.

    There’s been plenty of bad blood in the last few days about the Grand Slam and it’s trademarking (or not) of itself, but surely many people are perfectly sensible and the comments don’t reflect the majority of what runners care about. Whether it’s the UTWT or anything else, we all love Western States and the other big races out there, even Leadville after it screwed up logistics in a major way.

    All that really matters is the experiences out on the trail and the internet trolling is just background noise. UTWT is an intriguing idea but all I know is that of the races included in it, the only one I’ll definitely be running is WS100 (assuming top 10s still get in).


    Ian Sharman

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