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Driven Crazy

June 11, 2012 Comments (7) Musings

Dear Race Director


Dear Race Director,

I hope this letter finds you well. I wanted to take a moment to share a few thoughts and feelings with you in the hopes that you can continue to foster our sport in the right direction. I’m sure you can understand an ultra-runner like myself, finding great need in attempting to protect something I hold so dear to my heart. It’s just natural seeing as I’ve noticed some changes you’ve made since I started running these things back in 2005. Please hear me out, I beg of you, so that together we can maintain a community that is fair, just, and which protects the valued sanctity and history of our sport.

If you’re going to advertise yourself as a runner-friendly event, please follow through: I showed up for your “runner friendly” race and wasn’t allowed a crew. I didn’t mind this so much except that your aid stations were terrible. I wasn’t even allowed a drop bag out there for the hours and hours that I paid to run on your dirt circle. To top it all off, your cut-offs were tight and tough for a mid-pack runner to meet, such as myself. What is “runner friendly” about any of this? If you’re going to advertise a runner friendly race without crew access or drop bags, please at  least have immaculate aid stations and cut-off times even the slowest runner can manage.

What happened to the camping?: The first time I ever ran an ultra-marathon, most of the runners (80%+) camped out together the night before. In fact, they did this at my second ultra, my third ultra.. and later my first and second 100 milers. It was an incredible way to enhance our community. Folks camping out talking about their training, their goals for tomorrow, getting to know the very same runners whom were going to help them to the finish line the next day. But now… now your races are held at big lavish resorts, where sometimes you require us to book a room in the fancy hotel the night before the run. I don’t see my fellow runners anymore the day or night before the race. We’re all strangers during the race now. With the camping gone, so too is our opportunity to foster community development.

Lets bring back the idea that first place and last place runners share the same award: The very best part of our sport when I joined it, was that the person who came in first place got the same exact finishers awards as the person who came in last. The only difference, was that the metal used in making a buckle differed. But somewhere along the way, you decided that the top 3 runners should win some prize money too. Even worse.. some of my entry fee goes towards paying the winner their prize money. You justify it by saying, “These runners work hard and sacrifice a lot to compete at their level..” Well Sir/Madam Race Director.. so do I. I’m a bit slower though, and at times I sacrifice more and are out there training longer then those same front runners.. so should’t you be paying ME to even run your race, rather then paying the winner? Let’s just end the argument.. by not paying anyone at all. Which brings me too…

Who sets your salary?: I’d really like to know where you get off charging us runners extra so you can give yourself a $30,000 (and in some cases a $60,000) pay day to put on this race. I know people who are working on a cure for cancer who don’t make that kind of money.. and yet you’ve decided that your 20 hours a week for a few months a year is worth $50k. I’ve been a race director before. I know how much work, time, and energy goes into directing a race. But like you.. I CHOSE to do it; Out of the love of the sport, to give back to a sport that has given so much to me. But you, you’ve decided you need to be paid for your time. $50,000 div by 300 Runners = $166 each. Yup… runners could pay $166 less to enter your race if you curbed your greed. $200 is a much more reasonable entry fee then $370.. don’t you think? Yet I digress, who decided that your job as RD is worth $50,000?? I could see you maybe being paid $5,000-$10,000.. but $50,000?! Are you insane?!

Quit giving us Heed!: Sure, they’re willing to give you the stuff for free to use at the aid stations. But what percentage of us ultra-runners actually enjoy drinking the stuff? From what I hear out in the trenches, this stuff bloats our tummies and makes us sick. We actually have a pseudo name for it called Heave. If our sport was majority rules, we’d never have this at an aid station. Here’s an idea though… instead of paying yourself the fancy salary, how about putting some money into buying us a better drink at aid stations.. say, oh… Succeed! Ultra? GU-Brew? GU2O?.. Hell, I’d even drink some Bear Gryllis urine instead of Heed. I’d even put it into one of his custom snake skin hydration bladders.

Answer my e-mail: I know your busy. But for the salary you’re getting paid to “volunteer” your time as race director, you could probably take 5 minutes to reply to the e-mail I wrote you. After all, I’m a paying customer and pay your salary. You don’t have to agree with my opinions or race feedback, but it takes a quick minute and 15 seconds to write. “John, thank you again for coming to our event and running the race. I appreciate your feedback and the race committee will put it under advisement for next years event. Thank You.” I just timed myself and it took me 30 seconds to get all of that down. You can even copy and paste that into other e-mails too, making it even shorter. We’ve been writing e-mails now for over a decade, please write me back, even if you don’t agree with anything I’ve said to you. It’s courtesy.

I really would love to continue to run your event in the years to come. But I do hope that in the future, I won’t have to pay the winner, I won’t have to pay you, I can drink something other than heed, I can camp and commune with my fellow runners, your event will be more runner friendly and hell… you might find 30 seconds to even write me back.

With love,
“Sherpa” John Lacroix
Ultrarunner since July 2005
(Pre DK and Pre Born to Run)

7 Responses to Dear Race Director

  1. jon says:

    I agree with the overall sentiment. I think the spot is becoming more mainstream, thus, based more on money. We have a RD here in Arkansas, Chrissie, who is amazing! everyone gets a finishers medal. First, second, and third get mentions, but not money. She doesn’t pay herself. She is great. In fact, you should come run the Arkansas Traveler. I am not much more than an aid station volunteer, but runner feedback has told me it is a great race!

    On a different note, does this site have an editor? Or are they asleep? Just two excerpts where the wrong word was used. There is to many grammar/punctuation issues to list. Please fix, it takes away from the credibility of the site.
    except, not accept – than, not then

    • Sherpa John says:

      Thanks for the comment Jon. You also mis-spelled Sport with “spot” 😉

      I have never met Chrissie Ferguson in person but.. everything that i DO know about her and have heard about her is in line with the sentiment you’ve shared. I would LOVE to run the AT100 some day so I can see it first hand. I know, that Chrissie, takes great pride, and does a wonderful job, in volunteering her time and fostering our community.

      • jon says:

        Haha, thanks for point that out 😉 I mean no disrespect yo you, I personally am a really bad writer. This is not the first time, nor the only author to make grammar and spelling mistakes. It does make me wonder who the editor is?

        I love this site and it’s writers, there have been countless times when I have shared this site, and I just want you guys to do great. I was only made aware of the errors by someone I sent the link to this morning.

        Sherpa John, I really hope you make it down here for the AT100 soon, I would love to serve you some Gatorade at one of the aid stations. Yes, they have more than heed at the aid stations here!

  2. mkreuzer says:

    You make some amazing points… 1. What happened to camping. It could be the biggest loss the sport has had. Community “is” the sport. 2. The heed stuff is absolute swell. Whoever can stomach that crap should get an extra medal. 3. The crazy thing about awards and runners is this… In most cases it’s the people who take the longest that work the hardest. Yes… WORK THE HARDEST. It’s not like they’re just walking in the park… They are pushing it out too… Just slower. People like Scott Jurek, Karl Meltzer and many others who hang around to acknowledge everyone’s races are just amazing. Not everyone hangs around to acknowledge those behind them… But we should. How kool to have every finisher there for the last place person which brings us back to point number one… Community.

  3. Jay says:

    I’m so appreciative that people are willing to put in the time, energy, sacrifice and sometimes their own money to organize and direct races for us runners. Being a race director is no easy task. Yeah, the sport has changed (many would argue for the better) and many races are not the intimate and casual experiences they used to be. But, those races still exist for those who are seeking that kind of experience. And for those who prefer prizes for top performers, a finish at a posh resort which perhaps enables them to arrange a post race massage and to sleep in a bed, or other extras/amenities, there are races for them. Perhaps we should celebrate that there are so many different race experiences to choose from today? We the runners can choose where we run and support those races that match our interests and values. Never before has such choice existed in our sport. How lucky are we that there are so many people to organize and direct races for us so that we can do what we LOVE – RUN!!

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