By Emir Dedic
For many, running will always be just that – running. For health, for personal enjoyment, for fun. However, in our crazy money driven society, running will also always be about the results. It starts at an early age with track and x-country meets. It keeps on through high school and college and beyond. In those early days, there is no money involved, but there is that yearning for the result, for the need to be first, for the trophy, for the win.
From its beginnings, ultrarunning was a grassroots movement. IT grew out of desire to run far, be free and enjoy the nature. And for a long time, it was just that. There were not many races around. The races that there were around were affordable, and they paid little to no money to the winners. In recent years, the popularity of the sport has skyrocketed. There are more and more races and events every day, here in the US as well as abroad. We have several international circuits around the world, and there are ultrarunning superstars that compete in those. While the ultrarunning prize purses are still very small, more money is pouring into the sport every day from sponsors of all types.
At the same time, we are seeing more and more people move into the sport. Runners that were up until now running road marathons and shorter distances are moving up to the 50 and 100 mile distance and bringing that speed with them. All of a sudden, the competition level at any ultra is exponentially higher. You never know when that next Rob Krar will show up and steal the show. For many participants and/or spectators to these events, this is very exciting. The exposure of social media and the race coverage brings this to another level as well. All this exposure is a magnet for sponsors and masses need to flock to the sport and these events. More exposure leads to more sponsors, which leads to more people wanting to be involved in the sport. More sponsors means more money, and for the sponsored athletes, in most cases, more money demands results.
However, it is not all about the money. This level of competition is also bringing a new emphasis to other events, such as FKT (Fastest Known Time) attempts, more vertical, multi-day stage races and other adventures that seem to emerge every day. Also very exciting developments for participants and spectators. However, there is again that underlying goal – the competitive result. Fastest time, highest mountain, the most awesome adventure are all results that we as individuals seek.
Is this bad? Some say it is ruining the sport. Others say no, it is the nature of the beast, humans are meant to compete. We are conditioned every day to work for and strive for results, in every day home and work life. We might think that we don’t conform to that mold, but in reality most of us do. While some of us might have ideas of freedom and grandiose in the mountains and trails, deep down we know that we need to be able to quantify those desires. Even if we do not care about the competition or race results, each run that we do, each trail that we explore produces something in us. May it be joy or happiness, anger or sadness, we are left with an end result.
Our competitive spirit that lives within us will always drive us to achieve new goals and to push our limits. It will always strive to achieve some kind of a result even if we are not aware of it. Some may want to monetize that spirit, but it is really up to us to decide where we want to take it, and what we want to do with it.
Is too much emphasis being placed on competitive results in the sport? Yes there is, but in the end, it is all about the results…