Welcome to the Rock Creek Roundup, a new monthly series featuring trail and running commentary, and a selection of articles, videos, products, and stories I’m into this month.

Is ultra running getting too popular for it’s own good?

Last Saturday was the Western States 100 lottery, and it was well reported that more than 4,248 people vied for the 369 spots. That’s an increase of 21% over the last year (which saw a 37% increase over the previous year), and somewhere around a 305% growth over the number of applicants from the 2007 lottery — just 10 years ago.

And that’s for a race that already has fairly strict qualifying standards.

It’s not only the races everyone knows about that are filling up quickly. This year’s Eastern States 100 sold out in three days — the race is only three years old — and next year’s Georgia Death Race sold out in a mere 49 minutes.

What? The growth of this sport is staggering …

… and exciting,

… and I’m a product of it,

… and this blog benefits from it.

But it’s still frustrating as hell when you have to plan out your race calendar so far in advance, and hope that you get lucky (or happen to be free during the 49 minutes registration is open).

It’s no secret this hype, growth, and popularity around races is causing some major riffs within the community. Look no further than this week’s announcement of a lawsuit over the Hardrock 100’s entry process, or the frequent cries on Facebook and blogs that races are becoming too commercialized.

On the flip side, the growth comes with several major benefits. Companies are taking the sport more seriously by investing heavily in gear, research, and runners. New, unique races are popping up every month, and coverage around races improves by the day.

So where does that leave us?

How can we continue to grow as a community without outgrowing what we can handle, and how can we keep the grassroots feel while still embracing the new excitement, money, and popularity? I don’t have a solution, but here are a few ideas to lessen the pain:

  1. Encourage and support new, well organized races and race directors. It’s your local 50Ks and mountain runs that will keep the grassroots feel alive.
  2. Think outside the box, and try races you may have overlooked in the past.
  3. Commit and get behind big adventures outside of races. There’s nothing wrong with structuring your season around a run that doesn’t show up on Ultra Signup.
  4. Encourage races to be transparent in their selection process, whatever process that may be.
  5. Stay involved with the races you couldn’t get into through pacing or volunteering. In many cases that will help with entry into future races, plus it’s just straight-up fun.

What I’m afraid will happen is the opposite. That the growth will come with more name calling, blaming, and bitterness. So here’s what we can’t do:

  1. We can’t blame popular races for their success.
  2. We can’t divide ourselves or point fingers at newcomers who take up race spots. After all, the vast majority of us are a product of the growth and relatively new to the sport.
  3. We can’t accept new sub-par, dangerous, or mismanaged races, just because we can get in them.
  4. We can’t lose the welcoming culture trail and ultra running is known for.

Like it or not, the sport will continue to grow and races will continue to fill.

These are exciting times, even if it is frustrating to not get into a race, and I can’t wait to see where this growth with take us.


What I’m Hooked on this Month: December, 2016

Talk about Beast Mode

Did you see this footage of Zach Miller during the final 2 minutes of the TNF Endurance Challenge San Francisco 50 miler?

Whoa. Just watch for yourself:

That is a level of determination most of us only dream about. Big props to Jamil and Run Steep Get High for capturing the footage, and congrats to Zach on the epic run.

Want more? Here’s a longer version recapping the full race.

janji-hoodieJanji’s New Hoodie

Have you heard of the running apparel company Janji? They donate 10% of all sales to help fund clean water projects across the globe, and they’ve designed some of my favorite running tops over the past few years.

I recently got my hands on their new Mountain Ninja hoodie, and I can’t take it off. Could make for a great last-minute gift.

Learn more here. (Not an affiliate link.)

Thirty Hours

“I really like running, so I don’t really know about stopping. I’d like to run until the day I die.” – Wally Hesseltine

Thirty Hours, a short film that chronicles 72 year old Wally Hesseltine’s 2016 Western States 100 journey, came out about three months ago, but I find myself watching it again and again this month.

Growth from Vulnerability

Often viewed as weakness or softness, those of us who find ourselves in vulnerable positions sometimes resort to avoidance or denial rather than acceptance. It’s a challenging proposition as vulnerability, by definition, leaves us exposed and alone. When vulnerable, we are susceptible to attack and easily wounded. – Andy Jones-Wilkins

AJW beautifully shares the vulnerability many of us have felt through running in his recent article on iRunFar.

As runners, we train and prepare for a race as best we can, but nearly every race will present a challenge out of our control. We can try to manage those challenges, but sometimes they push us to our limits, vulnerable, and having to accept whatever the trail presents.

The Lumo Run Sensors

A few weeks ago I shared a review of the Lumo Run Sensor. The more I run with it, the more I get into the data.

Watch the review here:

Author

Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running — beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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