We’ve thought about this post for awhile; have actually been slowly and thoughtfully crafting it as a way to wrap up the tenth year of Go Beyond Racing by talking about our values and why we think racers and volunteers do, and should, choose to participate with us. We didn’t want to come off conceited and wanted to ensure it would be received in the spirit we intended. Then the whole thing with Gary Robbins/Whistler-Blackcomb/UTMB blew up and we felt like putting this out now would seem like we were trying to piggyback on those issues. An “us too” cry. But the more we thought about it, we realized now is the perfect time as people are paying attention to this topic and it would probably resonate more than ever. So here goes.
This year was our 10th as a business. That is what we are. A business. This is how we make our living; producing races. We don’t have other jobs or sources of income and do this work year-round. We have been very intentional about the type of company we’ve built, creating brand values when we started and making sure we are aligned with those ever since. Any business or company can choose what is important to them and operate as they see fit. It may not match with what you think is right or just, but it is their company and they can choose to operate it how they want. If you don’t agree or concur with their positions, you can decide not to shop/use/support/run with them.
The trail racing scene continues to grow. The number of races has increased 28% in the last five years (2022 vs. 2017, North America, Ultrarunning magazine stats). You have a lot more races, and more race organizers, to choose from now. Sometimes there are even oddly similar races on the same trails. We’ve had more than a couple of our races copied or attempted to be copied.
There are a lot of reasons people choose to run a race; the location, course, scenery, date, difficulty, etc. If you work Saturdays, you’ll need to find a Sunday race. If you’ve always wanted to visit a certain place and there’s a race there, perfect. Or perhaps you want to do an especially challenging route and having aid stations and course markings make it doable for you. The list goes on and on why someone would choose one event over another.
So how do you choose?
This is where we suggest you dig a little deeper and choose to run a race that aligns with YOUR values. Of course we want you to run our races, but if not us, choose someone else who is good and just and with the intentions that are important to you too. Here are some of our values and some suggestions on how to discern if other races you participate in have something similar.
We do a lot of things to reduce our impact on the environment, and have for a long time:
How is that race you just did protecting environment? What about the next one you’ve signed up for? If their website and online presence doesn’t mention these types of things, send them an email asking what they are doing. You can use our list as talking points or suggestions for them.
Having trails to run on is something that is easily taken for granted. Yet someone had to build that trail and then someone has to maintain it or it’ll just go back to nature. Since we are heavy users of trails, we feel it is our responsibility to do what we can to ensure their existence.
We are Crew Leaders with the Pacific Crest Trail Association, and also Caretakers of an 8-mile section of the PCT near Mt. Hood. This means we maintain that portion of the trail for all users. It took work and time to get to this level, and we continue to invest in our own training to learn new skills.
Some organizers will say they think trail work is important and “suggest” you do it as a part of their race. We believe that making it a requirement holds people accountable and makes sure it gets done. This year, we personally organized work parties and performed 250 hours of trail work. In addition, racers of our Mountain Lakes 100 and Oregon 200 completed 1,811 hours of trail work. That is a very positive impact that we created.
Additionally, we donate money to non-profit trail work organizations every year.
Ask other RDs to make trail work a requirement for their longer races. Ask RDs who have an honor system for trail work to make it more official.
Everyone is welcome at our races and to help make that more obvious, we do the following:
If a race doesn’t offer non-binary registration, ask the RD why, even if you are not a non-binary person. Don’t let them give you the excuse that the registration system doesn’t handle it or that it is too complicated or controversial. It’s not.
We always choose local companies and businesses as sponsors when we can. Why go out of state for your coffee, beer, food, awards, etc. when there are so many great ones right here in Oregon? We also like partnering with small, local businesses that are just starting out. We understand that our support of them helps them grow too and we love hearing the stories and feedback from runners who discovered a new product or service at our races. This is not to say that big brands and national or even international companies aren’t worthy – we partner with them too. We just prefer to support our local economy when we can.
And on that note, loyalty and longevity are important to us. We are loyal to a fault, continuing to work with companies we believe in, year after year, over others that may offer us more or have a little more cache’, but don’t fit our brand and ethos as well. The fact that many of our sponsors have supported us for multiple years says something.
Look at the sponsors listed on a race’s website. Are they local and/or the types of brands you admire? Ask what is in it for the race, racers, and race organizer to work with each?
Every trail race organizer will tell you that they can’t put on races without volunteers, and it is true. People selflessly giving up time to support strangers in achieving a dream. How cool is that? Just like there are choices in which races to run, there are choices in which to volunteer for. We take care of and support our volunteers in the best way we know how because we understand and hold in high regard what they are doing for us. We communicate clearly and timely, provide everything that is needed, and recognize and reward them for their time.
Think back to an event you volunteered at and how you felt about it afterwards. If you didn’t walk away with the same thing as a runner’s high and/or feeling appreciated, don’t go back. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer so choose to do that with a company that supports you and aligns with your values. And if you haven’t ever volunteered or it’s been awhile, put it your calendar for next year.
Get a bunch of trail runners together and the conversation quickly turns to racing. But there is more to this sport than just that and we are big proponents in making sure that people have ways to build connections and grow in their involvement with trail racing, outside of just pinning on a bib.
During our off-season, we arrange for some activity or training or community-building event. In years past we’ve offered Wilderness First Aid certifications, HAM radio classes, group runs, and a Map and Compass Reading course. Good excuses for people to come together, learn something, or just have some fun together.
We participate in our local club runs. May seem simple, but it gives people a chance to get to know us, ask questions about our events, plus we get to try to stay in shape and raise a glass with new and old friends afterwards. We think this engagement is beyond important. We aren’t going to show up only on race day, take your money, and just say see you next year.
Does your favorite race director do anything like this? If not, why?
If you have tuned in even a little to this latest UTMB controversy, you are probably hearing and feeling the groundswell to support local races. We 100% stand behind that of course, as we are a “mom and pop” company and literally depend on people choosing to run and to volunteer with us over someone else’s company. And to be forthcoming, UTMB approached us a few years back about our races. We had a meeting with the founders, set up by a mutual friend. It was more of a fact-finding mission on their part and it wasn’t until they started having the “by UTMB” races that we figured out what was going on back then.
Luckily or not, our races were too small to be of interest to them. And that’s okay, as we kinda like the way we put on our races.
FreeTrail podcast with Gary Robbins | Trail Running at a Crossroads
irunfar coverage: Local Race Org., UTMB World Series, and Whistler Blackcomb Clash Over New Race Announcement
Gary Robbins blog: What Really Went Down in Whistler with the UTMB Races