Crowd Sourcing for an article on WA Trail Running!

Hey Folks -

I'm working on a piece for publication about the WA trail running community, and as a relative nube to the scene, I could use some of your wisdom and experience.  I've contacted a few people directly, (and might contact some more), but I'd love to tap into the collective conscious. 

I want to gather that input in one place as well, so I'm hoping you'll leave comments below, with your name and email so I can quote you (I won't be able to fit in everyone's thoughts, probably, but I'll let you know if I want to include something you said)!  If you'd rather send an email directly, I'm at timothy_mathis@yahoo.com.  I'm trying to avoid Facebook posts b/c I'll be working on the article for a couple of months, and posts there disappear into the ether too easily.

It's still taking shape, but the article is going to be a narrative piece that basically tracks the impact of the success and notoriety of the 2004 - 2009 elite community (Jurek, Uli, Hal Koerner, Krissy Moehl, Brian Morrison, William Emerson, etc.) on the development and expansion of the current community.  Any thoughts or good stories you have that might fit would be awesome!  (I'm particularly interested in the stories!)

Some specific questions I have:

What people and factors made Seattle such an epicenter for ultra running in that period?

Washingtonians don't seem to be dominating races at an international level the way we were.  Thoughts on what's happened?

What do folks see as the strengths of the current trail running community? Do you have any stories about how the current community has been shaped or influenced by runners from that earlier period?

Any other thoughts that you have are also greatly appreciated! 

Comments

Danny Naylor said…
I'll preface by saying that I wasn't active in the community during that time, but what I'm about to say is a theory that makes sense to me.

Until very recently, there were few full-time professional ultra/trail runners. Seattle is a major city with myriad professional opportunities that also happens to have miles and miles of wonderful trails within 30 minutes and countless more within an hour as you head into the Cascades. However, as more and more of the internationally elite runners have been able to forego traditional careers, they've been able to leave big cities and relocate to smaller towns closer to trails like Boulder, Colorado, and Ashland and Bend, Oregon. Of course many elite runners still support themselves with traditional careers, and many of those runners can be found in cities like San Francisco, Portland, and Vancouver, but I'm sure one part of the decline in metropolitan elites is their relocation into the job-poor mountains thanks to more supportive sponsorships.

Danny Naylor
naylorda@gmail.com
Tim Mathis said…
Thanks Danny! I like your theory, and you're probably right about the job market thing to an extent (the struggle between making a living and training to be a top level athlete would make a great separate article). It's also true that a lot of the big outdoor recreation employers are in Seattle/Portland/CO, so it's not surprising that those places are also centers for ultra running.
gtach said…
1) Every one of the names you listed were connected to either a) Scott McCoubrey b) Seattle Running Company c) Montrail (One Sport) which was based in Seattle at the time.

2) People relocated and the community changed.

3) A strength are the number of people stepping up to create more events in different venues, but really, what was lost was the sense of family. The people you listed are foremost friends not idols and lost were the days of get togethers, potlucks and game nights.
Tim Mathis said…
Thanks for the thoughts Glenn - McCoubrey, SRC and Montrail keep coming up in these conversations, and do seem to be really key for creating the peak. It's probably not coincidental that SRC closing down and McCoubrey and Montrail moving coincided with a lot of runners dispersing. I love the comment about the sense of family - I've gotten the impression that it was a close-knit group, and that kind of personal side of the 'scene' is really what I'm interested in presenting in this piece. I think it still exists among non-elites, but I have the sense that the really fast runners have a harder time finding community now b/c they aren't able to find as many peers to log long miles with.
Anonymous said…
"Washingtonians don't seem to be dominating races at an international level the way we were."

Probably misreading your intent but were they? Certainly for some American mountain races, which didn't have much international participation, but overseas?

Jao
Tim Mathis said…
They were competitive - Krissy Moehl won UTMB and Jurek won the Spartathalon multiple times. 'dominating' is probably too strong of a word though.
gtach said…
" I think it still exists among non-elites..."

Not like it used to be. Maybe on a segmented and cliquish level, but I'm talking whole community, regardless of speed, doing things together other than just running.
Tim Mathis said…
Hey Glenn - any thoughts on what's changed? Was there one person who served as a catalyst for the community (McCoubreys?) that left?

It seems like you guys at Seven Hills are doing some things to try to rebuild that community - has that been intentional?

Apologies to bug you with followup questions, but you're a great resource, and you're touching on stuff that I'm really hoping to get into - the importance of the community side of trail running for the growth of the sport. We can go offline too if you have thoughts/want to send me an email! timothy_mathis@yahoo.com.
Here are some random thoughts.

- Ultra running is a subset of trail running which is a subset of running in general. When you get immersed in this activity it seems like a BIG deal but really it's a niche activity when compared to pretty much any other sport. Think cycling or soccer or any American ball sport and you get my drift.

- Based on my experience, the NW trail running community is not hyper competitive. Most people are out there to push themselves, set a new PR or run farther than they ever have. The number of people trying to win is small.

- As someone else mentioned, other than a few standout individuals, NW runners have not really dominated anything other than a few select races for a few select years.

- If the NW has any ultra notoriety at all I think you need to give the lion's share of the credit to Scott Jurek. His book (Eat and Run) and the book Born to Run (which lauded Scott's accomplishments over and over) were huge in terms of impact. In my opinion. :) Krissy is a phenomenal runner and promotes races and is a great ambassador but I'll wager a fraction of people that know who Scott is know who she is. Plus, has she written a book? Does she have a YouTube channel like Sage Canaday? Not that I know of.

- Notoriety requires getting the athlete and the sport out there in the face of the public. Because there is less money in this sport than others this is harder to do.

- We need Red Bull to sponsor us.
Ben Luedke said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
phil kochik said…
great topic, Tim! i'll email you my thoughts...but it's no surprise that i agree with what Glenn says.

i'll add that, the Seattle/Western Washington scene is just changing. With post 2009 groups like SMRG and Guerilla Running, James Varner evolving one or two races into RainShadow Running, and the expansion of Evergreen Trail Runs and Northwest Trail Runs, there's a lot that we have now that we didn't back then.
Eric said…
Agree with what Glenn is mentioning about the community that became part of the trail running scene in those years. I was fortunate enough to have worked at SRC before and during those years. Scott McCoubrey had his magic touch with connecting runners and elevating them to new levels. The introduction of runners to trail running was a major factor in building the community. Every Sunday morning you could find us (Scott McCoubrey and myself) taking runners out and showing them how to have fun on the trials. We bonded, we ran, we laughed, we challenged each other to try new distances, we trained and went to races together, we crewed for each other. We were a community of trail runners.


adam hewey said…
When I started Ultra trail running in 2008, there were a handful of events, in 2013 there are races almost every weekend. Marquee events still draw the elites but even they are now dominated by sponsored, professional, young runners. The sport has changed as the numbers have grown. Personally, my race results would have qualified me as a national elite in 2007 whereas today they put me in as a second tier hopeful. The runners of Seattle are stronger than ever only the field has grown and there are only 3 spots available on a podium. I think the "scene" based out of SRC was a pivotal time in the sport and, like Grunge, it changed and moved on. If I was 22 years old and sponsored, I too would be living in Boulder.
Tim Mathis said…
Thanks everyone who's commented so far - there's so much good information here, and this thread itself has turned into a really interesting discussion.
phil kochik said…
don't move to Boulder, Max! (maxwell ferguson)

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