Here is the final installment of the WS Synchroblog for 2010.
Dear Ask an Ultrarunner,
I'm new to the sport and have been watching any relevant ultramarathon movie and reading every popular ultrarunning magazine article and blog that I come across. Rather than winning lots of high profile races every year, it has become clear to me that the quickest path to stardom and sponsorship is developing a top-notch training gimmick. Heroic feats of endurance, competitive eating, barefoot running, and sexy, high mileage training logs are already taken. Can you recommend a gimmick for a budding young ultra star? I am confident that given an appropriate publicity stunt, I can easily handle the second requirement --
criticizing other gimmicks as such.
This is an excellent question and your assessment is spot on. Indeed, with the tremendous growth of ultramarathon running over the past few years, gimmickry has become synonymous with success in the sport. With many of the more clichéd gimmicks already taken (extremely high training mileage, owning running stores, going on “Quests”, and seeking online donations for entry fees) there are still ample opportunities for you to find your niche. Here are three suggestions:
1. Race Naked – While this is, of course, commonplace in San Francisco, it has yet to take hold on the trails. With all the attention being paid to the minimalist approach this gimmick could really catch on. I mean, how much more minimalist can you get?
2. Don’t sign up for races, just run them – With the increased popularity of the sport, lotteries have become commonplace and the biggest races are nearly impossible to get in to. My suggestion to you is don’t bother signing up. Just run whatever races you feel like running. Sure, you won’t end up being on the official finishers list but who really cares about that anyway. Plus, having the reputation of being the “Ultra Bandit” would be very cool.
3. Run 100 milers without drinking any fluids – Just think how famous you’d become for this. You would essentially shrivel up to a shadow of your former self and you could actually be seen as normal for pretty much peeing blood all the time.
I am sure there are plenty of other possible gimmicks but these three will certainly get you some exposure.
Dear Ask an Ultrarunner,
I recently read Douglas McChristopher's "Freedom to Run Free Like You
Really Should Run." What an awesome book! In this Homeric tale,
McChristopher recounts how he traveled to Chico to run in the footsteps of the Sierra Nevada Pale Feet, a reclusive group of runners descended from an ancient warrior tribe whose existence revolved around running. The Sierras don't just run, they ran backwards. They drink massive amounts of malted beverages, fuel themselves with pumpkin seeds and fashion their own "toe shoes" out of pumpkin vines. After reading McChristopher's operatic ode to running, I decided to follow the author's lead and adopt the Sierra's methods. Amazingly, ever since I started running backwards, I've been completely free of injuries. I've finished five ultras, running them all backwards and using pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie as my only fuel. My times are slower than they used to be, but I feel better than ever! I'm wondering what you think of McChristopher's book. Have you read it? Have you tried running backwards? Any plans to attempt a backwards Western States?
Dear Ass Backwards,
That is incredible! A bunch of people I’ve worked with have asked my if I’ve read McChristopher’s book and I must say I have not. However, now that I’ve read your question I am going to run right out and get it. It sounds simply amazing!
I have tried running backwards myself and I really do like it. I am thinking that the success of this book will spawn a whole slew of new products and it is quite likely to bring quite a few more elementary school teachers into the sport as they are, of course, equipped with eyes in the back of their heads. Not sure about attempting backwards Western States but it could revolutionize the sport in much the same way gels, electrolyte tablets and Vibram Five Fingers have.
Dear Ask An Ultrarunner,
I am so excited about the field this year. Seems like each year Western
States has the best field ever and this year is no exception. You guys all being students of the race (and one of you the two-time defending champion) who are your top five picks for the men and women?
Jimmy The Greek
It will be great race up front and I think the spectators will have quite a bit more fun than the runners. Here are my top-5 men and top-5 women:
1. Hal Koerner
2. Geoff Roes
3. Anton Krupicka
4. Killian Jornet
5. Tsuyoshi Kaburagi
1. Devon Crosby-Helms
2. Nikki Kimball
3. Meghan Arbogast
4. Tracy Garneau
5. Bev Anderson-Abbs
Should be an awesome race!!!
Check out the other synchrobloggers below!