“Trail and ultra running is inclusive”.
There are few things at the moment that get my blood boiling as much as this sentence, especially when it comes from a middle aged white man.
“Ultra marathon running attracts a certain type of person”, they say when questioned about the fact that there are a significant amount of professionals, surgeons, engineers, lawyers, etc who make up the middle to back of the pack in an ultra trail race.
“Everyone is welcome, we don’t discriminate”.
No, well actually, you might not be overtly discriminating against women and people of lower socio-economic status but you aren’t making it easy either. Big corporations like UTMB are actually making it harder, now in order to even enter the lottery for a UTMB you have to run another UTMB event, not just your local race. Purely from a financial point of view, in order to enter the UTMB lottery you need to spend a lot of money entering a UTMB race, travelling to it (because good luck if there is more than one in your country!), paying for accommodation and taking time off work.
It’s the definition of elitist and maybe that’s the point but you can’t then say you are inclusive.
For Australians and kiwi’s, there are three races but due to their locations and admittedly spectacular trails, they are travel destinations for 90% of entrants.
But lets look at the specifics. Taking the “travel” component out of it for just a second.
Not to point fingers at any particular race, but lets use my current A race, the Tarawera 100 mile as an example of why you need a certain level of financial privilege to even consider entering this race.
Let’s have a look at the bare minimum amount it would cost to run the Tarawera 100 mile race.
First there is the race entry itself, which if you sign up the day it opens (when it’s the cheapest), it will set you back $895 NZ dollars. To keep things consistent, I’m going to include everything here in Australian dollars, so that’s $837 AU at today’s exchange rate (if your credit card doesn’t charge you an international fee or conversion).
Since it’s a 100 mile race in the bush, there is a significant mandatory gear list. Now I’m very pro-mandatory gear and think its really important from a safety perspective. I have collected quality gear over the years rather than buy cheaper gear, hoping I won’t have to use it, and having to replace it with better gear later on. Long story short, some of these items you could get cheaper versions.
Thermal long sleeve top- $40 (basic Mountain designs from Anaconda
Thermal long sleeve pants- $40 (basic Mountain Designs from Anaconda)
Thermal hat: $40 (MacPac)
Thermal gloves: $40 (Anaconda)
Waterproof seam sealed jacket- I have an Ultimate Direction Ultra Jacket $290 It’s also about 4 years old.
Survival bag: $5 to $40
Self adhesive bandage: $15
Water bottle/Collapsible cup/Hydration vest: To fit all this stuff, you’ll also need a big pack. I have a Salomon sLab Adv Skin 12L . It RRP at $250.
Mandatory gear alone : $1305. Yes you could get a cheaper head lamp, jacket and pack. But you end up spending more money replacing the crap you bought with good gear that will actually save you if the weather turns to shit. This also doesn’t include the cost of a mobile phone or coverage.
Speaking of which, you should probably also carry a first aid kit which will set you back about $30 if you buy one pre made or you could just pop some bandaids etc in a zip lock bag. I would also carry a buff (for all the reasons that they are awesome and insanely versatile, not sponsored, just true)
It’s one thing to have to carry a bunch of gear but you also can’t run naked.
As a female, to look a going running, without packing a change of clothes and for summer conditions (lots of people will change tops, sports, bras, socks and even shoes during an ultramarathon depending on the conditions), I would need all the gear below.
Hat: Happy Runner Trucker Hat $25
Buff: Warm weather $45
Sunglasses: Goodr $40
Bra: Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra $110
T-shirt: 2XU aero tee $50
Tights/shorts: 2XU light speed tights $90
Undies: Runderwear $33
Shoes: Altra Mont Blanc $290
Socks: Injinji $35
Sunscreen and Anti-chafe: $50
Garmin watch: $1400 (again there are cheaper options, I’ve had mine for years, I had a Fenix 5X that shit itself and got replaced with a 6X)
Total: $768 AU, $2168 including the Garmin
Ok so we are dressed and ready to go for summer conditions. But to run 100 miles you can’t just rely on the aid stations to get you by. You’ll need your own fuel to get you to the finish.
Let’s hypothesis the dream goal of sub 24 hours, which at one clif blok per 20 minutes, is 12 sleeves of clif bloks. A box of 18 is about $90-$100. I would also add tail wind to that which is $63 a bag or $4.50 for individual servings. If you don’t add any other nutritional product like gels or lollies, thats $163 for sports nutrition.
Once on the course, if you don’t have a crew (some folks don’t have friends or family that can take a weekend off work or longer if you are travelling interstate or internationally) to follow you around the course, you can use the drop bag service. There are 7 drop bag locations in which you can leave bags with food, spare clothes, spare batteries, sunscreen etc. Many folks in Australia and NZ use insulated shopping bags as drop bags which are about $2.50 each but what you choose to put in them is up to you.
|Race entry||$895 NZ (early bird, $837 AU), $965 (max)|
|Mandatory gear||$1305 AU|
|Running gear||$2618 AU|
Now I hate to say it, but that cost of almost $5000 assumes you live in Rotorua, NZ. Only 76,800 people live in Rotorua so it’s safe to say most people will be travelling to the race.
So now we have to add:
- Accomodation ($150 per night)
- Flights ($350-400 minimum each way, Melbourne to Auckland)
- Rental Car ($200 min per day)
- Travel insurance ($350 per person)
- Airport parking (at home $12 per day)
I’m guessing by now you are starting to get the idea and this is just for the race itself, this doesn’t include all the time it takes to train for a race like this and time is not cheap. Lets assume you have the 8-15 hours (amateurs here folks) to train outside of a full time job and work commute and also lets acknowledge that many folks work multiple jobs and more than the standard 40 hour work week. What about child care? Who is paying for that? Does your partner support you disappearing for that long each week?
I also haven’t added the cost of all the gear you will wear through during training.
Travel to races they say, get running stones they say, ‘inclusive’ they say.
Call me cynical, but I’m not convinced.
Voice your thoughts below or hit me up on twitter!