We Are Intro­du­cing Prize Money And This Is Why

Writ­ten By Sam Heward

Sam is one of the Ultra X Co-Founders. If he’s not actu­ally out run­ning, chances are he’s busy writ­ing about it (or plot­ting Ultra X strategy!)

24 May 2020

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Read­ing Time: 4 minutes

Ultra X was foun­ded on a simple idea. We believe that multi-stage trail racing is the best sport on the plan­et, and we want it to be recog­nised as such.

When we began to map out the brand, there were a few clear goals;

1) To cre­ate a glob­al com­munity of like-minded indi­vidu­als who loved push­ing them­selves and loved adven­ture.
2) To launch the largest series of multi-stage ultra races on the plan­et. In deserts, jungles, moun­tains, and on remote islands.
3) To make these exper­i­ences more access­ible and afford­able to those that wanted to take part.
4) To recog­nise and reward the phe­nom­en­al ath­letes that do these events.

The Ultra X World Cham­pi­on­ships 2021, launch­ing on 27th June, is some­thing that we have been look­ing for­ward to announ­cing for over two years. This race looks to bring the sport of multi-stage ultra mara­thon run­ning into the spot­light.

Prize money can help ultra run­ning

To encour­age and reward the best run­ners on the plan­et to take part we are offer­ing prize money. The pot and alloc­a­tion will be announced on 20th June.

Few top­ics divide opin­ion amongst ultra run­ners more than prize money. For some, it rep­res­ents the com­mer­cial­isa­tion of the sport, and with that comes the cor­rup­tion of ama­teur prin­ciples and the erosion of a unique atmo­sphere, for oth­ers it is a nat­ur­al and excit­ing pro­cess. For clar­ity and full trans­par­ency, we are lay­ing out our reas­on­ing for why we have intro­duced it in this art­icle.

Des­pite huge growth in recent years, multistage ultra run­ning is still a fringe sport and the way we see it, we are at cross­roads between ama­teur­ism and pro­fes­sion­al­ism.

The top ath­letes are full-time pro­fes­sion­als, but rarely, if ever, are rewar­ded in cash for win­ning and only the abso­lute best are able to gen­er­ate suf­fi­cient earn­ings to be able to focus 100% on being the best ath­lete that they can be.

As glor­i­ous as the notion of ama­teur val­ues are, they are incred­ibly vague and exclus­ive. Without the prom­ise of fin­an­cial reward, only run­ners who can already afford to take time away from work can par­ti­cip­ate in the sport in the first place.

Those nos­tal­gic for the days of ama­teur ath­let­ics can over­look the fact that it was largely the pas­time of the well off. Only people with cer­tain means can afford to devote them­selves fully to an unpaid hobby.

Big­ger prize money in ultramara­thons can enable a wider pool of ath­letes to ded­ic­ate more time and be bet­ter pre­pared. As a brand that is all about access­ib­il­ity, this is there­fore an import­ant step for Ultra X.

Prize money will improve com­pet­i­tion and stand­ards by enabling more full-time pro­fes­sion­als. Pre­par­a­tion can be enhanced, be it high alti­tude train­ing, heat accli­ma­tion, a prop­er sup­port team, or simply more com­fort­able pre-race trans­port and accom­mod­a­tion.

There are some who are res­ist­ant to the intro­duc­tion of big money into ultramara­thon run­ning and we hear your con­cerns. Change is nev­er easy! Con­cerns around camarader­ie, hon­esty, and sports­man­ship are val­id. How­ever, we hon­estly believe this can be trans­form­at­ive and bring huge pos­it­ive change simply by bring­ing more people to it.

As race organ­isers, run­ners, and avid fol­low­ers of the sport, the pro­spect of watch­ing incred­ible run­ners break records and push bound­ar­ies is excit­ing. Even more so is the idea of dis­cuss­ing Zach Bitter’s latest record break­ing antics, Kil­lian Jornet’s new nutri­tion part­ner, or Cam­ille Herron’s crazy train­ing mileage at the pub, in the same way that so many dis­cuss the vir­tues and vices of VAR tech­no­logy in the Eng­lish Premi­er League.

To attract people to the ultra run­ning scene, races need to be com­pet­it­ive and dra­mat­ic; there are thou­sands of epic events out there, sure, but those that offer com­pet­it­ive fields are actu­ally few and far between.

We are offer­ing prize money because prize money attracts com­pet­it­ive fields and com­pet­it­ive fields attract interest — this is good for the sport, for the ultra run­ning com­munit­ies, and for all the brands and char­it­ies that are sup­por­ted by it.

Fif­teen years ago, NASCAR, darts, IRONMAN Triath­lon, and poker were fringe activ­it­ies, with vir­tu­ally no cas­u­al fol­low­ers. Today mil­lions par­ti­cip­ate and fol­low — in turn, the sports have nev­er been stronger. Ultra run­ning can learn from these events: we need new ideas, new ways of attract­ing the already com­mit­ted run­ners as well as the cas­u­al sports fan to our sport.

Our sport is grow­ing, and change is inev­it­able. Let us not for­get the past — we need to pre­serve all that is good about it — but let’s look eagerly to the future. All of us who love it must begin view­ing ultrar­unning in the con­text of the lar­ger sports and enter­tain­ment mar­kets.

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