Competitive Scene - Page 3
Sage Canaday takes the win, setting a new American record, at the Mount Washington Road Race, New Hampshire, the 2012 USATF Mountain Running Championships. Photo by Joe Viger.
Fans of American championship trail running can thank USATF, the national governing body for long-distance running, track and field and race walking. In 1998, USATF established the Mountain/Ultra/Trail (MUT) subcommittee to oversee these previously unrepresented disciplines.
In its initial meeting in December 1998, the subcommittee recognized the importance of championships. Its meeting minutes note, “We need to get the word out about our sport and it was agreed that championships would be a great way to do that.” With this in mind, the MUT leadership quickly established a national championship schedule with a 50-mile trail championship as well as 50K road, 50-mile road and 24- hour championships to be held in 1999.
But soon, the USATF recognized an institutional problem: the lack of bids for USATF championships events. After receiving 11 national championship bids in 2003 (eight of which were accepted), by December 2004, MUT had only received bids for 50K and 50-mile trail championships in 2005. The 2004 MUT meeting minutes recognize “[t]he bid form is a bit daunting.”
Subsequently, though, the USATF championship roster has steadily grown. For 2013, the MUT national championship roster stands at 12 races, including seven trail races. Still, MUT often receives only one bid for each championship.
In 2011, MUT added a point-based national-championship trail series, including 10K, 15K, half-marathon and marathon trail championships as well as the Mountain Running Championships, which were run on the trails of the Cranmore Hill Climb (see “Running for Red, White and Blue,” October 2011, Issue 75). The series continues in 2013, and the most competitive races should be the Mountain Running Championships at the Cranmore Hill Climb in New Hampshire and the marathon championships at the Pikes Peak Marathon in Colorado, which has drawn top runners from around the world for decades.
Despite being the longest-held, trail-running championships in the country, the USATF events have not recruited super-deep fields. This may be due to any number of reasons. Perhaps rifts between the USATF and top athletes early in MUT’s existence and a continued uneasy relationship due to inadequate funding of U.S. competitors at international championships have set the organization back.
Whether due to onerous bidding or unwanted event conditions, there continues to be a disjunction between our sport’s most competitive events and those that serve as USATF championships. Maybe at 12 races with open and masters and age-group national champions, the USATF MUT championships have diluted themselves out of relevance.