Friend of the race, physical therapist, coach, accomplished ultrarunner, Ultrarunning Magazine and IRunFar.com contributor Joe Uhan wrote an article that was published in the March 2015 issue of Ultrarunning Magazine and is republished below with their permission. We feel that this article mirrors the values and ideology of the Superior Fall Trail Race & Rocksteady Running.  We challenge our runners, volunteers and sponsors to strive for these ideals as well.

Modeling Values in the Ultrarunning Community

by Joe Uhan

Ask any race director what the number one issue with today’s runner is, and most will respond: “They don’t know the rules.”

People sign up for races, do the training, yet fail to “get educated.” They don’t read the race website, or they fail to attend or listen to the pre-race meeting. So they show up at races and, for better or worse, behave how they feel is appropriate: their rules. Most of the time, this is effective. Common sense usually prevails. But sometimes, it does not. Much of the negative behavior comes simply from not knowing what is acceptable and what is not. This is especially true about the sport’s most prized asset: our “ultrarunning culture.”

Ultrarunning is growing. Growth is good, but growth can be painful. With the rapid growth of trail ultrarunning, there is a confluence of forces: on the lands that support us; on race directors who balance the needs of the trails, the volunteers and the runner; and on the runners themselves to commit, train, prepare for and ultimately execute what everyone tells them will be a Zen-like, transformational experience.

Pressure creates tension, and tension— when unmitigated—can warp attitudes and behaviors. Suddenly, a yellow streak appears in the warm welcoming waters. Somebody’s peeing in the pool.

The stories mount: of runners acting like unruly children at aid stations, launching outrageous post-race complaints (“The aid station didn’t have my quesadilla!”), profiteering race directors selling post-race medical treatment—before the race.

Complaints about the tainted ultrarunning culture are now as frequent as the naughty behaviors. Snarky, thinly-veiled jabs against groups—or even individuals—on social media are nearly as commonplace today as the hashtag sponsor-bombs of supported runners.

But, like the product placements, are these criticisms productive? Are a few old-schoolers and their passive-aggressive social media policing any better than the few pool-pee-ers? Or are they only making it worse? Fire does not put out fire.

Cultural norms are learned behaviors. They must be modeled, and social theory tells us the best way to do so is within a close-knit social sphere, where behaviors are directly observed and mirrored, often unconsciously, among friends.
That said, perhaps the solution to a widespread cultural issue lies by addressing it locally: in our own running communities. Here are some ideas for what you can do:

ADOPT NEW ULTRARUNNERS
New ultrarunners aren’t difficult to find: they’re at our favorite races, trails, running stores, restaurants and cafés. Engage new folks. Invite them to share the trails with you and your friends. Or hang out and include them in your post-run or post-race chatter and banter—one of the best settings for ultrarunners to share and connect.

Adopting new runners into your group is a way to demonstrate your own presence in the community, and it gives you a starting point toward modeling positive community values.

MENTOR
The gift of a sustainable sport like ultrarunning is the presence of veteran runners. Although they eventually lose elite speed, veteran ultrarunners maintain a vast and valuable wealth of knowledge. And within the nuts-and-bolts of geography, training, nutrition and gear also lie the essential elements of positive culture.
It’s incumbent on those veterans to step up and actively mentor new runners. Not simply to run well, but so they can run—and behave—with integrity from the beginning. Share knowledge and share values.

ELICIT POSITIVE VALUES & BEHAVIOR
Veteran runners should model and promote positive behaviors in the local community. This means everything from being friendly and helpful to runners and non-runners alike, to picking up litter and clearing trail debris. It means volunteering at races and at trail work events, or offering to crew or pace another runner.

Positive citizenship in the local community promotes the multi-dimensional culture of ultrarunning: exposing runners to the fact that yes, indeed, there’s much more to ultrarunning than just running.

On the flip side, it’s incumbent on local runners to address bad behavior. Few of us run in a vacuum, and no one can run a race without the aid of a race director and volunteers. See a negative behavior in your backyard? Address it: tactfully, but firmly. In doing so, you are educating, and perhaps halting a problem behavior early, before it becomes widespread, or worse: accepted. Small acts have big impacts—like bending down to pick up the gel top that fell out of another runner’s pocket.

GET SKILLS!
Craig Thornley, ultramarathon veteran and RD for Western States 100 and Waldo 100K, is known for saying: “If you want to help the sport, get trained, so you can take real responsibility.” Our sport has many people willing to help, but relatively few trained to lead: as a trail builder or sawyer, an aid station captain, a ham radio operator or medical staff. Becoming skilled allows one person to lead possibly 10 to 20 others, and it allows their leadership to grow within a race community.

But implicit in the skill is leadership: the opportunity to model and promote positive values in the community. Just because you’re not fast doesn’t mean you can’t have mad skills with a saw, a McLeod or a radio. Leaders reflect the brightest, and there’s no limit to positive leadership in ultras.

Want to cultivate positive culture? Your garden is your own backyard. Adopt, mentor, model and lead.

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Superior Fall Trail Race
100MI, 50MI, 26.2MI Trail Race(s)
Lutsen, Minnesota
(approx 4hrs North of Minneapolis, MN)
September 7 & 8, 2018
100MI Friday 8:00AM
50MI Saturday 5:15AM
26.2MI Saturday 8:00AM

Registration / Lottery:
Registration via 15 day lottery registration period.
Opens Monday January 1st, 2018 – 12:01AM CST
Closes Monday January 15th, 2018 – 11:59PM CST
Complete Lottery / Registration Details HERE

Directions:
100MI Start: Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN HERE
50MI Start: Finland Rec Center – Finland, MN HERE
26.2MI Start: Cramer Road – Schroder, MN HERE
Races Finish: Carbibou Highlands – Lutsen, MN HERE

Terrain:
The Superior Fall Trail Races 100MI, 50MI & 26.2MI are run on rugged, rooty, rocky, 95% single-track trail with near constant climbs and descents.  The race is held on the Superior Hiking Trail in the Sawtooth Mountains paralleling Lake Superior in Northern Minnesota / not far from the Canadian border.  The race located approximately 4 hours North of Minneapolis, Minnesota.   The Superior Fall Trail Races are very difficult / challenging races and are probably not a good choice for your first trail or ultra race (see Registration Info for qualifying requirements).

100 Mile:
Point to Point 103.3 Miles
Elevation Gain 21,000 FT
Elevation Loss 21,000 FT
NET Elevation Change 42,000 FT
13 Aid Stations
38 hour time limit
Complete 100MI Info HERE

50 Mile:
Point to Point 52.1 Miles
Elevation Gain 12,500 FT
Elevation Loss 12,500 FT
NET Elevation Change 25,000 FT
7 Aid Stations
16.5 hour time limit
Complete 50MI Info HERE

26.2 Mile:
Point to point 26.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 5,500 FT
Elevation Loss 5,500 FT
NET Elevation Change 11,000 FT
3 Aid Stations
14 hour cutoff
Complete 17MI Info HERE

More About the Race:
The Superior Trail 100 was founded in 1991 when there was no more than a dozen or so 100 mile trail races in the USA, back then if you wanted to run a 100, you had choices like Western States, Hardrock, Leadville, Wasatch, Cascade Crest, Umstead, Massanutten and Superior . Superior quickly earned it’s reputation of its namesake today – Rugged, Relentless and Remote and is known as one of the tougher 100 mile trail races.  Superior lives on now as one of the “legacy 100 milers” and is considered by many to be one of the most challenging, prestigious and beautiful 100 mile trail races in the country. Shortly after the inception of the 100, the Superior 50 was started and in the early 2000’s the Moose Mountain Marathon was added. None of the history or tradition of this race has been lost and is a great event for those looking for a world-class event with a low-key, old-school 100 miler feel.  The Superior Trail Race is put on by ultrarunners for ultrarunners.

More About the Area:
The North Shore of Lake Superior runs from Duluth, Minnesota at the Southwestern end of the lake, to Thunder Bay and Nipigon, Ontario, Canada, in the North to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in the east. The shore is characterized by alternating rocky cliffs and cobblestone beaches, with rolling hills and ridges covered in boreal forest inland from the lake, through which scenic rivers and waterfalls descend as they flow to Lake Superior. The shoreline between the city of Duluth to the international border at Grand Portage as the North Shore.  Lake Superior is considered the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area. It is the world’s third-largest freshwater lake by volume and the largest by volume in North America.  The Superior Hiking Trail, also known as the SHT, is a 310-mile long distance hiking single-track hiking trail in Northeastern Minnesota that follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior for most of its length. The trail travels through forests of birch, aspen, pine, fir, and cedar. Hikers and runners enjoy views of boreal forests, the Sawtooth Mountains, babbling brooks, rushing waterfalls, and abundant wildlife. The lowest point on the trail is 602 feet above sea level and the highest point is 1,829 feet above sea level.