In November of 2021, after hosting a season of Covid-modified races, I was updating our race website(s) for what we hoped would be (and thankfully was) a mostly “normal” 2022. While doing so, I decided to include a preface to our Participant Guide(s) titled “Setting Expectations for 2022”. It was a great way for Cheri and I to pull back the curtain and share our experience of the pandemic as race directors. It was a way for us to temper expectations for an upcoming season with many lingering unknowns. It also ended up being a valuable touchpoint for connection with you; our participants, volunteers and partners. I am taking the opportunity to do something similar again this year. In the interest of real-estate, it will not be front and center in the participant guide, instead it will reside in THIS blog post – we would appreciate it if you took the time to read it.
The pandemic took its toll on all of us. As individuals, friends/family members, parents, athletes, employees, and businesses owners. The loss of life, the emotional toll, the educational strain on our children, the disruption of routines, the complications and financial pain of being an employee, or a small business owner. So many of you have shared stories with us of the hardship you faced over the past few years. You have also shared how important your running, and our races, continue to be in your lives. A place to process, cope, heal, laugh, celebrate, and just feel some freedom and normalcy. I felt this way about the races I got to run in 2022; Arrowhead, Curnow, Voyageur, Paavo Nurmi, Twin Cities and Hixon. I was grateful to just BE there.
The emotional, financial, and regulatory challenges Cheri and I (Rocksteady Running) have faced over the past few years have been significant. Only through the support of the running community have we had the strength, resources, and tenacity to persist. Not all races have been so lucky. While it is not easy to read the tea leaves – it is evident that some races have struggled, while others folded. Between the lingering effects of the pandemic, inflation, a heightened regulatory environment, and unpredictable weather / climate events, producing races is significantly more challenging today than it has ever been. As a running community we cannot take races and the organizations that produce them for granted. There is no guarantee they will persist, they need our support. A handful of ways in which you can support are; Read all of the information on event websites prior to showing up on race day, Volunteer at races or help with setup the days prior or cleanup the day(s) after, respect no-refund policies – small event organizers incur significant risk to produce races and we ask you to shoulder some of that risk with us in the form of your entry fee, pay more for your entry fee or make a donation if it is an option, buy some swag, be kind. Thankfully, we find that 99.9% of our participants are operating on this vibe – I hear similar things from other local trail / ultra-directors.
Inflation is real. I likely don’t need to tell you that, any trip to the grocery store is evidence enough. Event costs were up significantly over the previous year. Some of the costs that suppliers and vendors passed onto us were significant. This is not a criticism of those suppliers or vendors, they are in most instances small businesses doing the best they can in a challenging environment. That said, we have made the decision to NOT increase entry fees for the 2023 race season. We will see how this year goes and adjust for the 2024 season if needed. We will again give participants who are able, the ability to pay a little more / make an additional contribution to their entry fee when registering. If you can contribute in this way, wonderful. If you can’t, we totally understand. We don’t want entry fees to be a barrier to participation. If you ever need help with your entry fee, please reach out.
While we have our challenges like everyone else, Cheri and I are doing well – we count our blessings daily. We are continually humbled by the running communities’ support and are grateful for the ongoing opportunity to facilitate these incredible experiences. I have said it before, and I will say it again… we do not do this alone. There is a core group of individuals that have made producing these races alongside us their vocation – working their butts off, event in, event out – a couple of vendors, most are volunteers. There are the 100’s of beautiful volunteers who contribute at each individual race, who give joyously and selflessly of their time. Then there are the runners and the community that together we all comprise – a community that is as dedicated, considerate, selfless, compassionate, caring and talented as any I have seen in my 30 years as a runner and 17 as a race director. Thank you for being great.
Cheri and I had the privilege of guiding these events from the small niche events they were in the early 2000’s to what they have become today… much larger niche events 😉 There came a time for us when the demands of the events grew to a point that rather than them being our “part time job”, we embraced the races as our “full time job” and got new part time jobs to supplement. Today we find ourselves back to full-time careers outside of the races, and consider ourselves blessed to have two full-time jobs each. We ask that when you come to one of our races, or any other trail / ultra race, that you consider that besides a few outliers, these trail and ultra-races are “mom-and-pop” affairs, put on by your peers / fellow runners, people with careers and families, people who do it for the love of running and their fellow runners. You should understand that the level of event production, the amenities and experience will vary from event to event. Hopefully each race organization clearly articulates what is, and what is not included in order to set racer’s expectations. It is then incumbent upon runners to review the information provided. This diversity of events is part of our niche sports charm. While Cheri and I have significant commitments outside of running, we will always provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about whether or not you would like to race with us, and what that experience will be like. All of that said, you should generally expect the same professional level of event production, the same incredible volunteers, the same transcendental experiences on the trail and the same awesome vibes as years past. Our mission remains undiminished, “to create experiences that facilitate connection.”
It is an honor getting to do this with you, and for you. We are grateful for your support, and we never take that support for granted. Please reach out if you need anything. We are looking forward to connecting with you in 2023.
John and Cheri Storkamp