Too much of a good thing?

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We are fortunate to know that Rochester has amazing trail systems. One of our stated goals is to get people out and enjoying these trails – Yet we walk a knifes edge – The solitude and peacefulness of the trails is one of the reasons we love them so much.

– As trail running becomes more and more popular though we are starting to run into some issues that must be addressed.

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1. Races may be starting to get to big on some trails- in turn frustrating runners

Some local races have gotten so popular that we are starting to hear runners grumbling about “not being able to run” and “not liking to be so over crowded on the trails”. It’s a catch-22. We want you all out running trails, but we also do not want anyone to get frustrated from crowding. It may be time for some local races to think about how many runners they accept or how the courses are set up. Some trails are not meant for 300 runners – Others can handle that with no issues at all. We have to be aware of that

2. Prices are starting to rise for races

One thing that attracts so many runners to the trails is the low key – anti corporate  – low cost feel. As the rule of supply and demand dictates – prices are starting to rise. This goes against the culture of trail running. We implore race directors to keep our sport as affordable as possible. We understand the business aspect of our sport – We just want to keep perspective.

3. Too many runners -especially in a race scenario can strain our local trail systems.

The North Face cancelled a race earlier this year for runners safety during storms – but also to protect the trail systems. As we run in the mud – in snow – in dry conditions etc – We can damage trails if we are not careful.

Runners passing each other (off trail or edge of trail) kill local fauna and widen the trail causing more erosion than is natural. Too many runners doing this and the trail loses it’s identity (and functionality).

4. Corporate Dollars are at work – Where numbers of people go – Those who want their money will follow. While big corporations getting involved in our sport is awesome for gear – shoes – nutrition – and progress in general, It can start to change the culture of the sport we love. We have to be careful to maintain what has worked for so many of us.

5. Inexperienced trail runners flooding the trails – No one is saying stay away- We are however asking new runners to learn a bit about the trails – The local running stores in Rochester both offer trail programs – We also of course offer events on a weekly basis.

Inexperienced runners pass in the wrong places (or don’t allow faster runners to pass) they struggle on technical aspects of trails – specifically the downhills and it can get dangerous if someone is out of control during a race. We would love you to join us for our weekly informal runs to help you learn the trails before you race them!

What can we do? The bottom line is that we love trail running – We want you to love trail running as well. It is important to all parties involved that we pay attention to our sport. Growth is great – It is helping the sport- We just have to be sure we manage the growth in the right way.

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What do you think? Have you noticed any of the above points in your days on the trails – We would love to hear your story.

Oh – and just for kicks…. http://www.trailporn.com/   Enjoy.

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2 thoughts on “Too much of a good thing?

    Liz Neenan said:
    February 26, 2013 at 7:56 pm

    After a decade break from running my first race was a trail race. Not only did it get me back into running seriously again but it helped me fall in love with running in a way I never had when I ran in highschool or college. I would hate to take away that experience from someone else. That being said, trails races have been getting more and more crowded over the years. Add that to irresponsible race cordinators who have slower runners starting first and it’s a recipe for disaster, not only to runners who are at risk of falling down steep inclines when passing or being passed but also to the wildlife being trampled along the way. I’m not sure of the solution though. Cut offs for entires? Faster runners staged first or 15-20 minutes behind the slower runners? 5 minute lag time is not enough..

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    Jeffrey Luke said:
    February 26, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Love the questions you are raising. As far as races go, I do them so infrequently, I don’t think I’d have much to offer. I will say, that I ran a Tough Mudder in Toronto last year, and I believe over 2 days of racing, they had 17,000 participants. I was a bit crowded on the course. But that event is more about brotherhood, sisterhood and camaraderie than racing (it’s not timed). I have only participated in one trail race (Mendon Ponds) and it was mostly single track – which made the first mile or so tough going – but it cleared out after that.

    Now, 99% of my running is done on trails – mostly Crescent Hill. Over the last 18 months, I’ve only encountered one other runner. I do often run past hikers and dog walkers – who have no problems sharing the trails.

    Like many of you, I enjoy the peacefulness & grit of trail running – and always encourage others to try it. I can’t imagine a time when any trail system in Rochester would experience an overcrowding – other than the race scenarios you have pointed out.

    So I think you keep doing what you’re doing – promoting trail running. I love feeling part of a community – even though I haven’t had a run with you guys yet (that will change soon).

    Along with promotion comes the education part – which I think most people will get – especially if they have any interested in trail running.

    Anyway, looking forward to meeting you fine folks on the trails soon.

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