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Pissed at UTMB-Ironman Whistler deal? Here’s what you can do

The UTMB-Ironman takeover of Gary Robbins race is upsetting to many trail and ultra runners.

By Henry Howard

It did not take long for passionate trail and ultra runners to react strongly in opposition to the news of the UTMB-Ironman Whistler deal shenanigans.

For the uninitiated, essentially the UTMB-Ironman corporate overlords blocked Gary Robbins from putting on his annual Whistler race. On Oct. 26, UTMB announced a new UTMB race — in Whistler the same weekend in September when Robbins’ race was previously held.

This post by Robbins is a thorough explanation from his viewpoint of what went down.

When Ironman took over UTMB a few years ago there were legitimate concerns about what that would mean for some beloved ultra races. At the time, I wrote a post that concluded:

“Whether you love or loathe the new deal, there will be reverberations for years to come in the sport and trail and ultra running. One thing is for certain, however: this deal will have no detrimental effect on the amazing trail and ultra running community.”

That merger followed the attempt by UTMB to extract money from Hardrock.

Now we’ve seen (hopefully) the worst of Ironman’s infiltration into the close-knit, support one another community that defines trail and ultra running. In the midst of the Whistler coup, runners have threatened to withdraw support in one way or another.

In the spirit of what I love about ultra running, let’s find ways we can let our voices be heard but do so while exuding positivity and supporting those who share our passion for the community.

Here are some ways I’ll be doing so:

Participate in non-UTMB races. Among those, of course, is Robbins’ real Whistler race. If you are looking for 100-mile options in the United States that are in the same time frame as some popular UTMB races, here are some to consider: Outlaw 100 Oklahoma, Feb. 10; Black Hills 100 in late June; and Midwest States 100 and Oregon Cascades 100, both Aug. 24.

Support your local race directors by volunteering at an aid station..

Give your time. Volunteer to support race directors who are not driven by corporate greed.

Choose another locally driven sport to participate in. I’ve been chewing on the idea of giving gravel bike riding a try. This UTMB Ironman news could certainly expedite my entry into something new.

Re-evaluate your spending. Consider supporting brands that are not profiting off the UTMB-Ironman series. Admittedly this one will present challenges and will be tough personally for me. There are some small businesses affiliated with UTMB races that I support. As small businesses, they do depend on various sources including UTMB for their survival. Continuing my support of them has meaning as I am supporting a small business.

Look at community-driven race series. The UTMB Ironman conglomerate may be the biggest race series but there are others to support. In fact, there is one near me in Indiana that has roughly a dozen shorter races each year. It’s always been on my mind to give this a shot one year. And that might be 2024.


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