Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Is Trail Running Becoming Too Commercialized?

The question of the month. Kind of vague. Trail running, or trail racing? Does "commercialized" mean "mainstream" in this context? I'll answer it the way I answer most questions, which involves a long-winded thought, fraught with indecision.

"What brand of shoes do you wear?"

"How do you like that hydration pack?"

"Do compression socks work?"

"Did you hear that Kilian is the 'Adventurer of the Year?'"

"I heard Tahoe went to a lottery this year."

The topics up for discussion in the world of trail running seem to be limitless. A sport that boasts simplicity and a nature-oriented mindset is being consumed by commercialism and taken over by the elite capitalist class.

Corporate money-grubbing is clearly ruining MY sport.

...isn't it?

Of course it is. It's everywhere you look. Our beloved sport is little more than a market for the world's elite to peddle their goods to those who will pay for them.  It's just getting way too commercial. We used to be a bunch of running hobos(who could, like, afford plane tickets and entry fees and stuff). What went wrong?

more commercial corporate stuff.
Companies and their advertising dollars are bastardizing our hobby. Their blatant hijacking of my trail-running bliss has me thinking about switching to a pastime that hasn't been pillaged by greed.

Look at this crap. Sell-outs.

If you haven't stopped reading this yet, you're probably picking up what I'm laying down. Money and commercialism are part of the sport, but participation in that part is more optional than we realize. As long as the ads stay in the magazines and off of the trails, I don't care. In this writer's(I use that term loosely) opinion, the sport of trail running is going the way of triathlon. Buy more crap. Get faster. qualify for that spot in that race so your co-workers will be impressed on Monday. Spend money on what the pros get for free. Beg and pray for spots in coveted, overrated races. To be candid, I think it can be fun. I like feeling important once in a while. A little pageantry never hurt anyone. I like cool gear and big races. If you've never, ever done a large event with photographers and finish line swag, then judge away. If you have, then you know what I mean. This is by no means the sole reason for my running, but if it's yours, I truly wish you the best. Jay-Z says it best: "what you eat don't make me sh*t."

It doesn't have to be this way. We don't have to fret over "our" sport going a direction we don't like. We don't have to govern everything. Let the hipsters get the eye-rolls when they say they were trail running before it was cool. Think of what you want your runs to mean to you. Make it happen.

I randomly chose some pictures for this post from a file I lazily named, "running pics." Just arbitrary shots from the crappy point-and-shoot camera I seldom remember to bring along, these images are what I think of at work or school while fantasizing about a weekend on the trails. They're fairly average views of popular running regions. Out on the trail, commercialism plays a small role. Our gear gets us where we want to go safely, and that's all. Money doesn't matter out there.

From here, I can't tell if trail running has gotten too commercialized.

The question, again, is "is trail running becoming too commercialized?" Maybe it is. More importantly, maybe we are. Instead of worrying about what shoe companies, race management, and corporate sponsors have to say about trail running, we have to ask ourselves what it means to us. It means more to me than the new models of trail shoes that are coming out or which races have the biggest prize(not that a slacker like me needs to concern himself with that).  Nature offers us a way to disconnect ourselves from the synthetic stresses of life that our bodies still haven't adapted to yet. For me, friendships have been forged, scars have been earned, and stories have been made to be told too many times. It can be as commercial as it wants. All I have to do is turn off my computer and find a trailhead. Let races be a chance to mingle and push yourself. Let your training runs be time with people you like in a place you like. It's your sport, not theirs. Enjoy it, have a sense of stewardship, and love the trails.

Advertise all you'd like. I've got everything I need.
(pacing Kelsey Gray, TNF EC 50 mile, 2013)

I'm submitting this blog,'s this.

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