Striking a chord…

It’s has been a few weeks since my last post… and the comments are still rolling in, both publicly on the blog and privately to me by email. Nicholas (Nick) Kruse’s recent death in RacingThePlanet’s Gobi March has clearly struck a chord. On the day I posted that last entry, this blog received over 500 hits.

I really want to thank everyone for expressing their thoughts, emotions and frustrations. Regardless of what side of the debate you fall on – and there really do seem to be two strong camps – I think it is important to discuss these issues. Everyone made really constructive points. Issues of running safety should ALWAYS be borne in mind, whether you’re an experience ultra runner, a rookie weekend warrior, or a seasoned race organizer. Why? Because the sport of ultra running is constantly evolving. It’s becoming more and more mainstream in the sense that people who had never even heard of an “ultra race” before (or “hyper race” as my friends call it) are now entering multi-day competitions. At the same time, more experienced runners are constantly searching for the next race – one that is a little bit more extreme, a little bit more remote, or a little bit crazier. The trick as race organizers is to find a way to offer events that will satisfy and thrill those of us who have already “been there, done that” while keeping the sport open to others who want to give it a go… all the while ensuring the highest standards of safety for everyone involved.  The challenge as competitors is to always remain cognizant of our limitations and our abilities, and try not to let the same passion and drive that causes us to enter these races to get the better of us. Before you send in your comment, let me clarify that I was really speaking about myself there, not Nick… It is ME who often pushes myself beyond what I’m capable of and (Mom, skip over the rest of this sentence) truth be told, I’m sure luck has played a large role in helping me avoid disaster.

I don’t have any answers for you here…And I realize I’m giving you a typical lawyer response aka the Obama approach (on the one hand…on the other hand…). But I really do think it is important here to shift away from blame and focus on how we can ALL try to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Stay tuned for my next post recapping my experience as support crew on UK Trailwalker.

Categories: Musings about life

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2 Comments »

  1. Hi, I totally agree with you. We all have to take responsibilities to be safe. I underestimated the marathon and paid for it recently. Although I only had a few years of experience in running, somehow I never ever thought I would be so sick during a marathon and DNFed. At that time I felt that I was worthless and hurt so much emotionally, but now I am grateful that I had that experience at early stage of my running life as I have a totally different attitude towards running now. I am still running and participating races but I will never ever forget being in the ambulance almost unconscious and stayed in the hospital feeling awful. Thank you so much for your message to all of us. I look forward to reading more of your blog. x

  2. HI Stephanie

    You touched on a very difficult point. I have sympathy with all parties. We all go and start our first Ultra somewhere but less of us organise events in extreme conditions.

    For the last 10 years people have been inspired by Patrick Bauer and every year someone has set up a new race as a way of finding a vocation in life or as a perceived way of making money. Racing the Planet, Jungle Marathon, the 333 series, 6633 and many many more etc: It’s now a small industry.

    I have been a Race Director on number of extreme races both here in the UK and abroad and the later does not work. To make money you need a charity 10k with 7000 competitors and home for lunch. The economics don’t stack up. You must do it for the love.

    There is simply a limit. It is a simple equation: The more extreme it is, the less competitors, the less revenue, and the less support for the runners.

    The race directors are missing a trick however. They should make them exclusive and require entry qualifications. This goes some way to making the really extreme races safer whilst being more extreme.

    To enter the Trans 555 in Niger a non stop 555 kilometre race, you have to have completed the Trans 333. I think this is very sensible and it’s a clever marketing device as it makes the race exclusive. Look at the Boston Marathon.

    The Medical support is always the most difficult, in short supply and the main problem. AS you said this is getting more and more mainstream. I think we need to grade the races to ensure that first timers, which will attract more runners, have the extra medical support.

    Some existing races could be made a bit harder, more difficult to get into and more self supporting. So you have to have completed say 3 races (like Badwater) before they even consider you. Then the competitors achieve almost legend status (Marshall Ulrich, Ray Zahab, Death Valley Jack) (they will be very embarrassed at this but they are)

    All this started with Patrick 25 years ago. He is one of the most incredible people I have ever met and it’s not surprising that he has inspired so many people to go and do great things around the world: Look at Ray; Look at Mary with Racing the Planet. None of us would have done this without going to Morocco in the first place.

    This is evolving and the standards are constantly going up but if we make the races so secure then it will become like running London Marathon in the sand.

    With regard to this incident

    It’s a tragic case but this happens. 3 friends of mine have died over the last 12 years on races like this. I have got into trouble in Mauretania other less well known places. Its part of the event: the danger is part of the attraction. I don’t think we should look at the Marathon des Sables as the standard. Morocco is not Southwest China. In Morocco they speak French. Not many speak Tajic and this one thing makes such a HUGE difference to costs and just getting people from A to B.

    The more extreme the race the fonder the memory, I really like the Gobi March and Mauretania as I am sure you feel the same about yours.

    This is very sad and people will learn but we mustn’t start getting all upset and increasing too many standards otherwise the races will loose their essence and just get Dull

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