Yesterday as one very small chapter in my running life closed, an exciting new one began. Registration for the 2010 5 Peaks Trail Racing season opened, marking my official debut as a professional race director.
I’m in an incredibly enviable position in that the national 5 Peaks brand is entering its 11 season, and my predecessor in southern Ontario, John Klich, built a very loyal racer following during his tenure. If I just follow his template, which has made people happy in the past, I’ll do fine. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel or right any terrible wrongs. My job is to learn a lot in my first year, tweak a few elements here and there, and (as with any endeavour) make sure the basic dollars work out so there’s a Year 12. Unless you’re running one of the 10,000+ megaraces, you aren’t paying your mortgage directing races… but the ink still needs to be black.
The other great thing I have going for me is that 5 Peaks organizes 27 races across four provinces, of which I am responsible for five. Not only do I have a team of other race directors across the country to call upon for advice, but many of the details related to insurance and other contract issues are handled by the owners of the company. This frees up my time to focus on the details of the races themselves. I’m a little more able to look at things from the racers’ perspective because someone else is looking at things from the lawyers’ and accountants’ perspectives.
On the other hand, adopting a very popular trail racing series has presented a couple of interesting challenges as well. For various reasons I was compelled to look for two new venues for the 2010 season. Fortunately – and contrary to popular belief across the country – we have an incredible array or gorgeous conservation areas within a very short drive of Toronto. The tough part is that since these are mostly very rural locations without any public transit options, I need locations that provide the number of parking spaces required by 500-600 racers. That whittles the field of options down considerably. Obviously as a race director having too many racers is a very nice problem to have, and I think I’ve found two fantastic locations to introduce to my runners. However, I do consider it part of my mandate to expose urban runners to their area’s beautiful natural environment and it makes me a little bit sad to know that I might never hold a race in some of my favourite places. Luckily I’ve got five great locations for now, with three or four more for when my chewability affords a little more bitability.
Trail running is absolutely exploding across North America right now, and it is very exciting to be a part of it all.