Why do they run? For the love of the trail

Sierra Scoop
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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Gordon Ainsleigh wasn’t seeking endorsement deals and worldwide fame back when he joined the horses at the Tevis Cup Endurance Ride in 1974 for a 100-mile jaunt along the Western States Trail. At Saturday’s Western States Endurance Run 38 years after Ainsleigh’s landmark run, not a whole lot had changed. While dozens of runners wore shoes and gear from their respective sponsors and several camera crews documented the drama along the trail, the event remains a grassroots affair. It will always be an amateur event due to an agreement made with congress in the 1980s that allows the course to go through designated wilderness areas. Ultrarunning’s top athletes are easily accessible despite their steadily growing popularity. Geoff Roes, whose 2010 performance at Western States is still being talked about and documented, writes extensively on his blog, giving the back-of-the-pack runners a way to feel connected with an elite athlete. At least once a week, Roes pontificates on different aspects of running, updates readers on his race results or gives insights into what makes him tick as a runner through his online journal. Roes said last week that he averages around 1,500 unique page views per day on his blog site. “I’ve had it for a few years and it’s definitely evolved over time,” Roes said. “I thought it would be a fun spot to put photos for random friends and family. Since I’ve done some high profile races, it’s become a self-promotion tool to some extent. I definitely like processing stuff through writing. With some of the events and big runs that I do, I’ve used writing as a better way to understand my experiences.” Kilian Jornet may be the closest thing to a professional ultrarunner that there is in the sport. He’s had a camera crew hired by Salomon — his sponsor — following him at Western States the last two years. He’s traveled the world competing in ultramarathons and taking on other adventures. In the winter, Jornet is one of the top ski mountaineering competitors on the World Cup circuit, which has helped make the soft-spoken 23-year-old somewhat of a celebrity in Europe. Adam Chase is Salomon’s brand ambassador for U.S. trail running. He said Jornet uses the sponsorship to pursue his passion. “He’s not one to seek out attention, but he’s a smart kid,” Chase said. “He knows that by promoting trail running and sharing his passion, that allows him to go around the world. He’s willing to pay that price, to have that attention, to do what he loves. It’s taken him all over the world.” The showdown between ultrarunning’s two biggest names never materialized on Saturday as Roes dropped out about halfway through. He was no doubt thinking ahead to August, when he’ll face Jornet again, on his home turf. Nick Clark, Jez Bragg and many other talented runners will also be on hand at the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc in France. Jornet has won it twice. “The race coming up at Mont Blank, I think will even exceed this weekend’s talent,” Roes said. “I think it all just speaks to the growth of the sport, at least in certain events.”